Top Gear Thursday: Africa Trip Revives Subaru Impreza’s Popularity

Richard Hammond drives his Subaru Impreza in Africa. (BBC America)

Richard Hammond drives his Subaru Impreza in Africa. (BBC America)

Last week, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond rewrote the annals of exploration in their search for the source of the Nile and there are indications that they also changed the way Britons perceive estate cars (station wagons, to us Yanks).

Specifically, the Subaru Impreza WRX got a new image boost, reports MSN Cars in the U.K. The show’s joke was apparently that the three guys deliberately chose cars unequal to the task of navigating the tough African terrain.

But Richard chose the four-wheel drive Subaru, which, writes MSN Cars, “proved to be perfectly suited to the unpaved tracks and muddy trails criss-crossing Africa.” At times, he even towed Jeremy’s and James’ cars.

The Subaru’s talents did not go unnoticed by the British audience. Online searches for the car were up a 243 percent after the first show – and a whopping 826 percent during the show itself – according to Motors.uk.com.

The Subaru - before. (TopGear.com)

The Subaru – before. (TopGear.com)

Stephen Jury, from Motors.co.uk, told MSN Cars: “Subaru has been experiencing a decline in popularity over the past few years and saw 23 percent less sales in 2012, culminating in the iconic Impreza being taken off the road in 2013.  However, following the African Top Gear special and some questionable tongue-in-cheek motor testing, the Subaru Impreza has seen a huge increase in popularity on Motors.co.uk which hasn’t been seen since the rally days of Colin McRae.”

During part two of the show, Motors.co.uk says searches were up 668 percent.

Putting a slight damper on the figures, Carscoops.com felt a need to make this statistical point: “The source article fails to mention just how many people that equates to, so if only one person usually searches for such a car every day, that would mean a whopping 8.26 people searched for a WRX wagon during the 826 percent peak.”

Still, Carscoops noted, the Subaru was “easily the driving force of the whole expedition.” (The italics are Carscoop’s.)

The Subaru - after. (BBC America)

The Subaru – after. (BBC America)

• Top Gear’s impact on the life of people in the UK apparently isn’t just limited to automotive concerns. “Top Gear is driving wives to distraction,” claims a headline in the Express.

Top Gear, writes the paper, “is now so popular wives are complaining they cannot drag their husbands away from the television to watch shows they prefer.”

According to the paper, BBC executives have received letters from wives asking them to reschedule the program.

“My husband insists on watching it live at 8pm,” the Express quoted one viewer as writing. “I am fed up!”

The Top Gear African specials have each racked up about 12 million viewers so far – and the Express says that the show might still beat the online viewing record of 3.26 million for the opening ceremony of the Olympics last summer.

• Jeremy Clarkson was on location in New Zealand last week filming a race on the northern island’s Ninety Mile Beach.

He’s been effusive in his praise for the island nation. Writing in the London Sunday Times, he said: “If you were God and you were all-powerful, you wouldn’t select Bethlehem as a suitable birthplace for your only child… What you’d actually do is choose New Zealand.”

“New Zealand causes anyone to question the wisdom of God. Because if he really were all-knowing, children at Christmas time today would be singing ‘Oh little town of Wellington’ and people would not cease from mental fight until Jerusalem had been built in Auckland’s green and pleasant land.”

Jesus,” he added, “would have been from Palmerston North.”

Clarkson’s views put his tongue on the other side of the cheek from that of comedian John Cleese, who wrote after his “My Life, Time and Current Medical Problems” tour: “If you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick.” (via the New Zealand Herald)

• Don’t forget: BBC America’s AMG Power Drive game is still on Facebook, where you can compete to win a real-life AMG track experience at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park.

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