Top Gear Versus Fifth Gear: Which British Car Show Is Better?

by Ed Lau on April 9, 2007

I thought I would take a moment today to answer the question that really is on the minds of everyone across the nation: which British car show is better? By now, everyone probably knows that I’m a huge fan of BBC’s Top Gear but I also watch Channel Five’s Fifth Gear…usually when TG is off the air, which seems to be more often than not in recent years because of Clarkson’s bad back and Richard Hammond crashing at almost 300MPH. It’s not that I don’t like Fifth Gear because I do but I simply prefer Top Gear. Every car enthusiast watches one of the two or both. There are those that believe Fifth Gear is the superior show in many ways so I thought I would look closer at both and give everyone an in-depth breakdown. We’ll split up the categories into two…categories: production (the show itself) and presenters (the hosts).


1. Production – Location: Top Gear is filmed at Dunsfold Park, an old airfield that has been converted into a racing circuit and the news/random rambling segments are held in a converted aircraft hanger. I don’t know about you but I think that’s just absolutely perfect. It’s a setting synonymous with speed and while it does look like a bit of a sparse soundstage at times, the hangar is well decorated with Top Gear historic memorabilia such as the indestructible Toyota truck. A couple seasons ago, Fifth Gear adjusted their format a bit to compete with Top Gear since the inane conversations between the hosts make them incredibly popular. Most recently, they have moved their home-based to a cafe on a race track. They’re both very cool locations since the Fifth Gear set is very homey and colorful while the Top Gear hangar just has all kinds of awesome stuff lying around. Unfortunately, Top Gear will not be back at Dunsfold Park next year as their lease is up but it is quite exciting to see a whole new set. Verdict: Tie


2. Production – Segments: Fifth Gear is a much more grounded show, with fewer supercars and more sensible econoboxes. What they don’t have is a Bugatti Veyron racing a plane from Italy to London or idiots seeing if they can buy a car for less than a 100 quid. This isn’t to say that Fifth Gear doesn’t have interesting films. Oh, by no means since I found stuff like the visit to the Maybach dealership and the world’s most expensive car wash interesting but they don’t feel epic in scale like the films on Top Gear, which most recently threw the three hosts into downtown Miami, told them to buy cars for $1000 and then complete a series of challenges while they drive from Miami to New Orleans. Both shows have a good deal of celebrities but Top Gear attracts more star power with their weekly Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment. Verdict: Top Gear.


3. Production – Information: With that being said, Fifth Gear, being the more sensible show, does provide more useful information, especially for living in Europe. They review more cheap cars and film more segments with actual news. Top Gear on the other hand, answers questions such as how many bouncy castles you can jump in an ice cream van. No, I’m serious. Verdict: Fifth Gear

4. Production – Film Style: While both shows use fancy filters and such to emphasize the cars, Top Gear obviously has a higher budget and a better film crew. The photography on the show is often absolutely stunning, especially on their cross-continent races. Oh, and the camera keeps moving around during Fifth Gear‘s news segments which is really annoying. Verdict: Top Gear.

5. Production – Entertainment: The first thing you’ll notice about Fifth Gear when you watch is that it seems so much more stiff and scripted. While there are some genuinely exciting and funny moments, they are few and far between compared to Top Gear, which is about entertainment first, information second. Top Gear is easily one of the most entertaining hours of television you can find today. Everything is far more ridiculous and there’s just a sense of grandure to the whole thing. Verdict: Top Gear.


6. Presenters – Charisma: Fifth Gear just isn’t funny, which is a shame because the British have a fantastic, ironic sense of humor, something that Top Gear takes full advantage of. Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond have a great chemistry, like three regular guys talking cars. Their personalities off-set each other well with May being sensible and old-fashioned, Clarkson being obsessed with power and…kind of an idiot and Hammond as a sort of everyman that most young people can identify with compared to the two oldies. While Tiff Needell is definitely a cool guy and Vicki Butler-Henderson…well, it’s hot when a girl can powerslide better than me…they don’t have the same appeal as the hosts of Top Gear. Everyone else on Fifth Gear is kind of like a pylon, especially the new guy: Tim Lovejoy, who is just plain boring. Oh…and Top Gear has a cute dog…named Top Gear Dog. Verdict: Top Gear…by a lot.


7. Presenters – Credibility: No one on either show is really an expert when it comes to cars. Most of them are journalists with a great love for cars but that’s like me saying I have a great love for surgery. You wouldn’t really want me to give you a new heart valve. However, Tiff and Vicki were once professional racers which gives them the slight edge, especially since Clarkson usually just gives his incredibly biased opinions on everything anyways. He’s got star power going for him but I think most people would rather have Tiff’s opinion. Verdict: Fifth Gear.


8. Presenters – Driving Skill: Again, Tiff and Vicki were pros and drive better than Clarkson. James May is nicknamed Captain Slow (although he has shown an affinity for speed at appropriate times such as maxing out the Bugatti Veyron) and Richard Hammond isn’t spectacular either, although he is above average. Jason Plato, who was a presenter on Fifth Gear until last season was also once a pro racing driver. The only person with possible racing credentials on Top Gear is The Stig but since we don’t know who he is or if he is just one person (he might even be Tiff…), we can’t seriously factor that in. Verdict: Fifth Gear.


The tally gives Top Gear a 4-3-1 edge over their Channel Five rival but personally, the race wasn’t that close. As with everything, there are intangibles involved. Fifth Gear is wildly inconsistent with their programming as one episode might be good but two others might be snorefests. There are entire segments of Fifth Gear that you just don’t want to watch while the boys of Top Gear can make paving a road entertaining (which they do in the season premier for season 9). There’s rarely a dull moment on the BBC show. Top Gear is also much more…believable. While the show is probably scripted, you never think it is since Clarkson, May and Hammond have such a great rhythm and they have a serious passion for cars. I have no doubt that Tiff loves driving and Vicki giggles affectionately every time she finds a great car but they don’t convey it as well.

So say what you want about how they promote irresponsible driving or hurt the environment by running over moss or melting polar bears but as a television show, Top Gear wins by a mile. And on that bombshell, it’s time to end. We’ll be back tomorrow.

in Cars,Entertainment

{ 154 comments… read them below or add one }

luke 11 yrs old September 6, 2009 at 9:09 am

i think top gear is 1000000000000 times better than 5th gear
go top gear wooo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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S September 9, 2009 at 5:05 am

Top Gear is so much better than Fifth Gear. They have much better voices, in the way that they aren’t monotoned like the first male presenter of fifth gear. Top gear also advertise cars like it means something, they appeal to the audience.

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hondatyperowner September 9, 2009 at 10:09 am

top gear and fifth gear are both car programmes but for me the similiarities end with that. Top gear is far more interesting and much more funny. Fifth gear is a little too serious and i much rather watch clarky, hammy and mayay racing about europe or whatever than watch tiff and that other twat who drives the cars and always finishes with “i have just bought one of them”. However the one bright spark for me with fifth gear is vicki she should definetly start wearing some sexier clothing and then maybe get a transfer to top gear and that would just suit me fine. So if i was to vote between top gear and fifth gear then for me its top gear all the way even though i wont ever be able to afford most of the cars that they test and dont suppose alot of people would be able to afford to buy cars like bugatti etc.

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james allan ryder September 12, 2009 at 9:12 am

top gear the best by far top show .

