All posts in “Chris Harris”

Exclusive: We Asked Chris Harris About Electrification, Manual Transmissions, and the Future of the Supercar

Interesting Insights From the Top Gear Host

Season 27 of BBC America’s Top Gear just recently premiered. It’s genuinely the best season of the show since the departure of the show’s long-time talent. The new three hosts have good chemistry, and it makes for plenty of fun and some good laughs.

We had a chance to sit down and chat with Top Gear presenter Chris Harris before the season premiere. In addition to talking with him about the show, we also asked him some questions about the industry in general. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that Harris believes the industry is going through a major transition. 

Hybridization, Electrification and the Internal Combustion Engine

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One of the key things he pointed to was electrification. He said that he recently spent time in Morocco and didn’t believe it would have the infrastructure to support electric cars. He said many other places in the world will be the same way. “I think there’s a dichotomy between the developing world and the Western world,” he said.

As a part of that Harris said the internal combustion engine will likely live on, saying it “has much longer to live than people realize.” While Harris said gasoline engines will continue on, he’s not ruling out adding electrification to the ICE equation. “It will be hybridized,” he said. “It will be made more and more efficient. It’ll be made cleaner and cleaner, but I think it’s there for a while.”

That’s not to say that Harris is against electric cars. “The electric dream, which when it works well, is brilliant,” he said. “If you live in LA and you have a supercharger on your way to work and a charger at home there’s no way you would buy a petrol engine car. You’d have to be a flat earther, I think.”

However, he said that for rural communities, even in the developed world, electric cars largely don’t make much sense. “If you live in a rural community in the Midwest, and depending on how you live your life, you’re not going to buy an electric vehicle.” 

The Future of Supercars

Ferrari SF90 Stradale

Ferrari SF90 Stradale

We discussed many things during the course of our discussion. One of them was the Ferrari SF90 Stradale and other hybrid supercars. Chris didn’t seem to be overly optimistic about the car and some of the other supercars out there at the moment.

I think we’re going into an era of the supercars that won’t be viewed kindly in 20 years time because they’re at a transitional point in technology,” said Harris. He discussed the weight and complicated powertrains of the vehicles. Harris said he’d rather have a lower horsepower and lighter weight machine. “It’s contrary to how we all live,” he said. “Really you want to go a bit slower and have a bit more fun at lower speeds.” 

He also discussed concerns with the batteries in these hypercars. “What happens with these hybrid batteries in 15-year’s time? What’s the battery life like? I’m hearing horror stories of people fitting new batteries to their Ferrari’s or McLaren P1s,” he said. 

The Manual Transmission

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I also asked Harris about his thoughts on the manual transmission. While the manual is quickly disappearing from many cars on earth, Harris thinks some automakers, like Aston Martin and Porsche, will continue to build cars with this option in them for some time. 

“I think the last petrol engine car that Porsche makes will have a manual gearbox in it,” Harris said. “People want them. There are enough people out there that want them.”

Harris said he’s all for keeping the manual in as many cars as possible. He discussed the super-fast supercars with paddle shifters and sounded a little annoyed that there were so many. “I’m over it,” he said. “I really am.” That’s not to say that he doesn’t still enjoy driving them, but he’d rather have a manual car for a fun car. “If I want to go driving I’ll have more fun in my 2CV.”

EXCLUSIVE: We Chatted With Chris Harris About Season 27 of Top Gear

Top Gear Finds Its Chemistry Again

The new season of BBC America’s Top Gear will debut on Sunday, July 14. With the last few seasons as a reference point, the idea of a new season of the show may have lost its luster for some. However, season 27 has some new hosts and is bringing back one of the best car reviewers in the business for another go, Chris Harris.

I had a chance to screen a few episodes of the new season and then have a quick chat with Chris before the premiere. 

For those who don’t know, Harris will be joined by Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff and Paddy McGinness. Freddie isn’t largely known in the states, and neither is Paddy, but they’re both huge stars in the UK.

Freddie was is a former cricketer and was one of the best players in the game in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since then, he’s made a name for himself in broadcasting. Paddy is a well-known comedian, actor, and television personality. Together they bring a rough-and-tumble sense of humor to the show and are a nice complement to Chris. 

The Right Group

top gear Chris, Freddie, Paddytop gear Chris, Freddie, Paddy
Image provided by BBC America

“It’s fantastic fun,” Chris told me over the phone. “You can’t fake what we’re doing.” He went on to say that he’s been a fan of both Freddie and Paddy for a while now. “I’m in a wonderful position of getting to work with two people who I think are great.”

Chris did say he had to get used to the banter a bit and be able to hit back with quick lines to the other two hosts of the show. “Last year, I’d have asked him for his autograph,” Chris said when speaking of Freddie. 

The banter is what helps make this season special. The last season featured Chris Harris, Matt Leblanc, and Rory Reid. It was a notable step in the right direction. However, the addition of Freddie and Paddy brings back a level of humor that hasn’t been with the show since the departure of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond.

You can tell the three like each other, but they also love embarrassing each other and competing with each other. It’s a good dynamic and a lot of fun to watch. “I think as a team, we’re really strong,” Chris said. 

More Than Just a Car Show

Chris also discussed the need to reach a wider audience with the show. He said it can’t just be a car show anymore. It’s about entertaining a wide audience, and these new hosts help do that. “I think we have a really good balance of knowledge, entertainment, fun—just joy really.”

