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13 behind-the-scenes production secrets of 'The Grand Tour'

Ahead of the launch of "The Grand Tour" the show was publicized with a variety of stunts, car shows, and pop-up pubs.

Photo by Getty Images

Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond were recently named to a list of the greatest automotive icons of all time. To anyone paying attention to the car scene over the last two decades, it's no wonder how they got on the list.

First on "Top Gear" then on "The Grand Tour", the three hosts, with a lot of assistance behind the scenes from executive producer Andy Wilman, the trio engaged a whole new generation of car fanatics and reignited the passions of older generations.

It's safe to say that there have been millions of man-hours put in on the track, in fields, across tarmac, in jungles and deserts, and on roadways across the world over the better part of the 2000s by the team. What goes into making an episode ready for an audience?

In a YouTube chat between Clarkson and Wilman that aired exclusively on the DriveTribe channel (the hosts own DriveTribe), the two divulged some secrets about what goes into producing an episode of "The Grand Tour". Scroll to the bottom of this article to watch the video.

"The Grand Tour" team films twice as many hours as most shows.

According to the duo, the average documentary show, like what David Attenborough produces, films 500 hours of footage for every hour that ends up on the screen. "The Grand Tour" films about 1,000 hours. It's Wilman and his team's job to edit that down to a 90-ish minute show. Of that, 100 hours is with what they refer to as "big cameras" and the other 900 is the trio going, "blah, blah, blah," as Wilman puts it.

The presenters have off buttons on their mics but Hammond frequently misuses his and May and Clarkson never take advantage of the option.

"Hammond uses it but he gets it confused," tells Wilman. "So he'll switch it off when he's reviewing a car and then when he's talking to Mindy about, I don't know, horse prices or the rural bullocks, he's got it on."

The shortest of the presenters is often teased by his counterparts for living in the countryside with his wife, Mindy.

Most of the filming is just Clarkson, May, and Hammond chatting amongst themselves.

As Wilman says, "Going on and on." Shouting at other cars, calling each other names, discussing the sad state of the situation are all topics frequently covered.

Wilman drives one of the three tracking cars and usually wrecks it.

Filming the show is a manual in what not to do during a traditional street drive. Clarkson describes Wilmas as having three walkie-talkies going at the same time, driving one of three chase vehicles, directing a camera man, and trying to hit all sorts of bumps that make for good TV.

Wilman describes it as a "stressful time" but assures Clarkson that he's not always at fault.

"The Grand Tour" is filmed in 4K, which means that the 1,000 hours of footage takes five weeks to go from camera to computer to edit.

Why? "It's all technical shit. Don't ask me," says Wilman waving his hands and joking that the computer it goes into is Fred Fintstone-era equipment. That five weeks is before the editors can even access the footage to begin their process.

All that dialogue gets transcribed into a script that is printed out.

Every time Clarkson, Hammond, May, or a production team member airs an utterance on film, it is captured as part of a script. When it's printed, it looks akin to a copy of "Ulysses" on loose printed paper.

They edit out James May smoking.

The editor then has to take out the parts of the film where May is smoking and Clarkson is shouting (perhaps profanely) at passersby. He has to match up all the cameras shot by shot. "The Grand Tour" production team drives three chase vehicles while filming and there's frequently at least three cameras shooting at the same time. This part takes another five weeks.

Are you counting? That's already 10 weeks post-shooting.

It takes three months of editing to shape an episode.

Production at this point is a back and forth process. Even when "The Grand Tour" team is done with it, they still have to send it to Amazon. Wilman says that Amazon keeps it for another five weeks.

The latest episode of "The Grand Tour", which was filmed in Madagascar in autumn 2019, has been held up because of coronavirus.

According to Wilman, it normally takes a few months to edit one of the episodes, but the extended lag time for this episode is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. Editing and production teams have not been able to work together in one space and Wilman was himself afflicted by COVID-19 (he's since healed). During the discussion, Wilman assured fans that they continue to work on the episode from a distance, on less than ideal equipment (laptops) and hope to have it out soon.

Clarkson, May, Hammond, and Wilman have no say on when the episodes get released.

After the final cuts have been made by "The Grand Tour" team, the production company sends the footage to Amazon. Amazon then determines when the episode will air and holds out telling the group because they have, "big gulps," says Wilman, and will tell everybody.

Production of the episode set to air after the Madagascar one was halted because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The team was to head to northern Russia in mid-March. You can read more about that journey and where the episode now stands here.

