By on December 23, 2008

Well, not the test itself. The video of the test, which clearly shows the Top Gear crew pushing the Roadster back to base after, apparently, running out of juice. Only it didn’t. Wired reports that “According to Top Gear’s spokeswoman, footage showing the Roadster being pushed into the garage was filmed to show what would happen if the car’s lithium ion battery went dead.” So Top Gear didn’t drain the upteen hundred li-ion cells after 55 miles of hard-charging? “Top Gear stands by the findings in this film and is content that it offers a fair representation of the Tesla’s performance on the day it was tested,” the BBC said in a statement. Clear as mud, as the Brits would say. Does that mean we can trust Clarkson’s assertion that the Roadster requires 16 hours to charge? Or, indeed, anything he says? I’m all for infotainment, but Top Gear gets its street cred from telling the truth about cars. This is a major hit to the brand’s core.

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42 Comments on “Top Gear Fudges Tesla Test...”

  • avatar

    a) I am a huge, huge fan of Top Gear. I have enjoyed every episode ever made.

    b) I still think Tesla should sue the crap out of them. Remember 1993? NBC Nightline? GM truck with an exploding gas tank?

  • avatar

    Robert defending Tesla? Now we’ve seen everything!!

    And yes, I do realize that what you’re actually defending is journalistic integrity :-)

  • avatar

    People are surprised that Top Gear took an opportunity to create additional drama? Have they watched the same show I have? They take “dramatic license” to new levels every single episode.

    I’m sorry, but if I want the truth about cars, I come here. (See what I did there?)

    If I want to be entertained more than informed, I watch Top Gear. Which I do. Every Week.

  • avatar

    What they are basically saying is that a Tesla did quit on them after 55 miles of hard charging, just not the particular one or at that particular moment they showed in the show.

    If so, then that’s ok to me. If not, then that would be quite disappointing.

    Although I love the show and that is for a large part because of the telling it just how it is with little regard to political correctness, I do think sometimes they go to far.

    Particularly with the lorry driving, I didn’t mind the ‘murdering prostitutes’ joke since it was clearly just that (and laughworthy), but they also crashed into random peoples’ cars at some point. Even if they pay for it afterwards…you can’t do that. Also driving in London with the Pulman and Rolls clogging up the roads causing huge jams to have a laugh…

    JC needs some reality checks now and then, he seems to think he is above the law sometimes. It does make for entertaining television but it’s only funny till someone loses an eye.

  • avatar

    I view Clarkson much the same as Bill O’Reilly – as a professional bloviator. The difference is that I find Clarkson amusing and sometimes very funny, but I wouldn’t take his expressed opinions on much of anything as factual, or indeed even genuine. His job is to be grating and provocative, and he does it well.

    In my view, about the best Tesla will get is to raise the issue as they have, and maybe to get Hammond to mock Jeremy on the next episode. Probably no gonna happen, but suing Top Gear would be pointless and counterproductive.

  • avatar

    Not to defend Top Gear but has the Tesla been independently tested by anyone? Who is to say the thing doesn’t really die after 55 miles of being caned real hard. It’s hard to sound credible about the claims of your product when you won’t let people verify it, what are they so worried about. I know Robert hasn’t gotten his drive, I don’t think you will unless you go out and buy one.

  • avatar

    It’s sad to see top Gear losing whatever was left of it’s credibility. In it’s old format (’80’s/’90’s) this was a serious car program doing serious reviews of real cars. Carmakers knew they had a problem if Top Gear trashed their product. And of course there was Clarkson’s contribution since every circus needs it’s clown.

    The new format starting in 2002 saw the clown taking over the circus reducing the program to bar talk about irrelevant cars. Highly amusing but completely irrelevant. I bet the car industry popped some bottles when they realised they were of the hook!

    People should watch Top Gear for entertainment but never take anything the good people of Top Gear will tell you seriously. Keep in mind that every “race” is staged and every car is either fabulous or absolutely horrible and they will adjust the facts to fit their point.

    If you want entertainment watch Top Gear if you want the truth about cars visit this website. Maybe together we can figure it out.

  • avatar

    Entertainment I have no problem withm but it doesn’t mean it has to be inaccurate.

    A popularist like Clarkson makes it that much harder for sensible ideas, or real problems, to be advanced in the wider community.

