Tesla has come a long way since it sued Top Gear over Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the Tesla Roadster in 2011. After swearing off Teslas for years, Clarkson gave in and decided to review the Model X for his new show The Grand Tour, but this time he decided to play it safe. Extra, extra safe.
The Roadster review in question aired in March 2008 (season 12, episode seven) and started off with the electric sports car smoking a regular Lotus Elise in a straight-line race. But it concluded with Top Gear claiming the car ran out of juice after just 55 miles, much shorter than Tesla’s claimed 200 mile range. Tesla filed a libel lawsuit in response.
The judge determined that viewers would reasonably conclude that the range diminished in the harsh driving conditions of Clarkson’s track test and didn’t reflect real-world conditions, according to Wired in 2012.
At the beginning of the Model X review segment in the latest episode of The Grand Tour, Clarkson explains how he swore off Teslas for life after the company’s lawsuit. But now, he says that the company had come so far he could no longer continue to ignore them.
The review starts off with him running through the Model X’s various gimmicks and features, like the graphics choices of the giant dashboard screen, the Autopilot functionality on the highway and the complimentary summon feature, the typical display of the van’s impressive performance with a drag race against a supercar (this time an Audi R8 V10) before ending on a display of the Model X’s “celebration mode” of flashing lights and swinging doors.
Then the review goes on to Clarkson’s drawbacks of the Model X, which the episode’s synopsis describes as “legally perilous.” To make sure Clarkson doesn’t dive into issues with libel law again, he’s forced to pack the six passenger seats of the Model X with The Grand Tour’s legal team.
The lawyers check Clarkson on his claims that the Model X can’t reach its claimed range, his worries over the dangers of batteries catching fire, and force him to explicitly clarify his comments on the vehicle being too wide. Then he blocks them in the car to finish by saying the Model X is perhaps just a bit too expensive.
Staged? Sure, probably. But still a great bit.
Overall, though, Clarkson’s review of the Model X was positive, showing that the performance and intrigue of Tesla’s vehicles have improved in the eyes of one of the most bombastic reviewers... in the world, even if he still needs a legal team to keep an eye on him.