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Matt2039 September 24, 2009 at 11:57 am

TopGear is the better show, by a million miles. I have never missed an episode. For a start, there are just too many presenters on Fifth Gear, and while yes they may have racing experience, but tell me this, when driving, why on fifth gear, do they look like they are struggling to control the car? And why are they so monotone and why for godsake is it scripted. Viki may have raced cars, that doesnt make her a bloody motoring journalist. Tiff can drive, but he makes it look too much like he is struggling. The other two, why, just no.
TopGear is funny, Jeremy Clarkson , and I take no argument here, is one of the cleverist, funniest and the greatest MOTORING JOURNALIST ever to walk god’s earth. James May is the complete opposite to Clarkson, he is boring, and quite comical to watch when arguing with Clarkson. And Richard Hammond provides a happy medium, he is funny, smart and considerably younger than both Clarkson and May. He can drive, as can his co-presenters, and some-how he just makes it even better. I love Hammond, Clarkson is very funny and very intelligent and May provides someone to laugh at when something goes wrong, most commonly, goes wrong , or happens to May. The TopGear trio are very funny and,they look at the background of cars, and yes the opinions may well be biased, but I ask you this, would you rather them tell you their opinion and deliver a verdict, or let you find out that the car you just bought is some crappy little eco-box dreamt up by some little weirdo in an attic in Dorset? Supercars are exciting. TopGear is exciting, finding the greatest driving road in Europe, driving an Aston Martin DB9 against one of the fastest trains on earth and proving that the Middle Classes in Surrey dont need bloody 4×4s. I love TopGear, and In the future I want to be a Motoring Journalist. I am 15 and Jeremy, Richard and May have influenced how I want to spend my future. Driving the worlds most powerful production cars, on the worlds greatest roads and taking on the world, with an a Brushed Aluminium and Carbon Fibre Fist. Thanx TopGear, I will always watch you three.

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Lozil October 5, 2009 at 9:41 pm

I feel Top Gear is a Complete Entertainer car show, And Fifth Gear is a Complete Informative Car show. If Fifth gear try to imitate Top gear, then they will go completely flop.

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daniel rodriguez October 14, 2009 at 3:02 am

TOP GEAR IS SERIOUSLY THE BEST & REALLY DONT THINK YOU COULD MATCH TOP GEAR TO FIFTH GEAR…… FIFTH GEAR MAKES ME WANT TO WATCH MY CAT DO ITS BIZZNESS IT ITS LITTER TRAY…. WHERES AS TOP GEAR I COULD AS ITS FUNNY & IM GLUED TO MY T.V SET WHEN ITS ON….. THE CAST ARE F**KING FUNNY & THEIRS NEVER ANYTHING IN IT/ON IT THAT MAKES ME WONNA DRINK TEA WITH OLD FARTS WHILE WATCHING HEARTBEAT LOL!!!!!!!

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King Rat October 18, 2009 at 7:03 am

Why are you comparing a lethal, extremely entertaining show like top gear to a painfully boring show like fifth gear!

TOP GEAR- BRILLIANT
FIFTH GEAR-SHIIIIITTE

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Shark October 23, 2009 at 5:51 am

Like u said
Clarkson is bias, Tiffs opinion on cars are valued more. Fifth gear has better drivers and possibly know more about cars and can push them further. Everything else is pointless.
Fifth gear wins by a mile.
I have other shows to watch for entertainment. JC is just annoying

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smartass January 12, 2011 at 10:52 am

Well, Top Gear got stig, WHICH ROCKS THE SHIT OUT OF SHITTY FIFTH GEAR, GO TOP GEAR!

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Bob January 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Just because you don’t like jeremy clarkson doesnt mean the show is bad, TOP GEAR RULES, and fifth gear sucks arse, my arse if you want. it sucks somebodys arse either way

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paul belfast October 24, 2009 at 7:40 am

who cares about tiffs opinion i dont even know who tiff is. clarkson, hammond and may = gods haha funniest people on t.v, i’d rather have a laugh and watch amazing cars driving fast anyday than listen to a guy who’s name is tiff talking about shite cars like hyundai getz. keep it up top gear best show on television!!!!!!

