Top Gear: The Complete Season 16 (Blu-ray Review)

Top Gear‘s a show that I’ve been hearing about for years, one that I’ve been told time and again that I’d really enjoy if I “just gave it a chance”, but one that I’d never actually given a chance to:  I’d seen the series pop up in my Netflix Instant queue on more than one occasion– beckoning me with its promises of silly-ass stunts, British humor, and car-worship– but I never quite found the time to give it a whirl.  And so, when the fine folks at WhySoBlu.com offered to pass the latest season of the series along to me (on my beloved, razor-sharp Blu-ray format, no less)  I was happy to take it off their hands.  Finally, I was going to get a chance to see what everyone’s been raving about.  So, did Top Gear turn out to be a all buzz and no bang, or did it turn out that this long-running series had earned its esteemed reputation?  (Hint: there are sixteen seasons of Top Gear). 



I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you right now that Top Gear‘s a damn-fine show, one that’s certainly worthy of the reputation its garnered over the years.  Nevermind that weak-ass American retread that popped up on basic-cable a year or two ago:   this version’s the real deal, offering up Mythbusters-like stunts (“Can a VW Bug beat a Porsche in a mile-long race…if it’s been dropped from a helicopter onto the finish line from a mile above the Earth?”) and all the dry, crackling Brit humor you could ever want:  if you’re a fan of Brit imports like The Office, Extras, Sherlock, and so on, you’ll enjoy the similarly-dry humor put forth by hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May.

I learn from my friend Wikipedia that the latest iteration of Top Gear is actually the “new” version:  a half-hour version hosted by a variety of people (the “new” one’s an hour in length, with the same three hosts and a steady stream of British guest stars) ran from the late 70’s until 2002, only to be replace by this new version.  I can’t speculate as to whether or not the “old” version was “better” or “worse” than what I saw on these season-sixteen Blu-rays, but I can say that I was enormously entertained by what I found here:  the show’s fast, funny, and the hosts have some really strong chemistry.  Let’s just put it this way:  everything you’ve heard about Top Gear is probably true.

Here’s some highlights:  Top Gear: Australia comes to the UK to compete against the Top Gear: UK guys, who have them race one car strapped upside down to another car (one controlling the gas/brakes, another controlling the steering);  the aforementioned VW Bug/Porsche race (if you’ve ever wanted to see a VW Bug smashed into the ground mercilessly– and who hasn’t?– this is the stunt for you); and a “Christmas Special” set entirely in the Middle East, which begins with the guys strapped into cars loaded into a giant-ass C-130 with its bombay doors wide open (this looked really cool, but became especially cool when I considered just how dangerous this would feel in person).  There’s also an ongoing segment called “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car”, wherein the Top Gear guys invite celebs on to race reasonably-priced cars around a track:  Director Danny Boyle, Amber Heard, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost all makes appearances in the season sixteen set.

This one’s a lot of fun, and worth the expense…


…especially when you consider how damn good it looks on Blu-ray.  The show’s presented in 1080p (did you expect anything less from a tech-savvy show such as this?), and every stunt, race, and shined-to-a-blinding-sheen car comes through with razor-sharp clarity.  A few segments seemed to suffer from a slight amount of grain, but that was probably just the rocks, dirt, and debris being blown into the camera by whatever ridiculous stunt the Top Gear guys were undertaking at that particular moment.


The show’s got a great soundtrack, and from time to time they’ll incorporate some fairly amusing music onto the show (a certain Queen track gets used to great effect during a stunt-show gone wrong).  It all sounded great coming out of my surround-sound system, so much so that I found myself leaving it on the background while working on other things:  the sound’s crystal-clear, well-mixed, and fun.

Special Features 

The special features included on the 16th season of Top Gear are great, but I’ll admit that I wish there were more of ’em.  Specifically, I would’ve liked more behind-the-scenes stuff showing the aftermath/set-up for some of the more elaborate stunts.  That said, there’s an enormous amount of stuff included here, on each disc…and again on the third disc in the set.  You get behind-the-scenes chats with some of the celebs that appear on the show, little conversations that occur between the hosts off-camera, a tour of the Top Gear studio (which doesn’t sound exciting…until you realize how elaborate that studio really is), a “End of Series 16” chat with the stars of the series (as well as a “pre-series” chat), and a lot, lot more.  I can’t say that any one special feature knocked me on my ass, but the sheer volume of little bonus videos and featurettes is impressive.  If you’re a fan of the show, this adds a lot of value even if you’ve seen all the episodes on TV (or Netflix).

One side note:  the order in which the episodes are presented does cause the viewer some slight spoiler-related problems if you watch the episodes in the order in which they appear on the disc.  The “Christmas Special”, in particular, ends with a visual gag that gets spoiled several episodes before, when one of the hosts mentions the ending in passing during a “normal” episode.  This is a minor complaint, but one worth including for those of you that’re absolutely terrified of spoilers.

Final Thoughts 

Everything you’ve heard about Top Gear is probably proved by this set.  Whenever I view a season’s worth of TV episodes out-of-context (that is, without seeing the preceding seasons beforehand), the litmus test for success always comes down to this question:  on the basis of this out-of-context season, would I go back and watch the other seasons?  Top Gear: Season Sixteen gets a firm “Yes” on that front, and I fully expect to go through the 140+ episodes that’re on Netflix Instant now that I’ve become acquainted with the show.  If you’ve been holding off on getting into Top Gear— for whatever reason, perhaps because the U.S. version has proved to be less than awesome– I strongly suggest that you give this one a shot.  If you like cars, stunts, Brit humor, and shenanigans, this one’s for you.


Order Top Gear: The Complete Season 16 on Blu-ray!


1 Response to “Top Gear: The Complete Season 16 (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Sean Ferguson

    Welcome to the site Scott!