The first episode of The Grand Tour, Jeremy Clarkson’s first TV series since exiting Top Gear, has been given rave reviews by critics.
The show launched on the Amazon Prime streaming service on Thursday evening.
It is the first programme to be fronted by Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May since they parted company with the BBC last year.
Writing in the Evening Standard, Ben Travis described it as a “stunningly beautiful show”.
“If The Grand Tour is basically Top Gear with a nitros boost of Amazon finances, the difference is immediately apparent,” he said.
“Those who have never counted themselves as Jeremy Clarkson fans aren’t exactly going to be won over here.
“But episode one is a confident opener that leaves the BBC’s attempted Top Gear revival in the dust.”
Jeremy Clarkson tweeted: “Genuinely relieved and grateful today. Huge thanks to everyone who has sent messages.”
Analysis by Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor
Filmic is the word that sprang to my mind when watching The Grand Tour.
The scale of the production, the quality of the cameras, the epic sweeping shots and the pastiches of old movies – it seemed the show was aimed at the big screen, not the telly. Or a mobile phone, which is how I imagine a lot of people will view it.
It opens with a scene so over-the-top and opulent you’d think that the Prince Regent was behind the camera. Think Mad Max meets Easy Rider as we see the three presenters drive across the Californian desert, making their way through a sea of cars all barrelling along to a massive stage that has risen from the sand like a pyramid.
Maybe the small screen is too small for Clarkson, Hammond and May, and their next step should be away from the internet and into the cinema.
Writing in The Guardian, Sam Wollaston said: “More than format, more even than the amount of money you throw at something, what really gives a television show its personality is the personnel.
“You can pour something into a different container, but it still tastes the same. And, like it or not, this tastes of Clarkson, Hammond and May.”
He added: “Fans of old Top Gear are going to be happy.”
However Andrew Billen in The Times struck a dissenting note, saying the show took “few risks” and said “the idea tank is running dangerously low”.
He wrote: “For a show about speed, this played very slowly to me and is the main reason that the programme came in at a bloated 1 hour 10 minutes.
“Before we see the next 11 episodes, I hope [producer Andy] Wilman returns to the editing suite and brings them down to 50 minutes.”
The first episode of the series saw the trio take their travelling studio tent to Dry Rabbit Lake in the Mojave Desert in California.
Vehicles featured in the episode included hybrid hyper-cars such as the McLaren P1, the Porsche 918 Spyder and the Ferrari LaFerrari.
The Telegraph‘s Ed Power said: “The Grand Tour isn’t a shameless Top Gear rip-off. But under the hood the rival franchises have a great deal in common.”
He added: “The new series will certainly go some way towards obliterating memories of Top Gear’s terrible Chris Evans-fronted relaunch. Petrolheads can rejoice.
“The BBC may wonder how Matt LeBlanc and whoever joins him next year can possibly compete.”
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Dan Wootton gave The Grand Tour five stars in his review for The Sun.
“Being sacked from the BBC was the greatest thing that ever happened to Clarkson and co – and the world of cars on TV,” he wrote.
“This has guns, explosions, super yachts, madcap stunts, the British Institute of Car Chases, dramatic crashes, a sinking ship and Hammond being dangled from a chopper.
“But the one thing that really matters is Clarkson being reunited with his two mates on screen.”
Digital Spy‘s Tom Eames said: “Clarkson, Hammond and May’s reunion is silly but worth the wait (and money).
“It’s precisely all the things we loved about their old show, but bigger, brighter and more blow-upier.
“And they’ve sort of somehow come up with the world’s first scripted comedy factual show, and it works perfectly.”
Writing in The Daily Mail, James Shelley said: “The Grand Tour had a new sense of excitement and knowledge about the cars but the same old warm friendship.
“It’s a shame they had to leave the BBC but judging by episode one of The Grand Tour perhaps that was what they needed.”
Earlier this week, the show’s producer Andy Wilman told the BBC they would use social media to determine if the show was a success, as they would not find out the viewing figures.
“We’ll never know the number, because, even to us, Amazon won’t tell us what the viewing figures are.”
Asked how they will know if viewers like the show, Wilman replied: “We’ll get it from Twitter I would imagine.”
Some viewers stayed up late to watch the programme when it went live just before midnight on Thursday evening, and many tweeted their thoughts.
The first series of The Grand Tour will consist of 12 hour-long episodes – with one being made available each week.
A total of 36 episodes across three years have been commissioned by Amazon.
Currently, only fans in the UK, America, Germany and Japan are able to watch the first episode.
But the company has announced it will be launching the show globally in December.
The new series does not include features such as “star in a reasonably-priced car” or “tame racing driver” The Stig, as those belong to the BBC’s Top Gear format.
LeBlanc and Evans took over presenting duties on Top Gear after Clarkson, Hammond and May’s departure, though Evans left the show after one series.
Clarkson has previously said of the new show: “I think programme one will be all right. I’d be extremely surprised if that was poorly reviewed.”