The Grand Tour Namibia special is good, but not great [Op/Ed]


As The Grand Tour’s inaugural season continues, the boys – Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May – embark on their first extended special.

Called “The Beach (Buggy) Boys,” the premise is fairly simple: each presenter has to build a beach buggy and drive from south to north Namibia in a way to prove to producer Andy Wilman that beach buggies are not completely useless.

Along the way, they encounter the usual hardships and breakdowns and in many ways is similar to the Top Gear Botswana special, which was in similar conditions.

The Good

The beach buggies were the stars of this special. They managed to capture the personality of the presenters in each buggy – Richard’s was enhanced with upgraded suspension and tires, James’ was simple and tasteful and closer to the 1960s originals, and Jeremy’s was completely over-the-top with purple metalflake paint and a Rover V8 in place of the VW air-cooled flat four.

The opening segment where they were traveling up and down the coast to find a way inland was a little long, but it also had some unscripted banter – especially James’ anger at Jeremy – and palpable anxiety over the encroaching sea.

The Bad

Some of the segments ran a bit long. The special was broken up over two one-hour episodes, but it could’ve been edited down to a single 90 minute episode. Along with the coastal segment mentioned above, the washboard road segment was also too long and could’ve been condensed.

There was also a lack of variety in the episode. The road north was very straightforward (once they found it) and most of the episode was just them driving along the same road. More variety of terrain and route would’ve made for more interesting TV.

The Verdict

Overall, the Namibia special was very close to the old Top Gear specials, and compared to them it was mid-pack – not the best, but not the worst either. It was still a fun episode to watch and bodes well for the specials to come over the next two seasons. On a personal note, it made me want my own beach buggy. I’d build one like James’ buggy.

Check out the latest episode of TFL’s Difflock series here: