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Top Gear (series 3)

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Title: Top Gear (series 3)  
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Subject: Top Gear (series 8), Tom Boswell (television presenter), Andy Wilman, Top Gear home video releases, Jon Bentley (TV presenter)
Collection: 2003 Television Seasons, Top Gear Seasons
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Top Gear (series 3)

Top Gear (series 3)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 9
Original channel BBC Two
Original release 26 October 2003 (2003-10-26) – 28 December 2003 (2003-12-28)

The third series of Top Gear began on 26 October 2003, and concluded on 28 December 2003. The series featured 9 episodes. The series was subsequently followed by one "Best Of Top Gear" special, charting the best moments from the series. The series was the first series of Top Gear to get more than 10 million viewers for an episode.


Total No. Title Reviews Features/challenges Guest(s) Original air date UK viewers
21 1 Series 3, Episode 1 Ford GTBMW 5-SeriesPorsche 911 GT3 Can the diesel Volkswagen Lupo get better mpg than the petrol version? Martin Kemp 26 October 2003 (2003-10-26) 3.32

Main Review: Jeremy travels to Detroit where he reviews the heavily-anticipated Detroit and American muscle cars racing between the lights.

Review: James reviews the new BMW 5 Series. He defends the aggressive and cacophonous styling by Chris Bangle, arguing that it is still a no-brainer because of reliability, technology, and image.

Preview: Richard showcases Ford Visos concept car - a thoroughly modern concept car - in the studio.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Singer and Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp, makes comparisons between himself and Ross Kemp, before being shown to have set a time of 1:54.0 on a wet track like Ross did.

Review/Challenge: Jeremy does one lap of the M25, with both a diesel and petrol versions of the Volkswagen Lupo, in convoy. Jeremy likes the Lupo, and the midrange power available from the small turbodiesel engine makes it more useful in everyday situations than the numerically faster petrol motor. He found the diesel managed an economy of 75 mpg, vs 42 mpg for the petrol car, and spends the money he saved on fuel buying a tacky golden cock from the service station.

Mail: Jeremy and Richard discuss readers' letters, starting with the baffling phenomenon of women writing to complain about their male partners' love of cars and Top Gear, which leads into Richard showing off some remote-locking triggering "moves" and Jeremy (successfully) testing the strange notion that transmission distance is improved if you hold the key fob against your head. The segment ends with a letter from a viewer in Saudi Arabia, who has included a VCD of some wild driving from his part of the world.

Review: Richard reviews the new Porsche 911 GT3, he and Jeremy say that due to its speed it is the best car they've driven all year. The Stig did a lap of 1:27.2 on a very wet track.

Skit: The original (black-suited) Stig goes 109 mph (175 km/h) in the Jaguar XJS the presenters had modified in the previous series, on the HMS Invincible, only to fly off the deck with only a glove being left behind, floating on the water.
22 2 Series 3, Episode 2 BMW M3 CSLBMW M1BMW M3BMW M5Porsche BoxsterBMW Z4Honda S2000 Volvo 240 attempts to jump four caravans Stephen Fry 2 November 2003 (2003-11-02) 3.41

Introduction: Jeremy announces the death of the Stig and reveals the new (white suited) one that would replace him.

Review: Jeremy tested the BMW M3 CSL after introducing us to the heritage of the CSL moniker in the original Batmobile. As for the new car, Jeremy said it was a magnificent car, 10 - 20% better than he expected—and he expected it to be fantastic. The Stig's time was 1:28.0 in the wet.

Review: The team visited the Isle of Man to test old BMW sports cars - the 1970s M1, the original M3, and the second-gen M5.

Challenge: A Volvo 240 tries to jump five caravans side-by-side, yet it only manages to jump over two, crashing into the others.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Stephen Fry discusses the advantages he has of driving a London Taxi whilst not being a taxi driver. He did a lap of the track in the Liana in 1:54, in "mildly moist" weather.

Mail: As a follow-up to the previous show, Jeremy and Richard start the segment by discussing letters professing theories to the expanded range of a car security remotes when held up to one's head. The next sequence of letters comes from children who are ashamed of the cars that their parents take them to school in. Richard follows this up with a letter requesting that the Stig's name be changed as it upsets the writer's cat (also called Stig). The final theme of this week's mail is a showcase of inappropriately enormous exhaust pipes on various cars.