The best outtake you'll never see is from Morocco.

The men filmed a scene where they were stacking animals on the scale that was... a bit gruesome. Wilman and Clarkson say that they soon realized that if they showed the footage to the public, animal rights protesters would be banging down their doors so they decided to leave it on the cutting room floor. However, the dialogue during that part of the episode was, apparently, pure gold.

We'll never get an episode devoted to b-roll.

From Wilman's mouth: "No. That's the point of editing. You don't want to watch that crap... You know the bloke at the end of a wedding, 'round about midnight, who is telling a joke... that's what the rest is like."

See a clip of the interview here:

This is why The Grand Tour is taking so long www.youtube.com

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Travis Pastrana will return to Ken Block's popular "Gymkhana" stunt series.

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

Gymkhana GRiD is back. Ken Block's popular video series will be making a return in 2020 with Travis Pastrana behind the wheel of a specially configured Subaru.

The news comes just two days after Pastrana, a full-time member of the 2020 Subaru rally team, and Block (and Subaru) agreed that they would be willing try to make it happen. Here's how it went down.

Pastrana and Block have been staying at home with their families during the COVID-19 crisis but they haven't been idle. The longtime friends and former teammates have been competing to produce at-home stunt videos for their fans. Block's "Gymkhana GRiD: Stay at Home Edition" called out the Pastrana family, challenging Pastrana to film a better version at his home in Maryland. Pastrana's rebuttal featured big dirt jumps, driving on two wheels and donuts around his personal WRX STI. Both drivers encouraged their fans to vote on who made the better video.

Then, on Tuesday's "Hoonigan Tangents Live" show, the talk turned from friendly jabs between the two into Block offering Pastrana the chance to film his own Gymkhana installment in 2020 with Subaru and the Hoonigan Media team. Pastrana and Subaru immediately agreed to the challenge, marking the first time in 11 years that Subaru will be a part of the series.

"What Ken has done with 'Gymkhana' over the years has really been amazing," said Pastrana. "But I think he made a big mistake giving me a shot at doing one of my own! I've got some ideas that I think can blow Ken's videos out of the water, and Subaru is on board to provide a car to do it. One thing's for sure, it's going to be unlike any 'Gymkhana' you've ever seen before."

This won't be Pastrana's first trip around the "Ghymkana" block. The five-time U.S. rally champion, freestyle motocross pioneer, action sports icon and stunt expert has made cameo appearances in the fifth and tenth installments of the series.

More details of the location and release timing of the special video will be announced at a later date.

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The second-generation Acura TLX has debuted, packing a heck of a punch.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura has been teasing the return of a performance-focused sedan to its lineup for years now. Behind the scenes, plans have been in place to bring back some of the sports flavor to the Acura lineup that made it so popular two decades ago. Today, the first part of that puzzle has been revealed: the 2021 Acura TLX.

As it turns out, Acura had already given away many clues about the TLX, showing off a darn close version of it as the Type S prototype at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. With its elongated wheelbase and low roofline, the TLX looks every bit the sports sedan.

The All-New 2021 Acura TLX: Reveal www.youtube.com

Exterior

The car's exterior showcases Acura Precision Concept design with an expansive hood, tapered windows, and muscular rear haunches. Its wheelbase is 3.7 inches longer in the new generation. The car also has a 2.2-inch wider body, wider off-set tracks in the front and rear (+1.2 in. and +1.6 in., respectively), a lower roof (-0.6 inches), and an extended dash-to-axle dimension (+7.8 in.).

The second-generation TLX is faced by an upright diamond pentagon grille that is flanked by lighting originally showcased on the Type S Concept. Under the headlamp cover are new Jewel Eye LED headlights with four LED elements and bright-white "Chicane" LED daytime running lights inspired by the championship-winning Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype race car. At the back are LED taillights and exposed dual exhaust.

The TLX rides on standard 18-inch wheels. Nineteen inchers are available in a variety of finishes, depending on trim level. TLX Type S models will be equipped with 20-inch split-10 spoke alloy wheels finished in Shark Gray. Buyers can upgrade to a lightweight wheel inspired by the NSX "Y-spoke" design that will be offered alongside a high-performance summer tire.

2021 Acura TLX An available A-Spec package puts black accents on the car but doesn't include any performance upgrades.Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura will make its popular A-Spec appearance package available on the TLX. It will include Shark Grey 19-inch wheels, gloss black accents front to rear, darkened headlight and taillight treatment, and a pronounced rear decklid spoiler.

