“There’s a rather surprising film we’ve done in the Middle East, which is properly whacko,” he hinted recently.
“I enjoyed watching the people in the tent watching that one, and when it goes out to the bigger audience, people will like it. But I don’t want to tell you why so as not to spoil it, but it’s good.”
James professes to be as in the dark as anyone else about the magic formula that has made three middle-aged men talking about cars such a global phenomenon, although he agrees there is evidence not everyone can do it.
He says: “If it was simple, other people would have been able to replicate it, not just with car shows, but all sorts of TV shows.
“People talk about a ‘Top Gear style’, and it never is. It’s a complicated thing, none of us truly understands it, it’s also quite a fragile thing, I suspect, and has to be handled very carefully.
“We’re just three twats talking about cars and other things, but there’s a huge amount of work and hard-working people behind it. You just happen to see the three of us.”
Absent from the new formula will be all the aspects retained by the BBC – the Stig, the reasonably-priced car – and James says the local audience in each episode – filmed from Germany to South Africa – has lent the new show a “clubby feel”.
“We’re not like standup comedians, because they’re funny, but it is always slightly tailored to the location,” he explains.
Following their abrupt departure en masse from the BBC last year, following Jeremy Clarkson’s altercation with a location producer, the team have been gratified by the freedom given to them – as well as the budget – by the deep-pocketed Amazon Prime.
“They don’t impose anything on us, they’re not stupid,” says James.
“They recognise that we’re good at what we do, and can be left alone to police and manage ourselves. They said, ‘We want a great car show and you’re the blokes to do it.’
“In fairness to the BBC, they largely left us alone as well, they were more likely to tell us off afterwards. We can run ourselves, we’ve been doing it for 13, 14 years. I don’t want to say we’re professionals, but we broadly know what we’re doing.”
As for the budget, apparently we in the press have all grossly over-estimated the figures.
“It’s a bit bigger,” James acknowledges, “but it’s a lot more expensive to produce, with the standards of cinematography and location.
“We’ve been reinvigorated by the process of having to rethink it.”
Anything else changed – his relationship with the other two? “Nothing, they’re still deeply irritating people.”
‘The Grand Tour’ debuts on Amazon Prime on 18 November.