    The BBC should be enforcing their well respected standards for this reason.

  • avatar

    It’s quite possible that the car ran out of juice and that they created separate footage of the car being pushed. Those events aren’t mutually exclusive.

    This happens all of the time with television and film. An event that occurred is described, but the video footage is not necessarily that of the specific event. If you have ever watched a WWII documentary, surely you’ve seen numerous examples of this.

  • avatar

    Clarkson’s carefully staged failure of the Tesla may be contemptable, James May’s mindless parroting of the propaganda of the hydrogen people in the same episode was an even more embarrassing display of ignorance.

    Makes you wonder if Top Gear has gone over to the bad side. Because they are promoting the exact same crap the car industry feeds you in their efforts to ward of the BEV threat: BEV’s are bad but there is a glorious hydrogen future ahead if you just wait a little. And wait. And wait some more. All the while buying the ICE cars they really want to do of course…

  • avatar

    Top Gear is very entertaining, but half of that entertainment comes from telling utter lies about cars (the other half does come from them telling truths that could never be told on sponsored television – i.e. Audis are uncool and only cocks drive them).

    That does not matter in the home market of Britain, where people cannot afford to buy cars. No harm no foul.

    But now that Top Gear is becoming popular in other markets, where people actually buy cars, Top Gear’s distortions could become problematic.

    A good rule of thumb is that if it is German it is not quite as good as Clarkson says (when the video of Clarkson being whipped by prostitutes dressed as SS guards comes out I will not be surprised), and if it is American it is possibly better than Clarkson says, and it has likely been lied about. For example, Corvettes do not have live rear axles unless they were made before 1963.

  • avatar

    Top Gear is not a factual show – even Clarkson admits as much, albeit tongue-in-cheek.

    Overall, I thought the Tesla review was quite positive. The flaws he pointed out are real – severely limited range when driven hard, questionable reliability, and considerable charging times (100x-1000x the time of re-fueling a car). But he also pointed out, with characteristically hyperbolic praise, that the car had monster torque and handled well.

    So what if the Tesla had 20% charge left – the fact remains that the car is neutered after 55 miles of hard driving. A broken fuse is a malfunction, and a marker of reliability no matter how quickly it was replaced. And reducing the charging time from 16 hours to 3.5 hours doesn’t change the fact that it is measured in hours.

    This doesn’t damage Top Gear – what do you expect from a show that uses 10 Aygos to play car-football? Tesla, on the other hand, might benefit from being less defensive. Clarkson is a silly clown, but arguing with a clown about fairness is even sillier.

  • avatar
    Pat Holliday

    I can’t believe the amount of faux uproar this particular stunt caused, as though Top Gear is some bastion of Auntie BBC’s factual news team.

    It’s a TV show. An entertainment show.


    Do the people wringing their hands over this watch Top Gear and assume the girls playing volleyball on the beach next to James May just happened to be there too? (FCX Clarity piece)

    Or that Jeremy Clarkson really turns a pickup into a boat by himself?

    It’s a perfectly honed sitcom, set to cars. Nothing more.

    Come off it Robert. Andy Wilman and co. must be loving all this attention.

  • avatar

    But I thought everything on TV was true! What am I going to do with all these diet pills and ab-busting work out machines? Who is going to tell me how to behave and how to live my life? You don’t seriously expect me to think for myself and make my own decisions, do you? Thats it. I’m starting “”

  • avatar

    The only way to tell if a car is worthy or not is to research as much a possible from as many sources as possible….and then drive the car. Like other fantastical shows on T.V, Top Gear is extremely funny and entertaining.

  • avatar

    Pat Holliday : I can’t believe the amount of faux uproar this particular stunt caused, as though Top Gear is some bastion of Auntie BBC’s factual news team.

    Thank you to all who have echoed this sentiment. Top Gear has been more about infotainment for the many years I’ve been watching, the Tesla debacle comes as no surprise. Witness JC’s insults lobbed at the Ford GT, only to admit that an aftermarket alarm was the problem. Or testing an SVT Lightning pickup as indicative of what all trucks are like in the US, and why Americans drive them. When it comes to anything made in the US, Top Gear is pretty much for infotainment purposes only.

    I do find their analysis of European cars to be more than good for a giggle, however.

  • avatar

    I saw the episode, it was fair.
    It does take 16 hours to charge from a standard (I think he said 10-15 amp) 240 Volt outlet. You can only charge it in 4 hours if you have a special charging station installed. Which I think costs another $10K or so.
    The Tesla didn’t run out of charge, it broke.
    What I got out of it; The Tesla handles poorly.

  • avatar

    I love watching Top Gear, but naturally (as has been mentioned before), you have to take what they say with a grain of salt. anglo-aggrandizing and all.

    If you want serious car reviews, see BBC’s Fifth Gear.
    It’s just as fun to watch for me, albeit for different reasons.

  • avatar

    The complaint that Top Gear doesn’t give accurate information about cars, reminds me of a complaint a few years ago that someone made about historical inaccuracies in the Pocahontas movie by Disney.

    “You were expecting historical accuracy from a company that specializes in talking plants and animals?”

  • avatar

    -With an exception of a bias against Porsches, in my experience Jezza is spot on with his opinions of German cars. As far as American cars go, it just takes the right one…the boys certainly loved the ZR-1, CTS-V and Challenger.

    -Top Gear’s races are NOT staged. Andy Wilman himself has said as much. However, after the race, they do retrace the route to reshoot extra, more dramatic footage.

    -The 16 hour recharge was a worst case scenario, and the faster charging station adds %10 to the price of an already expensive car. A car did break, but not for the reason stated. Neither Tesla nor TG were telling the entire truth.

    But, whatever, I don’t really care. Top Gear is fun, and hilarious. I personally cannot stand “Car Review” shows. Car and Driver TV, Motorweek..etc (even Final Gear is in this category). They’re BORING. If I want to know all the numbers then I’ll go look it up online, or I’ll go test drive the thing.

  • avatar

    but they also crashed into random peoples’ cars at some point. Even if they pay for it afterwards…you can’t do that. Also driving in London with the Pulman and Rolls clogging up the roads causing huge jams to have a laugh…

    They were at the Millbrook Testing Grounds for that. I don’t think they hit civilians cars.

    Top Gear is a more entertaining show, but Fifth Gear is better as a car show.

  • avatar

    First off, I will echo the sentement that, anyone who takes a show with a “Cool Wall” seriously, needs thier head read, and thier perspective adjusted. Lighten up people. If you are looking for a factual car show with a British accent, 5th Gear is available. Top Gear’s reviews are more opinionated than factual, heavily biased based on the presenter’s likes and dislikes, and predominantly for entertainment. Nevertheless, they can present an interesting perspective on a subject, when taken with the appropriate amount of salt.

    Second, I will again echo the comment that, though perhaps exagerated, Jezza’s comments are in the right ballpark. He praised the torque, smoothness, and generally said it was a great drive. He lamented the limited range when pushed hard, long recharge times, and battery laden handling characteristics. All this as compared to a production gasoline equivalent produced by a major manufacturer. Given the object of comparison, the points are valid. I thought that the segment was extremely high praise coming from someone like Jeremy Clarkson. Tesla should be proud.

    In May’s defence, regarding the hydrogen segment, I would like to point out the following. I am a fan of the push for production of battery EVs, for the applications which current technology is sufficient. Much of the petroleum we use could be replaced with EVs, but not all. The trip to Grandma’s would still require some sort of range extender that can be refueled quickly, like the Volt or other EREV designs. I am also aware of the hydrogen hype argument and the limitations of hydrogen as an energy carrier. However, I would like to point out that THE major failing of battery EVs is not range, but the fact that they cannot be fueled on the fly. This feature of the internal combustion engine is what effectively produces an infinite range.

    There are LiION EVs on the roads that have a range equivalent to some petrol cars, but the fact that they cannot be charged quickly still limits how far they can effectively venture. If battery technology advances to be able to accept full charging within minutes (that is to say, less than 5), and a high powered charging infrastructure is created to facilitate charging on the go, BEVs will become a viable replacement for petroleum. If that technology does not materialise, BEVs will not be able to compete as a complete replacement, but will remain an effective solutions for applications that do not require extending the range indefinitely. The one ace that hydrogen has up it’s sleeve is that, as May pointed out, it is a fuel. A hydrogen fuel cell EREV would be capable of refueling in minutes, with a fuel that does not emit pollutants. It may not be as efficient a carrier of energy as batteries, but it would work in a way batteries currently do not. It is a very valid point, and the future of battery development in the area of charging time will likely be the deciding factor.

