Top Gear season 26 episode 1 review: is the show finally back on track?

New series revs off with rides in Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo and Suzuki’s Ignis

Top Gear
Chris Harris returns as presenter, alongside Matt LeBlanc and Rory Reid
(Image credit: Top Gear)

The long wait for Top Gear’s 26th season finally ended last night, with the motoring show making a high-octane return on BBC Two.

The first episode kicked off with hosts Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris putting a pair of luxurious grand tourers through their paces on the winding roads of rural Norway.

Former Friends star LeBlanc got behind the wheel of Ferrari’s V12-engined GTC4 Lusso, with Harris in the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, to go head-to-head in a typically Top Gear-style speed challenge - sprinting down an airport runway before hitting the brakes.

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Both cars stopped just meters short of the runway’s edge, but LeBlanc’s Ferrari was quicker.

Meanwhile, third host Rory Reid got behind the wheel of Suzuki’s new Ignis compact crossover to take on German driver Sabine Schmitz, in the Fiat Panda Cross SUV, in a challenge to turn a hill into a mountain.

The summit of Gurlet Hill is just shy of being classified by Ordnance Survey as a mountain, so the winner was the first to reach the summit and stack rocks to make up the final 2ft needed to up the site’s status. The result: a draw, after the cooperative duo decided to work together.

The new series also sees Top Gear sticking with its “star in a reasonably fast car” segment, despite rival motoring show The Grand Tour ditching celebrity interviews.

Westworld’s James Marsden joined Harris for a performance driving lesson, before being let loose to set his own time in the show’s Toyota GT86 around the Top Gear test track.

The show has taken some flak since former presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond left to launch The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime, but Top Gear seems to be hitting its stride in Season 26, says The Daily Telegraph.

There was “quantifiable chemistry” between Harris and LeBlanc, whose banter makes a “pleasant contrast to the verbal slurry Jeremy Clarkson and co are spreading”, the newspaper adds.

Sadly for fans, LeBlanc has decided to leave at the end of the series, while Reid is moving to the online-only Extra Gear.

How did the fans react?

Despite the Telegraph’s praise, others were unimpressed by Top Gear’s 2019 debut.

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