The TV movie remake of 1980s series Knight Rider was watched by 12.7m viewers in the US, initial viewing figures show.
Justin Bruening stars as Mike Traceur in the TV movie
The two-hour film beat rival dramas Dexter and Brothers and Sisters in the same time slot and is the highest-rating TV movie since March 2005.
Reviews have been mixed, with some fans calling the film an "injustice" to the original series.
Fans hope the TV movie will pave the way for a full series in the autumn.
The show's return to TV screens features US soap actor Justin Bruening as Mike Traceur - a former army ranger and failed race car driver - and actor Val Kilmer as the voice of Kitt, the show's talking car.
Knight Rider fans have posted their reactions to the special on online message boards.
One fan, MikeG, said: "I thought the show was good as long as you don't compare it to the original series.
"I think they've done a good job in trying to replicate the whole feeling of it and managed to bring it, albeit kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century."
Another fan, J-Roc, said: "I don't know what people were expecting.
"I guess some folks don't like change - like the car being a Mustang for example.
"At times it dragged but, overall, I found it to be a fine launching pad for a potential new series."
David Hasselhoff, who starred in the original, made a cameo appearance
However, some fans were left disappointed.
Luca said: "The first hour-and-a-half was so incredibly boring. Mike didn't even drive the car until the very end of the show."
TV critics have also been less than favourable.
Mary McNamara, of the Los Angeles Times, criticised the choice of Kilmer as the voice of Kitt and said the film was "stuck in the 80s".
And industry magazine Variety described it as "two hours that mostly amount to watching two people that once dated drive around together in a conspicuously product-placed Ford Mustang" .
Television network NBC must now decide whether to commission the show for an autumn season.