  • avatar

    However, after the race, they do retrace the route to reshoot extra, more dramatic footage.

    Of course. There is the event (in this case, the testing) and then there is the filming of a representation of an event. They may not be the same thing.

    Television producers have to worry about visuals. That often means staging the visual component for the sake of the audience.

    I would not be surprised if the car ran out of juice, and that the car was not filmed at the precise moment that it died. Instead, they tested the vehicle, got reportable results, and filmed sequences at other times in order to dramatize the occurrence.

    This happens in television all the time. Events are staged and reenacted, with any apparent spontaneity faked for the camera. That doesn’t mean that the event didn’t occur as described, it just means that the visual on the screen was a reenactment.

    I don’t know what happened in this particular case, and no outlet has the right to lie about it, but I would not presume that the staging is proof of anything other than they made the show in a way that television shows are often made.

  • avatar

    The wailing and gnashing of teeth from thin-skinned Americans about Top Gear is almost as funny as Clarkson’s comments.

    And the complaint about the Corvette is that it uses leaf springs, like an ox-cart.

  • avatar
    Dave Ruddell

    In it’s old format (’80’s/’90’s) this was a serious car program doing serious reviews of real cars.

    Now, now. Clarkson did do a proper review of teh Ford Fiesta. I, for one, am glad to know that it can land four Marines on a beach and outrace a ‘vette in a mall.

  • avatar

    And the complaint about the Corvette is that it uses leaf springs, like an ox-cart.

    Hey! It only uses ONE leaf spring! Don’t we get some credit for that?

    Gee you guys are tough….

  • avatar

    They were at the Millbrook Testing Grounds for that. I don’t think they hit civilians cars.

    They first drove the lorries to the testing ground themselves on public roads (which may or may not have been closed to public at the time, who knows), and in the proces Jeremy refurbished the side of what I think was a previous gen white Volvo S40. They showed it in the video and Hammond was asking “Who’s car was that”…

    There are some other examples as well of course (supercars in parking garage, 10000 pounds supercars, amphibious vehicles etc etc, fun to watch but not if you’re in the traffic jam behind them).

    So like I said I enjoy watching it and still look forward to the show when it’s on TV (BBC is on cable here in the Netherlands, which is nice, eventhough I only use it to watch TG, MOTD and possibly F1 next year), but they have to be careful not to go too far across the line. The same applies for giving (mis)information, infotainment or not…

    On a different note, I liked it more when it was more car-intensive, about 2/3 years ago the show was at its best I think. I get that driving around in a truck that’s on fire is fun to do, but watching these things I can’t help thinking “yeah, funny, Ha Ha, now stop it and do something related to cars”.

    The Fiesta and 365GTB Daytona items, that’s what I want to see.

  • avatar

    hey first drove the lorries to the testing ground themselves on public roads (which may or may not have been closed to public at the time, who knows), and in the proces Jeremy refurbished the side of what I think was a previous gen white Volvo S40.

    I just watched the episode again and it doesn’t look like they use public roads. The entire test was done at Millbrook (except at the beginning when they are introduced to their lorries). While it looks like they used public roads (including having street signs and such), looking at the map of Millbrook, it seems like it was all done on the grounds of the track. For instance, around the 31:30 mark where there is a map of where each road goes (Belgian Pave, Island B, Exit, and Rough Track). The cars hit were probably placed there by the show and driven by producers.

    The map of Millbrook is on page three of the PDF file.

    While the show does sometimes go too far, I think this was another staged stunt.

  • avatar

    As a big fan of Top Gear, I’m disappointed. Much more of this and I won’t even be a fan.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Tesla has a valid complaint about Top Gear showing the Tesla Roadster running out of electricity and being pushed into the garage. In my opinion, that went too far. But it’s definitely not actionable as a lawsuit. Much less even than the Fisker Karma trade secret lawsuit. that Tesla so foolishly brought and lost.

    Tesla also shades the truth. The time of 16 hours to charge from a 220 volt UK outlet is correct by Tesla’s own numbers. In the US it would take 32 hours to charge from a typical 110 volt wall socket, again by Tesla’s own numbers. You have to get special wiring installed to get the 3.5 hour charge that Tesla claims should have been mentioned. Claiming that Top Gear should have said 3.5 hours was the charging time is deceptive.