Main Review: The team test three two seater convertibles on the Isle of Man: BMW Z4, Porsche Boxster and Honda S2000. As it is too hard to decide the best car, they decide by seeing which one was fastest around the track. The Stig drives the Honda to a lap time of 1:37.4, the BMW to 1:37.3, but at 1.37.0 the fastest car was the Boxster.
23 3 Series 3, Episode 3 Bentley Continental GTSubaru Legacy Outback Saab 9-5 Aero versus a BAe Sea Harrier • How to Escape from a Sinking Car • Top Gear Survey Rob Brydon 9 November 2003 (2003-11-09) 4.02

Main Review: Bentley Continental GT. In the previous series all three presenters were clamouring for the chance to drive it, with it eventually being revealed that Jeremy won out, but was not impressed with it when he tested it out. Though the car is good for overtaking (0-60 in 4.8 seconds) and it has an immensely high top speed of 198 mph (319 km/h), he found it to be too much of a Volkswagen and rather cramped inside, while it also seemed to lack character. Jeremy was forced to conclude that it was a good car, but could never be called a great car.

Review: May, acknowledging that the aristocracy will never buy new Bentleys, tries to find out what they would be buying. He reviews the Subaru Legacy Outback, he says it is sturdy, comfortable, sporty and perfect for "aristocrats with children called Reginald"

Top Gear Survey Results: The results of the Top Gear automotive satisfaction survey are discussed and include the Subaru Outback placing 10th out of 137 cars. First place went to the Jaguar XJ. At the other end of the list was the VW Sharan. Also near the end were the Mercedes M-class, A-class, and C-class.

Feature/Investigation: Using a swimming pool, Hammond showed the dangers of being in a car that is sinking in water. After being trained and prepared, Richard was placed in a Ford, and dumped into the water. He initially went with the advice, at the time, to wait for the car to fill with water and the pressure to equalise, only to find his air running out (a diver in the car gave him air to complete the test) and that it took a long time, thus making the advice seriously flawed. In the studios, after showing the test footage, he revealed that the new advice for anyone who drove into water was that you should open the car doors as soon as it strikes the water; a second test footage of him doing that, proved it to be logical and much wiser.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Rob Brydon, Top Gear's first ever Welshman, managed a time of 1:48.6.

Cool Wall: Bentley Continental GT is cool as long as David Beckham does not own one; BMW M3 CSL is seriously uncool because of the carbon fibre roof and bought by those with "gear shift aggression strategy"; the Ford GT is uncool; the Porsche 911 GT3 was sub-zero when a woman in the audience told Jeremy he would make the second date; the BMW 5 Series is seriously uncool.

Review: Jeremy reviews and compares the hot Saab 9-5 Aero to an aeroplane. On the track the Saab was powerful but conventional and, glaringly, front-wheel drive. However, the turbocharged engine had midrange potency, and the handling was very safe and predictable, if poor on a track. Thought it went in the cool section of the Cool Wall, Jeremy admitted he could not find out why dentists with Saabs have "that knowing grin" on their faces.

"Car Vs. Something" Race/Challenge: The Stig drives a Saab vs a Harrier Jump Jet; the British Aerospace Sea Harrier did the lap in 31.2 seconds and the Saab did it in the slower time of 1:37.9.
24 4 Series 3, Episode 4 Lamborghini Gallardo Lamborghini Tribute Rich HallJay Kay 16 November 2003 (2003-11-16) 4.59

Main Review: Hammond tests several new Mini Coopers, finding trouble telling much difference between most of them: the BMW-official Works Cooper S, and the third-party tuned Hartge Cooper S, Digi-tec Cooper S and wild 275 bhp (205 kW) BBR Cooper S. Despite it being the most expensive and second slowest, Richard chooses the official model, favouring a warranty and more assured engineering over the small improvements in performance afforded by the others.

Feature/Review: Due to the 40th anniversary of car company Lamborghini, Hammond and May test some classic cars. Hammond tests the 1967 SUV, and marvels at how much fuel it drinks and its comically poor handling. The modern Murciélago returns for a second power lap (after a wet lap in series 1), and proves the Black Stig's supposition that it would top the board with a dry track, setting a record time of 1:23.7.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: American comedian Rich Hall improvises a country song about a Rover 25, while setting a time of 1:54.

Review: Clarkson tests the new Lamborghini Gallardo. He finds the Gallardo to be a good sports car, but just a bit boring in comparison to the Murcielago, having lost some of its fire and lunacy. Stig sets a lap time of 1:25.8.
25 5 Series 3, Episode 5 Mazda RX-8Fiat Panda Is the Toyota Hilux really indestructible? • Hammond searches for future classic cars Simon Cowell 23 November 2003 (2003-11-23) 4.80

Main Review: Clarkson tests the 1.3 litre Wankel Mazda RX-8 on the track, saying that despite the mixed styling it performs well and for £22,000 is good value for money. Though appearing to be a coupe, the Mazda retains small rear doors and has some of the practicality of a four-door saloon. The Stig sets a lap time of 1:31.8, being the same as the BMW M3 and the Nissan 350Z, to which Clarkson remarks that the Mazda be the better car in all ways: performance, handling, price, practicality, and comfort.

