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As Jeremy Clarkson explained on Twitter, “fat people singing” has been in Top Gear’s way for the past year. So it’s ironic that the programs return opened with the overweight presenter screeching “we’re back! ” with all the keenness of a desperate X Factor finalist. This is where comparison between padded-out talent contestants and Top Gear end; however the free-wheeling motoring show was very nearly a full hour of fun, witty entertainment. Top gear was officially complained about by the Indian High Commission on its recent trip to India.

Jokes about terrorism, the Nazi regime and incest in tonight’s episode suggest Top Gear’s tone remained unchanged by critics and complainers. The banter between Top Gear trio Richard Hammond, May and Clarkson just great, May was old; Hammond’s choice of clothes was laughable, Clarkson moaned about motorway signs in his usual comic way. The Homeland’s star Damian Lewis was the ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’, who dropped names and great story’s (playing at Old Trafford, surviving a motorcycle accident) with genuine humour, which was much needed, because a few jokes seem a bit manufactured. Top Gear thrived outside of its dull studio.

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We saw Hammond yell theatrically inside a “savage” supercar: the Pagani Huayra is worth ? 800,000 and now takes its place at the top of the Power Lap Board – which set the bar high for the rest of the series. Eagle-eyed fans will have seen September’s leaked footage of May co-driving a Bentley continental GT Speed on a WRC rally stage. Tonight’s full feature was one of dramatic skies, dark forests and a tough lesson for him in rally driving (rally pace notes: directions given in hasty anticipation to the driver). “Either get it right or shut up”, growled May’s quietly, terrifyingly soiled professional driver.

Pleasingly, the Bentley’s four-wheel drive dealt well with a proper thrashing. Enthusiastically, Clarkson showed us his self created ‘P45’. The vehicle (it can hardly be called a car) aims to be smaller than the Peel P50 – a 1960s micro mobile invented for city driving. Clarkson, just shy of two metres tall, was transformed into a grumpy toy robot in the weird contraption, driving along country lanes, bombing down dual carriageways and sneaking into shopping centres with pleasant hilarity. Add in some comical humour, serious cool cars and it’s like top gear never went away.

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