    As to the problem with the Roadster’s brakes, Rachel Konrad says the brakes failed due to a blown fuse that was fixed by replacing the pump. Huh? Why replace the pump to repair a blown fuse? Doesn’t sound like she really knows what went on. Which is confirmed by the fact that Wired asked her a question on another issue that she punted on, saying she would ask a Tesla UK person who was there for some of the filming. Clearly she was not there and had only reports from Tesla people to rely on. My spin detector started spinning when I realized that.

    I would not fault either Top Gear or Tesla for putting their own spin on things. But when you use spin, don’t claim foul when the other side uses it too. That’s the pot calling the kettle black.

    (To be a stickler, I would note two other things. Clarkson called the car “the Tesla.” It’s the Tesla Roadster. And he said that it is made in California. Some of the work is done in California, but I would have to say the Roadster is “made” by Lotus in the UK.)

  • avatar

    To clarify this a bit, I think the special charger that reduced the Tesla charge time to 4 hours was based on a high-current 220 volt outlet, similar to what we use for dryers and electric stoves in the USA.

    The UK has 220 volt power for routine purposes so that might be a low-current system that would not work to run the Tesla charger. So I assume that’s why you could use a special 220 volt outlet in the USA to do the quick charge but could not use an ordinary 220 volt outlet in the UK to do the same thing.

    I think the charger may be included with the Tesla Roadster but I don’t think the services needed to do the wiring are. As i remember Martin Eberhard did the wiring for about US$200.


  • avatar

    As I concluded earlier it’s a tacky, cheap show, with a loudmouthed, attention whore host, the lame-loser clown Clarkson.

    Anyone who takes this clueless-worthless lying sack of sh!t Clarkson seriously after he keeps parroting that stupid, long-debunked fake hybrid-vs-H3 study, is, well… a clown himself as well, to the least.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    As I concluded earlier it’s a tacky, cheap company, with a loudmouthed, attention whore CEO, the lame-loser clown Musk.

    Anyone who takes this clueless-worthless lying sack of sh!t Musk seriously after he keeps parroting that stupid, long-debunked fake trade secret claim against Fisker, is, well… a clown himself as well, to the least.

  • avatar

    “I’m all for infotainment, but Top Gear gets its street cred from telling the truth about cars. This is a major hit to the brand’s core.”

    Sorry – what was that?

    No it doesnt…this show has hardly ever been about truth since its reinvention…it has always and completely been about “taking the piss”…

    Theres barely any car facts in any show…

    Sign – maybe americans just dont get british humour

  • avatar

    Clarkson is actually a very knowledgeable car person. It’s just sad, the things he says on TV, for entertainment.

    Top Gear is much like Professional Wrestling. You know you’re watching actual Professionals (Wrestlers, Autojournalists), but you know what they’re doing isn’t always real…

  • avatar

    [William Fucking Shatner]
    “Get a life!”

    It is a TV show folks.


  • avatar
    Antohn Crispin

    Since I have no life and think that the only thing better to discuss on the internet than electric motor vehicles is Top Gear episodes, let me remind everybody what was actually said on the show:

    “Although Tesla say it’ll do 200 miles, we worked out that on our track that it would run out after just 55 miles.”

    What exactly was being misrepresented here? In any case, I think a lot of people are missing the editorial point regarding the Honda FCX Clarity. Because hydrogen fuel cell cars operate much more like gasoline internal combustion engine cars of today that they will be much more likely adopted by the masses than battery powered electric motor vehicles.

    Nope: I’m not expiring Top Gear’s street cred certificate just yet.

  • avatar

    I suppose the BBC is rather immune to lawsuits. Perhaps they will now find it harder to get cars without buying them?

    Likely not. Car companies are full of suckers.

  • avatar

    Please no more lawsuits.

  • avatar

    Clarkson responds:

    From the article:

    But Clarkson denied the programme ever showed the car had stopped running.

    “We never said once that the car had run out of power. The car had to be pushed into the warehouse because you are not allowed to drive cars into a building.

  • avatar

    And do you believe this BS?

    As I said, he’s a worthless-clueless lying clown, a lame joke.

  • avatar

    I prefer Fifth Gear. Anyone else?

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