The British motoring show, ‘Top Gear‘ has been around forever, and for good reason. The original version of the show first aired on BBC in 1977, and has been a mainstay of British and global television since its launch. Over the course of decades, ‘Top Gear’ has been revamped and reformatted on four different occasions. In 2002, Jeremy Clarkson took the reigns as Lead Presenter and ideator of the show, and together with childhood friend and executive producer Andy Wilman, they created a version of ‘Top Gear’ that would go on to redefine factual television.
Broadcasted by BBC Two, the initial season was a display of Clarkson hogging the limelight, with co-presenters Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe unable to capture much of the viewer’s imagination. Following a somewhat lukewarm response, the creators decided to shake things up and replaced Dawe with James May. This turned out to be a masterstroke, as the trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May immediately captivated audiences with their utterly unique and refreshingly unorthodox methods on how to review vehicles (mostly cars).
The three British gentlemen and close friends travel the world to exotic and stunning locations, reviewing the fastest and most exquisite creations the automobile industry has to offer, while taking on incredibly difficult car-related challenges that tested the bonds of their friendship at the same time. And, of course, who can forget The Stig? It was a recipe for television success, and propelled the show and the three hosts to worldwide fame and superstardom. At its peak, ‘Top Gear’ was being watched by almost 350 million people across the globe per episode.
However, after nearly fourteen years of being the premier car programme on television, Jeremy Clarkson was relieved from his duties as the lead presenter of the show due to an off-screen altercation with a cameraman in 2015. The BBC decided not to renew his contract, and his departure was closely followed by the resignations of his co-presenters, Richard Hammond and James May, along with Top Gear’s executive producer, Andy Wilman. Though the good news is that there has been a positive reception to ‘Friends’ star Matt LeBlanc and racing driver Chris Harris. As the latest iteration of ‘Top Gear’ remains, according to most critical outlets at least, a shadow of what it once was, we are left to look for alternatives to quench our thirst for cars, laughter, mayhem and glamour all rolled into one feastful serving of epic television. So, here’s the list of best shows similar to ‘Top Gear’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these series like ‘Top Gear’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
12. The Grand Tour (2016 – Present)
After Clarkson, Hammond and May left ‘Top Gear’, they took their time to decide where they would go and what they would do next. There were no shortage of offers, but in the end, the trio struck an incredibly lucrative deal with Amazon and created ‘The Grand Tour’. A British factual motoring series, co-created and produced by Andy Wilman, ‘The Grand Tour’ showcases everyone’s favourite car-crazy television ‘geniuses’ at their finest, doing what they do best. The end product is a series that quite simply leaves you hooked, whether you are an automobile enthusiast or not.
Each episode features an eclectic mix of pre-recorded films, live audience segments, reviews and discussions on various cars and current car-related events, as the presenters traverse the globe. Furthermore, the uniqueness of their incredibly difficult motoring challenges will leave you in awe. After more than a decade together in ‘Top Gear’, and now into their third season of ‘The Grand Tour’, the hilarious love-hate bond between the presenters and their absolute devotion to cars continue to bring joy to millions of viewers worldwide.
11. Fifth Gear (2002 – Present)
It would appear that the British have quite a fondness for motoring shows, as the show ‘Fifth Gear’ points out. A spin-off of the old format of ‘Top Gear’, ‘Fifth Gear’ was seen, at least among British viewers, as the most credible rival to the Jeremy Clarkson-era ‘Top Gear’s claim to being the best car-based TV show in existence. Originally aired on Channel 5, the show has bounced around major networks, like Discovery and The History Channel, throughout its 27-season lifespan. It is currently hosted by Tiff Needell, Jonny Smith, Jason Plato and Vicki Butler-Henderson. Although ‘Fifth Gear’ did not garner significant interest outside the UK (in comparison to ‘Top Gear’ that is), it is still fairly enjoyable, with a more relatable and down-to-earth feel to the premise of the show. Car enthusiasts should definitely consider giving ‘Fifth Gear’ a chance if they already haven’t.
10. Top Gear US (2010 – 2016)
The British version of ‘Top Gear’ was so immensely popular in its day that the BBC commissioned an American spin-off of the show with the exact same format. However, instead of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, viewers are treated to the expertise of professional race car driver Tanner Foust, automotive analyst Rutledge Wood, and actor Adam Ferrara. Just like its British counterpart, ‘Top Gear’ US used to test cars on its own racetrack, used to invite celebrity guests for timed challenges, and even had its own version of the iconic Stig. For American audiences, the show was aired on the History channel in 2010, and had a 6 year run until it was pulled in 2016.
9. Top Gear Australia (2008 – 2012)
It wasn’t just a US spin-off of ‘Top Gear’ that the BBC had sanctioned, with Australia getting its own native version as well. Aired for four years between 2008 and 2012, ‘Top Gear Australia’ once again followed the blueprint laid out by ‘Top Gear’ UK, with three presenters testing a variety of vehicles while trying to one-up each other, this time with an Australian Stig in tow. While it might not come close to the brilliance of the British original, ‘Top Gear Australia’ was hugely popular among Australians, and is worth a look for anyone craving a combination of cars and humour. Hey, it was good enough for the presenters of the show to take part in a series of competitions against Clarkson, Hammond and May, who had to resort to cheating in order to win.