The company will sell the model in nine exterior finishes including five premium colors. New to the TLX for 2021 is Phantom Violet Pearl. The TLX Type S will be offered in an exclusive, bold Tiger Eye Pearl. Apex Blue Pearl, previously available only on A-Spec models, will be added to the Type S catalog.

Powertrain

Buyers will have their choice between two turbocharged engines. A 2.0-liter turbo-four is standard and paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It delivers 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This base engine delivers more power than even the high-end 3.5-liter V6 in the previous generation model.
The TLX Type S will be powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that is paired with the same 10-speed automatic transmission. However, Type S models will receive unique transmission tuning to provide an aggressive and responsive characteristic during performance driving scenarios. Final specifications for the new engine, including power output, will be released closer to launch timing. The car will have paddle shifters.

Drivers will be able to choose between Comfort, Normal, and Sport drive modes. TLX Type S models also get a Sport+ mode.

Ride and Handling

The 2021 TLX rides on a new platform that was designed for the sports car. The performance-focused chassis has a double wishbone front suspension, the same as what is in the redesigned 2021 BMW 5 Series and the current Acura NSX. This is in place of the common MacPherson strut setup that is favored by many other sedans.

The car also has a variable-ratio steering system, electro-servo brake-by-wire technology (applied from the NSX), and an available driver selectable Adaptive Damper System.

2021 Acura TLX The car features an elongated wheelbase.Photo courtesy of Acura

The architecture of the car is the most rigid that Acura has ever produced. It delivers a 50 percent increase in global torsional stiffness and up to a 100 percent improvement in localized rigidity where the suspension is mounted to the body. The new structure uses 56 percent (by weight) advanced, lightweight materials, including aluminum and press-hardened steel, more than any previous Acura sedan.

Acura has used aluminum extensively on the body and placed the car's 12-volt battery in the trunk to give the car a good front to rear balance ratio.

Acura is offering all variants of the car with all-wheel drive. Acura calls their rear-biased system Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) and it delivers industry-leading torque-vectoring all-wheel drive technology. The TLX Type S comes standard with the tech.

Interior

The cabin of the TLX takes a heavy nod from the RDX, which was redesigned for the 2019 model year. Its premium appointments and driver-centric cockpit design put the car in line with the expectations of sports car enthusiasts who may have been turning to German brands to satisfy their need for speed.

2021 Acura TLX TLX models will be available with a red and black leather interior. Photo courtesy of Acura

While a high center turned divides the car up front, it creates a dual-cockpit-like design for the driver and front passenger. However, because of the extended width of the next-gen model, Acura doesn't expect occupants to feel pinched.

Sporty front seats provide 16-way power customized adjustability for the driver and front passenger.

A total of seven interior color options will be offered on the 2021 TLX. Ebony, Espresso, Graystone and Parchment will be offered on the standard TLX models, depending on trim. TLX A-Spec and TLX Type S models will feature either Ebony or Red Leather, both with black Ultrasuede inserts. Additionally, the TLX Type S will offer an exclusive Light Orchid leather interior option.

The car features real aluminum, open-pore wood, and full-grain Milano leather appointments. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather. In A-Spec and Type S models, that wheel is flat-bottomed.

Infotainment

At the center of the dashboard is a 10.2-inch infotainment screen that is navigated using the driver-oriented True Touchpad Interface. This is the same system setup as in the RDX. Physical power, volume, and seek control buttons are mounted next to the touchpad.

2021 Acura TLX The car's center stack is straight from the RDX playbook, with some fine tuning.Photo courtesy of Acura

In front of the driver is a 7-inch multi-information display in the middle of the center gauge cluster. A 10.5-inch full-color head up display is available, as is the Acura ELS Studio 3D premium audio system.

Safety

The new TLX also features the latest generation of AcuraLink with in-vehicle 4G LTE Wi-Fi with over-the-air software update capability and a variety of available cloud-based services, including emergency roadside assistance, remote locking/unlocking and engine start, stolen vehicle tracking, remote diagnostics, geofencing, speed tracking and Acura concierge services.

All models will come equipped with the latest version of AcuraWatch safety and driver assistance technology.

On-sale date and pricing

The 2021 TLX will arrive at dealerships early this fall with a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) starting in the mid-$30,000 range. The 2021 Acura TLX Type S will arrive in the spring of 2021. The new TLX will be manufactured exclusively at the company's Marysville, Ohio plant.

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