The sight of new hosts Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc driving Reliant three-wheelers from London to Blackpool was watched by more than four million people as BBC Two's relaunched Top Gear hit the screens.
Overnight figures show an average of 4.4 million viewers tuned in, with 4.7 million watching just before the motoring programme finished.
Evans had previously indicated that he would be disappointed if the first episode pulled in less than five million viewers, the final show featuring Jeremy Clarkson having been watched by 5.3 million last summer.
Despite falling short of that target, Top Gear still had more viewers than any other programme in Sunday's 8pm time slot and an audience share of nearly 23%.
The opening episode saw Evans joking with viewers that he had "won custody" of The Stig, the iconic masked driver who became a favourite while Clarkson was at the helm.
Clarkson left the show last year following a fracas with a producer.
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