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Gary October 25, 2009 at 5:13 am

@derrich:
I F*@Kin hate the way fifth gear presenter always says “In The World” he says it in a deep voice

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Bob January 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I think you will find that’s top gears’ jeremy clarkson who says “In the world”, unless tiff copied

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Adeel November 22, 2009 at 3:14 am

I love both the shows but my vote is for the fifth gear because it’s a pure car guide program and i wish a joint program will be broadcasted for viewer.

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Nick December 6, 2009 at 6:11 pm

The only reason I’ve stayed watching Fifth Gear for a few minutes more is Vicki. thats it. She’s hot and would probably break you in half in bed!

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Stig jr. December 11, 2009 at 7:58 pm

I am from the states. I saw top before fifth gear. I watch top gear or fifth gear (not so much fifth gear) for super cars, otherwise I’d look out my window and stare at a cheap GM. Top Gear for sure!!!

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nick weeks December 22, 2009 at 12:10 am

5th gear was the first of the two i saw, and my opinion of the show from that first viewed episode was and is that its a horrible show. Yes they can give you information on cars, and drive them well, and annoyingly try to imitate top gear, but its all painful to watch. Its like learning physics by smashing the book into your head, you have a great example of the lesson, but you’d rather learn it in another way. what im saying is if you want to learn about cars then go build one, or drive one, or wash one, watching a tv program can give you facts you can find yourself and opinions you could have made on our own. tv is about entertainment not education, do you think chefs watch cooking shows? and if so do they do it to learn how to cook?

with that being said top gear has excellent production, exciting driving, amazing settings, and some loony ideas, making it a great way to be entertained. I’ve known 5th gear is readily available for me to watch, but i choose not, its an easy way to learn a very little bit, if i want to know something about a car ill do real research.

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Sweat December 26, 2009 at 1:17 am

There are a million and one details involved in setting up a car show. How and where will you recruit cars to show? Are you looking for new cars, customs, street rods, racing cars or some other type vehicles? I think this is a job better asked of a committee than one person…

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Akj January 6, 2010 at 5:40 am

I always thought fifth gear is just a fictional rival show that top gear host talk about and Stig is the real Micheal Schumaker, but all we know is Top Gear is the best show on TV.

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KirstieXD January 9, 2010 at 11:06 am

i’m doing a article on this as well. I have loved top gear for ages! When i was young my dad introduced me to it. Here some extra info about wny Top gear is better:
* Google search: Results 1 – 10 of about 71,400,000 for top gear. (0.16 seconds)
Results 1 – 10 of about 3,650,000 for FIFTH GEAR. (0.41 seconds)
just look at the numbers

*-Top Gear is a BAFTA, multi-NTA and International Emmy Award-winning BBC television series
-I’ve looked… i can’t find the awards fifth gear have won… although they do have some… one? I don’t know.

*Most people i know can name all the top gear presenters. I ask about Fifth gear.. “eh?” or “erm.. whatshisface… i can’t remember” Honestly.

*Fifth gear ended – DUE TO DECLINING AUDIENCE NUMBERS- although it might be back.

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Anu January 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

It’s hard to imagine that anything could measure up to Top Gear.

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TOP GEAR February 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

Well as we all can see everyone in this discussion prefers topgear over fifth gear..that proves its way better. in my opinion top gear is in a class of its own. its in the catagory of great tv shows like the tonight show. honestly speaking i find it the most entertaining show to watch and anyone who prefers fifth geat over topgear is frankly either a geeky loser or a retard :p. all in all topgear rules and the hosts jeremy, richard and james rule even more. guys like that are hard to find and i hope they will never stop presenting that awsome show!