Feature/Review: Hammond looks at several cars deemed to be good investments as future 'classic' cars. These include the Volkswagen Corrado VR6 and the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Cosworth.

Crock or Classic: Hammond and May decide which cars are future classics and which are crock. Lexus LS400 is crock, Ferrari F355, BMW Z1, Citroën XM, BMW 3.0 CSL, Volkswagen Corrado VR6 and Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Cosworth are classic.

Challenge: The team set the challenge of finding the best wig for a fast drive in an open top convertible. They find that the cheaper, synthetic wigs fare better at high speed, and that optional wind deflectors are effective at keeping the wig on your head at high speed.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Sony BMG executive Pop Idol/X Factor judge Simon Cowell set a time of 1:47.1.

Cool Wall: BMW M3 is Seriously Uncool, as Jeremy said that the M3 is "exclusively driven by cocks" (A point then taken back, eight series later).

Review: May reviews the new Fiat Panda at St Albans and Tewin in Hertfordshire. He expresses astonishment that the Italians have made a car that is durable and well-priced. It is slow, but May considers that unimportant to the character of the car.

Main Challenge/Feature: How tough is a Toyota Hilux pick-up truck? Clarkson decided to find out by performing a number of tests on the robust vehicle, where he drove to Bristol , ramming it into buildings and a tree while out in the country, before leaving it on a beach along the Bristol Channel, to be hit by an incoming tide. This test nearly lost him the vehicle, when the chains securing it nearly went, but the pick-up was found and, upon repairing it, it managed to still function.

Once back at the test track, the Hilux endured more tests dreamed up by Clarkson, including hitting it with a wrecking ball, smashing it into a shed, dropping a caravan on it and setting it ablaze. The car still managed to work afterwards, when it was brought back into the studio, with Clarkson pointing out to the other presenters that the vehicle's parts were not replaced at all, only mended to avoid him cheating and wasting his efforts proving it's reliability.
26 6 Series 3, Episode 6 Citroën C2Renault Mégane CCPeugeot 307 CCAston Martin V8 Vantage (1977)Holden Monaro Is a Toyota Hilux really indestructible? – Part 2 Sanjeev Bhaskar 7 December 2003 (2003-12-07) 5.40

Review: Hammond looks at two cars with folding metal roofs, the Renault Mégane CC and the Peugeot 307 CC. They are fashionable and cool, but are ridiculously underpowered and heavy, sloppy to drive, and faddish in their market.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Sanjeev Bhaskar (who Jeremy named Sanjiv on the lap board) sets a time of 1:51.5.

Review: May reviews Aston Martin V8 Vantage, saying if he could only drive one supercar for the rest of his life, it would be this one. May's review becomes a sort of history lesson, showing how the British differentiated their supercars by refusing unorthodox mid- or rear-engined configurations and keeping them with a modicum of practicality. However, at least in 1977, it was a resounding success: faster than a Ferrari Daytona, comfortable, and somewhat practical.

News: Jeremy & Richard discuss automotive themed Christmas presents including the Bumper Dumper, a Ferrari gear lever sink plunger, and a NASCAR Jeff Gordon love seat.

Main Review: Holden Monaro, sold as a Vauxhall in Britain, Australia's first contribution since the rotary washing line. Jeremy says it was a good car due to fun V8 power and handling and makes numerous remarks about Australia losing to England in the rugby world cup final. Lap time of 1:33.9 in the wet, Jeremy named the car "Loser" on the power board.

Review: Jeremy reviewed the Citroën C2, the successor to the old Citroën Saxo. He found the C2 was cheap, extremely economical, easy to drive, and perfect for environmentalists and old people. As a car on the track, the hot C2 is not very good and has a terrible flappy-paddle gearbox. But merely because of free insurance, low prices, and ease of modification, he finds that it is the darling of customisation-minded youths. However, he recommends buying a Toyota Yaris instead, attributed to Citroën's poor performance in reliability surveys.

Cool Wall: The Holden (or Vauxhall) Monaro is cool; the Peugeot 307 CC and the Renault Megane CC are also cool - but only for a moment, before they fall down to the uncool section.

