How odd, I kept thinking, to watch something as familiar as Top Gear being performed by a pair of blokes who had nothing to do with inventing it.

It seemed as if Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc were acting out a busy but slightly pointless pantomime, with the former cast (sometimes dressed) as Widow Twankey.

I'm not saying I didn't enjoy Chris Evans's much-ballyhooed first episode of 'the world's greatest car show'. Parts of it worked well, some of the jokes were okay and the pictures were frequently amazing. But I kept wondering why this unlikely pair of lead actors were doing this - apart from for the money and worldwide notoriety, that is. They didn't really seem to be enjoying it.

It also served to remind me, as if I'd forget, that for all the crazy situations and outrageous off-stage prop manipulation there was an honesty in the relationship linking Clarkson, Hammond and May that is unlikely to be matched. It turbocharged the whole show and is the main reason the latest editions will never be as good.

Other impressions? Items seemed too long and often self-indulgent. That nonsense about using an Ariel Nomad to elude paparazzi was thuddingly awful. What is more, alongside the efforts of the departed trio, the 'japes' seemed a mite pointless.

It also seemed to me that neither Evans nor Le Blanc knew all that much about cars, and continually made the classic assumption that price, speed and horsepower govern excellence. Of course, they don't.

Finally, what of our Autocar alumnus, Chris 'Monkey' Harris, whose input was small and who seems, for the time being, to have been locked under the stairs in a Red Button programme called Extra Gear? I hope he finds his way out, because he is one guy who DOES know about cars.

Read Autocar's Ariel Nomad review