New co-hosts, same ve­hic­u­lar hi­jinks in Sea­son 27 of BBC Amer­ica’s ‘Top Gear’

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - On Tv - BY GE­ORGE DICKIE

“Top Gear” co-host Chris Har­ris gets down­right evan­gel­i­cal when it comes to the sub­ject of elec­tric cars.

In an up­com­ing episode of the BBC Amer­ica se­ries, which launches its 27th sea­son Sun­day, July 14, Har­ris and new co-hosts Fred­die Flintoff and Paddy McGuin­ness were chal­lenged with swap­ping out the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines in con­ven­tional cars with elec­tric mo­tors, a task he says was sur­pris­ingly sim­ple and “ab­so­lutely fas­ci­nat­ing.”

“If you tried to trans­plant an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine and gear­box into an­other car,” Har­ris explains, “you have to bring with it all the sys­tems and ev­ery­thing else to com­mu­ni­cate with each other. But in an elec­tric car, it’s much sim­pler. You’ve got a bat­tery pack that talks to a mo­tor. As long as you can fit that in and you’ve got some ped­als to go and stop, you’re there. ... You sud­denly end up with the ve­hi­cle be­ing three times more pow­er­ful than it was ever in­tended to be . ... So yeah, there’s an en­vi­ron­men­tal mes­sage there but peo­ple don’t re­al­ize the next gen­er­a­tion of cars are go­ing to be pre­pos­ter­ously fast.”

In the new sea­son, Har­ris wel­comes new co­horts Flintoff, a cricket star in the U.K., and McGuin­ness, an English stand-up comic, for more ve­hic­u­lar hi­jinks, be it driv­ing blind­folded, track-test­ing a Tesla Model 3, a McLaren 600LT or a Fer­rari 488 Pista or in Sun­day’s opener, driv­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of their first car in one of the hottest places on Earth, Ethiopia’s Danakil De­pres­sion.

“It’s di­rectly com­pa­ra­ble to your first love, I think,” says Har­ris, whose first auto was a MINI Cooper that wound up be­ing stolen and to­taled after less than a year of own­er­ship. “There’s just a con­nec­tion you have with that ve­hi­cle be­cause it prob­a­bly gave you a sense of lib­erty, it prob­a­bly added some­thing to your life that was prob­a­bly free­dom that you hadn’t had be­fore. And so to go back and re­visit that I think it’s poignant, it’s in­ter­est­ing and it means that through that you can tell sto­ries and in­tro­duce peo­ple to who you are.”

And the back­drop of Ethiopia came as a to­tal sur­prise to Har­ris and his co-hosts.

“It’s one of the most beau­ti­ful places on Earth,” Har­ris says. “It’s green, it’s got gor­geous canyons, it’s got desert but it’s got so much more be­sides and this great sense of it be­ing an­cient. I mean, in Europe I think we’re very lucky to have ar­chi­tec­ture that’s thou­sands of years old but you go there and their stuff is tens of thou­sands of years old.

“And some amaz­ing roads as well.”

Paddy McGuin­ness, Fred­die Flintoff and Chris Har­ris (from left) host “Top Gear,” which re­turns for its 27th sea­son Sun­day on BBC Amer­ica.

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