Usually, when I hear something like that I roll my eyes, but having screened a few of the episodes early, I can genuinely say Chris is right. The new season of Top Gear is just enjoyable. That’s not to say it’s not without a few cringe-worthy moments. There are some stumbles over lines in front of the studio audience and some of the banter borders on outright bullying, but it feels like nobody is taking anyone too seriously, which is exactly what the series needed.

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It’s a silly car show, and it feels fun and unguarded again in a way it hasn’t recently. That’s what makes this season worth watching. 

Chris talked a little bit with me about the process. He said that it’s largely off the cuff. While the in-studio and in front of an audience portion of the show is at least partially scripted, the drives the team does and a lot of the challenges are not.

“So, we start with an outline,” Chris said. “You have to have an idea of what you want to do and what you want to achieve, but nothing is really scripted. The producer’s job is to find extraordinary locations, create things to do, and then throw us into the mix.”

Plenty of Amazing Cars

While the show is definitely trying to branch out and be appealing to more people, don’t for a second think that cars aren’t the focus of the show. The hosts drive some of the best and worst cars imaginable. In the first episode, they all buy similar cars to the first ones they purchased and go on a massive road trip through Ethiopia.

There’s plenty of fun track stuff, too. Chris takes the helm of the supercars and hypercars most of the time, driving everything from the Ferrari 488 Pista and McLaren 600LT to the Tesla Model 3 and the Dallara Stradale among many others. It’s fantastic to have him doing his own thing in these cars.

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When I asked him about these test drives, he said he thinks many of the Top Gear test drives will be “a bit straighter now.” He said some of the older tests in previous seasons tried to be more humorous because they thought they needed that. Now they can do longer and more focused segments on specific cars. “The show can carry that,” he said. “They’re a bit more like the stuff I used to do on the Internet.”

The bottom line for the show it will continue being what people have come to expect from Top Gear, but now it’s what it should have been since its three well-known hosts left and went to Amazon. Is it perfect? No, far from it. But it’s a lot of fun, and there are now three hosts who have some genuine chemistry on screen and who all seem do enjoy doing ridiculous things in cars. 

VIDEO: Watch Chris Harris Wrangle the Ferrari 488 Pista

Our favorite automotive hooligan Chris Harris does his thing in the Ferrari 488 Pista. As always, Mr Harris does not hold back in describing his thoughts. As always, he also doesn’t hold back from getting the Pista very very very sideways. We love that guy. 

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Watch Chris Harris Hustle the Porsche 919 Around a Racetrack

Harris Looks Genuinely Amazed

The Porsche 919 is the amazing hybrid Le Mans-winning car that the company recently retired from racing. Top Gear’s Chris Harris was lucky enough to have a chance to take the car for a spin around Cuidad Del Motor De Aragon in Spain. He also took a look behind the scenes of the car to see the nitty-gritty details, too.

The Porsche 919 Hybrid is an amazing vehicle. It pairs a 2.0-liter V4 engine that makes 500 hp with an electric motor that adds another 400 hp. Add to all that some serious aerodynamic treatment, computer power management systems that help with power assist and torque vectoring, and you’ve got one of the most amazing cars ever built.

Before Harris was allowed to drive the 919 on the Spanish racetrack, he had to spend some time in a simulator. The simulator looks like an awesome giant video game. Most car enthusiasts dream video game. However, Harris claims it isn’t a fun place to be. The simulator looks amazingly real, though. 

After that, Harris goes over the 919 EVO, which Porsche is using to try to beat track lap times around the world. The EVO is a souped-up version of the regular 919 and roughly makes an amazing 1,200 hp in a car that weighs about 1,940 pounds. That’s an insane power-to-weight ratio.

Then Harris gets out on the racetrack. The 919 looks like a true force. You can tell in the video that the electronics are picking up the slack and allowing for faster speeds. Harris says it feels like the car is “doing more thinking around the lap than me.”

The advanced electronics systems make adjustments to the car to compensate for the driver. This allows corners to be taken faster and boost applied when necessary. It’s a lot of fun to watch. Check out the video below. 

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Watch Chris Harris Have Fun on a Track in the McLaren 600LT

Could This Be The Best McLaren Track Car?

That’s the question Top Gear’s Chris Harris asks in the video below of him driving the McLaren 600LT. The car lacks the insane horsepower and super-techy suspension of other McLaren vehicles, but it offers a more mechanical, analog, and natural driving experience, according to the presenter. It looks like a heck of a lot of fun.

Harris drives the hardened cousin of the 570S at the Circuit De Charade in France. As he does, the sky begins to spit rain, making the drive a whole lot more difficult. With that said, Harris completes the task in entertaining style, spinning the tires and getting sideways a few times.

The McLaren 600LT comes with a 3.8L twin-turbocharged V8 that makes 592-horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque. It’s a revised version of the engine found in the 570S, though it’s not a revolutionary mill by any means. That doesn’t mean it lacks power, though Harris does note a bit of turbo lag.

That doesn’t hurt performance too much though, the car can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.9 seconds, and then continue on to 124 mph in just 8.2 seconds. The top speed for this beautiful supercar is 204 mph. That’s not the fastest car out there, but it’s very, very quick.

What seemed to surprise Harris the most was the playfulness of the car. It’s stiff chassis and suspension setup paired with its open differentials still allows the car to move around, and he seemed very pleased with it overall. Needless to say, McLaren’s 600LT is a car worth owning.