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super car freak February 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm

T O P G E A R IS DA BEST FITHGEAR SHOULD GO DOWN DA DRAIN

JEZZA, THE HAMSTER & CAPTINSLOW TOP GEAR GIVES U GREAT CAR INFO 5TH GEAR IS BORING

TOPGEAR GO ON ADVENTURES AND THEY ARE SO COOOOOOOL

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dean March 14, 2010 at 4:03 am

Its a bit of a no brainer this one. Top Gear by a mile of course,but just recently James May is just too boring and the scripting is just getting way to predictable. Dont get me wrong it is still the top motoring show ever but i belive its time for a change again before it becomes to stale. The last series was one of the worst ever apart from the jungle and mountain journey that was series saver for me…hilarious, but even parts of that were predictably staged (hammond catching the canvas roof on fire with the grinder…you could see the petrol/whatever had been poured on it) and its these things i am noticing more and more unfortunately!
But yes….Top Gear is the winner by far, but james may has got to go, maybe swap him for the german chick who was one seriously shit hot driver.
Not got too much to say about Fifth Gear….dull in comparison and like a couple of you have said, Viki is the only reason to watch it, and even then not for long.

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TOP GEAR FTW April 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Top gear is head and shoulders above fifth gear, and that is a huge understatement. The three presenters just really complement each other, and that makes for something enjoyable to watch.

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Kyle Heard May 4, 2010 at 8:13 pm

top gear is 1000 miles inhead of 5thgear

TOP GEAR-BEST SHOW
5Th GEAR-SUCKS

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fithgearsucks May 13, 2010 at 11:13 am

fivegear is so rubbish its not as good as top gear!

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top gear roks June 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm

only a lazy person would like the boringness of fifth gear.

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Bloke June 20, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I’m not sure why this is even up for debate? As ALL the comments have proven this isnt even close. Top Gear is in a class of its own – 4 to 3?? – Rubish.

Its like the difference between 5′th gear and any American auto TV show (Motoring 2000, Car and Driver TV etc) As we all know those are all horribly bad, and manage to sap all the fun and interest out of even the most desirable cars.

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Sp July 5, 2010 at 8:57 am

Top gear is the best
fifth gear – boring, top gear wannabeeeezzzz and boring!!!

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earl wakker July 12, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Im wacthing top gear over fifa.. thts how much i love it sooo yah i belive loser immitators like fifth gear and to pgear australia shud leve like noww. do u belive those losers at top gear australia have an immitation stig?!!!!!!!

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Magic Johnson July 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I grew up in the states around the early 90′s and most of the car shows of that era were very informative but also extremely dull. It was the equivalent of going to the dealership and reading the car pamphlet to find out all the facts on any given car. I never understood how anyone could watch a purely informative show about cars, when actually test-driving and learning about the car in person is a much better approach to buying one.

So naturally I was reluctant when I heard that Top Gear, a show from the Brits (not to offend anyone, at that point my only exposure to British television was the “Mr. Bean” series, not exactly British television’s crowning achievement), was indeed a more stylish and entertaining version of the car shows I had grown up with. To my surprise, the show has exceeded my every expectation, and since it’s was revamped in 2002 I have watched every single episode (although I must admit, the first series with presenter Jason Dawe was somewhat dull because of him). I believe this has everything to do with both the presenters and the exciting/funny moments that they get themselves into every week.

I enjoy the show so much so that, when I heard that were bringing the show to America (first NBC, now History Channel), I immediately condemned their efforts to all of my friends and family. To all the pathetic knockoffs out there, there can be only one…or three in this case: Clarkson, Hammond, and May. They have transformed my perception of car shows, and in doing so left me with a bitter taste in my mouth every time I see another “car show” (Fifth Gear, anyone?) because there’s just no comparison.

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A-Z July 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm

top gear is just so much better

if you want a show where they tell you about the toyota prius and smart car watch fifth gear
if you want a show about aston martins, ferraris and pagani zondas as well as humour and entertainment TOP GEAR RULEZ!!!!!!!!!

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phil July 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm

top gear is the best car show but superbikes are faster so eat that clarkson!!!

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James July 24, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Top Gear is for chavs who love Clarkson and can’t think for themselves and are easily entertained and watch Eastenders etc.

5th Gear is for people who want to know about cars and watch racing drivers give you honest reviews.

