Well, none of those claimed figures are in the offing during this test, because although we’ve had a fairly gentle autumn so far, Bruntingthorpe in November turned the corner and became the kind of bitter, cold and rain-lashed day I’m expecting to see quite a lot more of until next March or so. No, the E10 R isn’t fitted with the optional windscreen (although the vast majority of E10s being ordered are, with few drivers ever taking them off again).
Still, the E10 is much better than, say, a KTM X-Bow at pushing the draft over your head; it’s more like an Ariel Atom with wind deflectors in that there’s no buffeting, although you’re aware your head is at the forefront of things. You’d have to wear a helmet, really.
And if not for the wind, you have to because of the noise. That the airbox is behind your head and the turbo is right there spooling and whooshing makes the E10, even in 2.0 form, a loud experience. Add the bigger, 3.0in-diameter exhaust of the 2.3-litre motor, and a higher, 1.4bar boost and the R is certainly no quieter.
It has great performance, though. Straight line traction, even in these conditions, is good, and a full-throttle burst from idle in third, at what must be 20mph, through to the other side of 100mph, reveals a strong, linear power band with no flat spots. It spins to 6800rpm but there’s no need to wring out the last few hundred revs: it’s a track-focused car, but, like the S, the R can be surfed around on the throttle.
The gearlever is 18mm lower than previously, gets a bespoke ball rather than the Ford one and, thanks to some tightening of other links, is a slick mechanism.
As yet there are no changes to the suspension, but Zenos’s head of development, Chris Weston, anticipates that spring rates will probably go up by about 10%, although he’s not unhappy with the R’s ability to put its power down already.
The fear is that, relatively compliant that it is, the Zenos will roll mid-corner until an inside rear tyre spins the power away, necessitating a limited-slip differential that Zenos would rather not have to fit. But given that, even as it stands, the R has decent traction, the extra spring stiffness should see to that. And the S has compliance to spare, so should allow the R to remain a bearable road car.
Not that there’s any chance of getting enough lateral load into the car to trouble an inside wheel today - it’s just far too wet. This is the first time I’ve driven a Zenos in these conditions, but it shows how forgiving the chassis is.
The Avon ZZR rubber finds reasonable grip, but there’s earlier and more obvious understeer, which you can drive around, and then quite a lot earlier – partly the weather, partly the boost – oversteer. But the E10 remains a forgiving car that’s pleasingly adjustable just a few degrees either side of your chosen line. Even in these conditions, the R just liberates, rather than overwhelms, what’s an exceptionally capable chassis.