Overlanding in Supercars? What Has Top Gear America Done Now!?
Host Jethro Bovingdon helps make sense of Top Gear America’s premiere episodes.
Don't worry, things have not gone completely off the rails at the MotorTrend offices, despite last year's best efforts. As fun as it would be to watch, supercars are not built for overlanding (but maybe they are nowadays?), and even the Top Gear America hosts wouldn't subject those rolling pinnacles of art and engineering to the rigors of the great outdoors.
But what is a "supercar," really, and how exactly are you supposed to drive one? And overlanding? Aren't we all over land in some way or another all the time?
We got to chat with Top Gear America co-host Jethro Bovingdon about these questions, meeting Dax Shepard and Rob Corddry for the first time, and generally living up to the legacy of the one of the greatest franchises in automotive media (don't worry, Freiburger, Roadkill will always have a special place in our hearts).
Jethro thinks it was a good thing he went into Top Gear America a bit blind in regards to knowing about Dax and Rob. You can't get more gearhead than Jethro. He went to work for Evo Magazine (a UK-based high-performance car magazine, think Automobile) right out of university, and spending nearly all his time driving nearly every car imaginable—often as fast as they can go—doesn't leave much time for exploring the realms of American popular culture.
But when it came time to meet Dax and Rob, that meant he wasn't intimidated by these giants of the entertainment industry. It was just meeting two extremely funny, like-minded people who wanted to go have fun in cars. And they do. And MotorTrend is smart enough to bring a whole mess of cameras and recording equipment along when they do, because it's fun to watch. And, we agree with Jethro here, that's why it works.
Supercars as Top Gear America Hosts
2020 Shelby GT500 (Dax): Detroit-born-and-bred can describe both Dax Shepard and the Ford Mustang. World-class also fits, and in their ultimate guises—760 furious horsepower GT500 for the Mustang, host of Top Gear America for Dax—this combination is a force to be reckoned with.
Sub-11-second quarter miles, well over 1g-cornering loads, 0-60 in 3.3 seconds with a top speed limited to 180 mph, all for less than six figures when fully kitted out—can you even call the original pony car a pony car anymore? And we still can't wrap our head around a legit, world-beating Mustang—supercar. Captain Commitment's* only trouble will be in managing this snake in horse's clothing.
*Editor's Note: You won't hear anyone call Dax by this new nickname on the show. Jethro told us he uttered the moniker to cast and crew while watching him flog the GT500 endlessly in pursuit of perfection. But we want to make it a thing, so spread it around, #daxiscaptaincommitment!
2020 McLaren GT (Jethro): Is the McLaren GT a supercar? Supercars are track monsters, focused on performance, not livable as a daily driver and styled to arouse the senses in animalistic ways, right? The GT (for grand touring) in the baby McLaren's name would imply it's meant to consume long road trips in elegant comfort and at the brisque speeds only legal on European highways.
So did Jethro just bring a knife to Dax's gun fight, or is he making a point about refinement and capability in unassuming packages? We think this professional race car driver, disguised as an even-tempered automotive journalist, husband and father, might know something that Dax doesn't. And we were right; we asked him why he thought the entry-level McLaren could stand up to the best Mustang ever built. "Dax won't be able to manage all that power; he doesn't know how to lift. He's Captain Commitment. "
2020 Porsche 911 GT3 (Rob): Por-shuh, sorry Rob, the way you say it might not bother Jethro (we asked), but we get a little twitchy every time you miss the uh. But Rob also brought what could be the only real supercar to the table. The Porsche 911 GT3 is the ultimate expression of one of the best driver's cars in the history of cars, and no one can doubt its credibility.
But can they doubt Rob's? "Rob might not have the same level of knowledge as Dax or I, and he'd never actually driven on a track before the show, but the first time we all went out driving together, everything he was saying about the R8 he was in was exactly on point," Jethro told us. "He might not have been able to keep up with Dax and I, but when he caught up he was telling me that the rear of the car didn't feel right, like it was moving around a lot. Turns out, he was right. There was a problem with the rear steering and the car had to go back to Audi. "
Budget Overland Adventure
Overlanding is becoming more and more popular, and as aftermarket support continues to grow for the hobby, the budgets on some rigs can be astronomical. We're talking seven-figure price tags on turnkey rigs that can go just about anywhere on earth, with a stove and a place to sleep and shower on board. But do you need all that?
Dax, Rob, and Jethro aim to prove you don't in an overland-based episode 2. Expect the Eagle Scout to get this right; Rob brought an old Toyota 4Runner to Flagstaff, Arizona, where the producers are challenging the hosts to an overland adventure. Good job, Rob. The shed might be a bit much, but we like your style.
Dax's style is to be commended, as well. #vanlife is nothing unless you got a friggin' sick-ass mural on your rig like the one adorning Dax's 1978 Ford E-350 Econoline van. It's too bad he spent his entire budget on the artwork, though; a four-wheel-drive, Twin Traction Beam Ford shouldn't be struggling to keep up with a Nissan 350Z in the dirt.
Yes, you read that right. Jethro, who has spent drastically more time on pavement than off, chose to lift a Nissan 350 Zed (as the Brits say), put a roof-top tent on top, then see if he could keep up with Captain Commitment and the Eagle (Rob's new nickname? Tell us on the socials).
"That little Nissan was great! We were on this very fine volcanic ash, and if the car would sit still too long it would get stuck, but man, once you got that thing going you just couldn't stop it! I loved it!" Jethro said. A testament to Japanese engineering, because we asked him how extensive the modifications were to the Nissan—and they weren't. Just a beefier, longer shock and a knobby tire on each corner, the bumper, and the tent.
There's only one place to watch Top Gear America, the MotorTrend App, so go sign up today! And there's a whole lot more coming this season that you'll want to see, including a million dollars worth of supercar SUV going off-road as nature intended, a homemade racetrack, setting future trends in car collecting, and more!
Photos courtesy of Discovery.