8. Pimp My Ride (2004 – 2007)
It would seem like a somewhat strange statement to make, but MTV’s hit TV show ‘Pimp My Ride’ is a close contender to ‘Top Gear’, at least in terms of laugh value. ‘Pimp My Ride’ will go down in history as a pop culture icon, with its run of six seasons inspiring numerous spin-offs and parodies over the years. For those who are unfamiliar, the original ‘Pimp My Ride’ was a reality TV show founded on the premise of revamping and customizing aging cars belonging to unsuspecting American citizens who are enduring hardships in life. It was hosted by rapper Xzibit, who was lauded for his role on the show. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does have flashy cars, a kind message, and a presenter capable of generating quite a few chuckles.
7. World’s Most Dangerous Roads (2011 – 2013)
A British documentary series that aired from 2011 to 2013, ‘World’s Most Dangerous Roads’ brings about thrills that are reminiscent of ‘Top Gear’s feature specials, by seamlessly merging tricky adventure challenges with mesmerizing visuals of various beautiful places on Earth, while delivering an informative experience for its viewers to boot.
Narrated by actor Adrian Dunbar, this series films the exhilarating journeys of different pairs of celebrities as they drive along roads that are considered to be among the world’s most perilous, in utility vehicles, while trying to accomplish predetermined objectives along the way. If you yearn for a refreshing alternative to the adventure specials that were such a joy to witness on ‘Top Gear’, ‘World’s Most Dangerous Roads’ should definitely be worthy of your consideration.
6. One Car Too Far (2012)
This short-lived TV show gained a cult following in the wake of its brief time on Discovery. Launched in 2012, ‘One Car Too Far’ pairs together a former British soldier with an easygoing Californian, and follows this odd duo as they journey across unforgiving terrains in an ancient Jeep Wrangler, trying everything to keep it from falling apart. The show was sanctioned for a second season the next year, under a different name. It was re-branded ‘Car vs Wild’, and was available to stream on Amazon. However, it was cancelled shortly after. Those who miss ‘Top Gear’ will enjoy watching the hosts of this show deal with their various vehicular struggles amid the stunning backdrops of remote locations.
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5. Top Gear: The Perfect Road Trip (2013)
If, like many, you miss the ‘Top Gear’ of old, and it’s more Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond et cetera that you are eager to watch, then there are several independent specials that the presenters have filmed over time that are not part of the broadcasted show. One such gem is ‘The Perfect Road Trip’. Released in 2013, this hour-and-a-half long special documents Clarkson and Hammond as they make their way from Venice in Italy to Pau in France, and all the supercars and shenanigans they indulge themselves in during their journey. All in the quest to experience “the perfect road trip”. Highlights include a race day at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza racetrack, getting the better of the valets in Monaco, and the usual Ferraris, Aston Martins and Porsches. It does sound perfect, doesn’t it?
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4. Top Gear: The Perfect Road Trip 2 (2014)
If their first attempt at experiencing the ‘perfect road trip’ wasn’t enough, and it plainly wasn’t, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond return to have another stab at it in The Perfect Road Trip 2. Released straight to video in 2014, the second part sees the duo travel to the island of Capri, where the chance to spend a day with their dream cars beckoned. Once again, Clarkson and Hammond bicker and pick on one another in hysterical fashion throughout the show, while switching from one exotic vehicle to another as they move closer to their destination. Could they be second time lucky? Whatever the outcome, it makes for great entertainment regardless.
3. Top Gear: At The Movies (2011)
In yet another standalone ‘Top Gear’ special feature, presenters Richard Hammond and James May join forces to examine and praise the splendid contributions of cars that have shaped the history of cinema. ‘Top Gear: At The Movies’ takes viewers through an exciting selection of races, stunts and breathtaking feats involving cars that have appeared in movies across decades, in great and humorously factual detail. If the friendship and chemistry between the presenters weren’t enough, the sheer collection and evaluation of iconic cars will have any ‘Top Gear’ fan wanting to watch this as soon as possible.
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2. Top Gear: The Worst Car in the History of the World (2012)
Sticking with the same cast that made ‘Top Gear’ so popular, Jeremy Clarkson and James May reluctantly come together to thoroughly examine a long list of cars, argue angrily and ultimately agree on what they both believe deserves to be crowned the worst car in the history of the world in this hour-and-fifteen-minute long special episode. The two presenters test everything from Ferraris to a Mahindra jeep, sometimes dragging each other into mudslingling contests over their own personal preferences in the process. They even recruit The Stig to participate in their tests for automotive shame, pointing out the flaws of several cars made by manufacturers who should have known better. The show culminates with a ‘special treatment’ for the car that stands out for its failures. Naturally, Clarkson and May go about their business while maintaining their trademark brand of humour throughout.
1. Formula One (1950 – Present)
One of the most most watched forms of motorsport in the world, Formula One (F1) seldom fails to live up to its billing as a year-round source of automotive thrills for most people with an active passion for cars. Founded in 1950, F1 has been the pinnacle of professional car racing since its inception. The best drivers on the planet travel the globe while going head to head in state-of-the-art machines at breakneck speeds. This should be enough to pique the interest of anyone who proclaims to be a ‘Top Gear’ fan. Speaking of which, being frequently referenced on ‘Top Gear’, F1 reserves a special place in the heart of Jeremy Clarkson, as he regularly points out to his viewers.
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