Challenge/Feature: Killing A Toyota (part 2). James May sees what else can be done to the same pick-up from before, by placing the battered but still working Toyota Hilux on top a tower block that was due for demolition. Once the building was brought down and the dust had settled, the truck was found to still be intact, and when checked and mended by a mechanic, it managed to still run, and much to the amazement of the other presenters when it was brought into the studio, where James confirmed that the vehicle had not received any new parts. The presenters decided from that point onwards, not to keep brutalising it, and made a display of it in the studio, which they have still retained to this day.
27 7 Series 3, Episode 7 MG XPower SVPorsche Cayenne TurboMercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Which professor can do the best burn-out? – What is the best British car? Rory Bremner 14 December 2003 (2003-12-14) 3.35

Review: Clarkson reviews the new Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and tests the off-road abilities in Bovington, Dorset. It is a brilliant car from a technological standpoint; equally adept both as a sports saloon and an offroading monster. Jeremy does not care, nor does he care that it guzzles petrol, has little space inside, and costs a whopping £70,000. But he can not stand it for its looks, saying it is "less attractive than a gangrenous wound, is a monkfish among cars and has the sex appeal of a camel with gingivitis." Jeremy hates its looks so much that he leaves it and walks back to the studio. May agrees that it is so hideous that it should not be bought by anyone.

Review: Hammond reviews the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren in South Africa. He isn't impressed, especially by the brakes, hard ride, and interior quality. Back in the Top Gear studio, Richard and Jeremy engage in a game of Top Gear Top Trumps pitting Hammond’s experience with SLR McLaren against the Porshe Carrera GT, which Jeremy drover earlier in the year. They conclude that the Porshe is more the driver’s car, but that you’ll want the Mercedes if you are a golfer as your clubs will not fit in the Porsche.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Rory Bremner (who Jeremy named Roree on the lap board) reads car adverts in the voices of Nelson Mandela, Julian Clary, Prince Charles, and talks about his meeting with Murray Walker. He set a time of 1:47.9.

Main Review: MG XPower SV, which Jeremy finds to be beautiful and with a powerful, throaty Ford Mustang V8. It is fast on the track, but poorly made, insanely expensive, and less reliable than a TVR or any foreign rivals. Richard later mocks Jeremy when he hits his head on the interior. Did a lap of 1:28.6 in the dry, better than a Porsche 911 Turbo in the wet, but was not good enough to beat any of its price-range rivals.

Challenge: Top Gear boffin burn-out! Which professor can do the best burn-out? Richard challenges Heinz Wolff, Brian Sewell and Colin Pillinger compete to find out.

Review: Clarkson, Hammond and May set off to find the best British car. Clarkson chooses the Rover 75. Clarkson manages to drive the M12 around the track, get out, and read a book (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) before Hammond crosses the line. None of them change their mind, but the audience selects the Noble as the best.
28 8 Series 3, Episode 8 Mercedes-Benz 280SLNissan MicraAston Martin LagondaAudi TT Top Gear Generation Game Johnny Vegas 21 December 2003 (2003-12-21) 3.15

Review: Jeremy shows us how few cars can withstand the test of time, arguing that car design peaked in the '60s. He reviews a '60s Mercedes-Benz 280SL (W113) and expects to hate it, so that he can get rid of the idea of owning one. But it turns out that Mercs were built extremely well at the time, and they can be rebuilt cheaply if necessary. He recommends the buy to anyone who has an old-car fetish, like James and himself, also pointing out that it is better-made than any modern Mercedes-Benz.

News: The trio view cars arriving in 2004, including the new Peugeot 407 saloon, the Volvo V70 estate and the cabriolet version of the Hyundai Coupe, which won't be released until 2007, leaving Clarkson to wonder why it would take so long to take a roof off.

Main Review: Hammond compares a Nissan Micra to a Boeing 737 (BBJ-2). He claims that, at ₤9000 per hour, the jet isn't very good value, particularly since you can get a loaded Micra for about the same price.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Comedian Johnny Vegas who does not have a driving licence, set a time of 1:58.6.

Review: James drives a 1970s Aston Martin Lagonda, saying it is crazy and bold but in a good way. He starts to recommend it because they have depreciated to nothingness, but then realises that the cost of running it, not to mention replacing the engine and electrics when they go wrong, would be prohibitive.

Crock Or Classic: Richard & James discuss which cars are future classics and which are crocks. Unlike the cool wall, strict rules govern the Crock Or Classic Wall. Three criteria they look for are rare, interesting, and beautiful. A car must be at least two of the three to be placed on the "classic" side of the board. The Mazda MX-5 is neither rare or interesting enough to be a classic. It is therefore a crock. Despite jeers from the audience, James successfully argues that the Nissan Bluebird is a future classic. Richard counters with the rare, interesting, and beautiful Peugeot 405 MI16 - a future classic. Despite Jeremy's protests from the audience, the Subaru Impreza turbo ends up in the "crock" category. The Ford Fiesta RS1800 is mentioned, but before an argument can be made, Jeremy walks out of the audience and immediately places it onto the "classic" side of the board. This prompts Richard to explain that Jeremy is obviously trying to ingratiate himself to the Ford Motor Company in the hopes of moving up the shortlist for the recently announced GT. Richard moves the Fiesta over to the "crock" side of the board.