Comparing them is like comparing The Sun and The Times…They each have their place.

I don’t watch either car program as I think cars are boring and I don’t need an extension. :D

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Yoker August 8, 2010 at 9:53 am

I watch both of the shows, but Top Gear is far more entertaining (funnier).

But because not as much people like Fifth Gear, I kinda feel sorry for them, so I also watch Fifth Gear so that at least they also have a chance to have something nice.

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Prawler August 23, 2010 at 3:40 am

Lol. Why do you even bother asking?

Top gear is by FAR better. More Top – Less Fifth please.

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Paolo September 18, 2010 at 12:44 am

TOP GEAR > FIFTH GEAR, oh btw what do you think is better TOP GEAR or BEST MOTORING(where the drift king is)

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Anonymous October 8, 2010 at 8:48 pm

I don’t even need to watch an episode of Fifth Gear to say that Top Gear is better, because Top Gear can’t be any better than it already is. The first episode of Top Gear I watched was halfway through the 14th season (since it’s not broadcast here, I have to watch it online). I liked that episode so much, I watched all 13 previous seasons over the next week (classes were on break). Their challenges are a sheer joy to watch (c’mon a Zonda, GT, and F430 through Europe is just magical). Top it off with lively banter and perfectly contra-balancing presenters and it can’t be beat.

You can find loads of practical information about cars on google or by reading consumer reports. When I watch a TV show I want 90% entertainment and maybe 10% education, not the other way around.

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Rakshit Tokas October 23, 2010 at 6:10 am

TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR TOP GEAR , TOP GEAR

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Marvilouse November 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

TOP GEAR BY A MILLION MILES AND THATS COMING FROM A MILLLION MILES AWAY IN SOUTH AFRICA…….BY FAR

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sebo November 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Lol. Why do you even bother asking

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harry November 28, 2010 at 2:00 am

top gear is the best car show but superbikes are faster so eat that clarkson

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J December 29, 2010 at 2:19 am

Top Gear = entertainment
Fifth Gear = information

I really dislike the current Top Gear, I just don’t want to watch three actors messing around instead of actually reviewing cars with an expert opinion. It says it all when the only person with any REAL knowledge is mute. I don’t hate Jeremy, I don’t care for the environment, I love cars, I just think Top Gear is hyped up and sold as a car programme when it’s just a talk show with cars and a short film.

I agree with the Sun and Times comment.

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Khizar January 10, 2011 at 4:15 am

I think top gear is a great show!

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Shrikant January 20, 2011 at 3:37 am

I LOVE THE STIG…..
Top Gear is d best show ever….

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random person January 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm

TOP GEAR ALL THE WAY!!!

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Rav January 23, 2011 at 9:45 am

Top Gear’s THE BEST, By not just a few miles, but frickin’ GAZiLLiON MiLES
Although it could be better if they had an extremely SEXY female presenter, That would give it more of an edge, that would, pretty much, demolish Fifth Gear.
I only watch Fifth Gear when I wanna go to sleep or suttin ..

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Biggest TopGear Fan Ever. January 27, 2011 at 7:26 am

Okay…TopGear is just for people who came from their jobs and want to relax at the telly.TopGear is fun,exciting,and reall really good.I don’t even think that let’s say Volkswagen will let FifthGear to borrow one of their Buggati’s for a road-test.
TopGear:No doubt,the biggest motorshow in history(I hope you know that it has 300.000.000. viewers per week-Wich you will find that is more then the population of U.S.A).
FifthGear:It’s a good European MotorShow,but really boring at somepoint.

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onur March 5, 2011 at 6:53 am

Top Gear is more popular than Fifth Gear in Turkey..

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Sapperpat March 19, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Top Gear may in fact be the best thing on television and I have 300 channels and billions of shows to choose from!!!!

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simon carroll April 1, 2011 at 9:44 am

Topgear is 100 percent better and the presenter are much better .

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