The four agreed to produce the series following their departures from the BBC series Top Gear. The initial plan is to produce 36 episodes over a three year span. Each episode is scheduled to be released weekly to Amazon Prime subscribers in the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Austria and Japan.
The series began airing on November 18, 2016. A few days after launch, The Grand Tour became Amazon Video's most watch premiere episode. The previous record-holder was The Man In The High Castle. The show was made available in an additional 195 countries and territories in December of 2016. The first season is due to be made available to traditional broadcasters for transmission in late 2017.
Series 2 is scheduled for filming on Wednesdays between October and December 2017, with release of the season due to begin on December 8, 2017.
The intended format was initially for individual television films, using location shooting without studio segments, but after the title reveal it was announced that there will be studio segments shot in large tents at various locations.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos described the deal as being "very, very, very expensive". Studio recording for Season 1 began in Johannesburg, South Africa on 17 July 2016. The final studio filming took place in Dubai in December 2016.
The show has a dedicated test track called the "Eboladrome," at the former RAF Wroughton. Clarkson states in the first episode that the name is due to its shape resembling the structure of the Ebola virus.
It is designed to "trip cars up", according to Clarkson. Section names include the "Isn't Straight", "Your Name Here", "Old Lady's House", "Substation" and "Field of Sheep". In the first episode, the track was said to have been modified following the discovery of an unexploded Second World War bomb.
Cars are tested by NASCAR driver Mike Skinner, known as "The American", who considers anything not American, front-engine and V8 powered as "communist". According to the presenters, Amazon insisted the driver be an American, which is why Skinner was hired. While doing a lap, Skinner makes sarcastic remarks about the car and the presenters. Skinner will not be returning for the second season.
Prior to the first episode the Lap board had been pre-populated with ten times from a selection of cars, and the laps themselves were not shown, just the timings. The first car to be shown being driven by Skinner, with an on-screen lap time, was a 2016 BMW M2 recording a time of 1:26.2 seconds. The track is also used for general filming and testing by The Grand Tour, meaning that other vehicles—such as a Ferrari 488 used in episode one—may appear on the track, but are not timed either.
The trio discuss car news. Running jokes include Hammond "oversharing" intimate personal information, and Clarkson being cut off after asking "Can I talk about...?" before either Hammond or May introduce the next segment; frequently, the subject he attempts to raise is Alfa Romeo and their new cars. The video introduction to the segment shows the men, in silhouette talking animatedly: in each episode the silhouettes change in various ways.
The series includes several running gags. During the opening titles of each episode, a camera drone is destroyed. From episode three on, one of the presenters' names is always seen misspelled during the opening. In "Celebrity Brain Crash", celebrity guests are humorously "killed" in an accident while making their way to the tent. After each "death", May asks "Does that mean they're not coming on then?" to which Hammond deadpans "No James, they're not" while bluntly outlining how "dead" the celebrity is. This element of the show reflects the BBC's efforts to stop The Grand Tour from interviewing celebrity guests, as had been the focus of the Top Gear "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment.
The format of segments in the programme are a result of needing to ensure differentiation from the team's previous work on Top Gear for the BBC The show is presented from a pair of large tents on a Grand Tour around the world. The presenters sit around a trestle table, with the studio audience seated in front of them. The "Conversation Street" segment allows discussion of current events at the time of filming. Lap times are shown on an electronic scoreboard.
The show's title was announced as The Grand Tour on 11 May 2016. The show's logo was unveiled by Clarkson on Twitter on 28 June 2016. There was speculation that the show could be called Gear Knobs after a trademark application was made for that name by an associated company, but Clarkson stated in October 2015 that this would not be the title. He explained in April 2016 that the word "Gear" could not be used for legal reasons.