Preview: Jeremy showcases the new Aston Martin DB9 in the studio, though in pre-production form. He offers that it is an exception to his earlier claim that car design peaked in the '60s.

Review: Audi TT V6, for which Jeremy spends three hours dressing. The styling is perfect for the fashion-obsessed male, but it is not quick enough to keep you from being late. He says it is very similar to the old one, which he did not like. Some praise is reserved for the clever gearbox, but it isn't enough to save the TT. Lap time of 1:32.7.

Challenge: In the "Top Gear Generation Game," 5 of Richard Hammond's modern cars versus 5 of Clarkson's older cars in a 1/5 mile drag race; the old cars win 3-2. Golf GTIs and Toyota MR2s of old and new are challenged. The fabled Ford Escort RS Cosworth goes up against the new Ford Focus RS, and the Peugeot 205 GTI battles the Peugeot 206 GTI. After a tie in the first four contests, the Nissan 350Z is beaten by the twin-turbo Nissan 300ZX.
29 9 Series 3, Episode 9 Chrysler CrossfireSmart Roadster (Brabus V6 Bi-Turbo)Jaguar XJ6Honda Civic Type RHonda NSX Type R Top Gear Awards 2003 Carol Vorderman 28 December 2003 (2003-12-28) 4.24

Intro: A Cut-Price Top Gear as the team claim to their entire budget was exhausted for the series, proven by them showing several short highlight reels of the various ways the money was spent. To commemorate the occasion, James plays the theme tune on a Casio keyboard as Richard re-introduces the show.

Review: Jeremy drives the Chrysler Crossfire; he has severe problems with the looks, handling, power, quality, and manual gearbox. Richard and James use vivid language to explain how bad the automatic gearbox is. Jeremy is so intrigued that he vows to one day drive an automatic Crossfire.

Review: Hammond briefly drives the Smart Roadster Brabus V6 Biturbo. As a special one-off model created by gluing two three-cylinder turbocharged engines together, it has a massive price. Hammond does not recommend it, even with the improved performance, because of the shoddy gearbox.

2003 Top Gear Awards: Car of the Year goes to the Rolls Royce Phantom. Ugliest Car of the Year goes to the entire BMW range. The Most Fun Car of the Year goes to Vauxhall VX220 turbo. Enemy of the State goes to the Chief Constabul of North Wales Richard Brunstrum. The Surprise of the Year goes to the Jaguar XJ6.

Review: James reviews the Jaguar XJ6.

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Carol Vorderman does a lap in 1:51.2, on a MM track ("Mildly Moist").

Main Review: Hammond introduces the Honda Civic Type-R and drives the eager hot hatch until it is revealed they have enough money to introduce a relatively cheap supercar, bringing out the Honda NSX Type R, with its V6 engine tuned to make 300 bhp (220 kW). Hammond says the car is the bargain of the century, and finds it scintillating to drive on a dry track, but still too expensive for anyone to pay for a Honda. In the wet it isn't as amazing; it does a lap of 1:31.6, only slightly slower than the Porsche 996 Turbo in the same conditions, but with 100 fewer horses.

Skit: Simon Cowell accepts an award for being the fastest celebrity of the year. A cool customer, he isn't scared at all when the Stig drives him around the Top Gear test track in a Noble M12. However, since his taped acceptance speech is smug and self-satisfying, Jeremy shows the audience an outtake of Noble spinning out when Cowell is behind the wheel.

Best-of Episodes

No. Title Reviews Guest Original air date
SP The Best Of Top Gear 2003 BMW 5-SeriesPorsche 996 GT3Ford GT Martin Kemp 4 January 2004 (2004-01-04)

Review: Jaguar XK vs. Aston Martin DB7 (From Series 3, Episode 4)

Challenge: Indestructible Toyota Hilux (From Series 3, Episode 5)

Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car: Martin Kemp (From Series 3, Episode 1)

Review: BMW 5-Series (From Series 3, Episode 1)

Review: Porsche 996 GT3 (From Series 3, Episode 1)

Feature: The Death Of The Original Stig (From Series 3, Episode 1)

Review: Ford GT (From Series 3, Episode 1)


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