It can be devilishly difficult making a lightweight car grip hard, handle keenly and ride well all at the same time; it’s harder still to achieve when it’s your first attempt at the feat. But given that Zenos Cars is a manufacturer run – and staffed in no small part – by former employees of both Lotus and Caterham and well connected into Britain’s network of expert engineering and development agencies, it was unlikely to go too far wrong with the E10’s steering and suspension set-up. And so it proves.
We tested the car on its uprated Bilstein ‘track’ dampers and therefore in the firmer of two states of suspension tune offered from the factory – although you’d seldom describe the car’s ride as stiff. Lotus itself would be rightly proud of the moderately sprung delicacy of the E10’s close body control and the tenderness of its initial damper response. It takes a very sharp intrusion to make those Bilsteins max out and force the car’s body upwards. Over most lumps and bumps, the ride remains remarkably fluent and supple.
However, it’s not so supple that it threatens the precision of the E10 S’s handling. The dynamic repertoire isn’t without a little bit of roll and pitch, but while the presence of that medium-wave body movement makes the E10 feel like a slightly larger, heavier sports car than some will be expecting, it’s always an immaculately managed body movement. When the E10 rolls or jounces, it does it once, does it discreetly and is seldom deflected from its line. The car feels lithe, purposeful and athletic. If anything, the ride may be too sophisticated for a customer base who might prefer to feel like their backside has been magnetised to the road.
Those thrill-seekers won’t find much to take issue with in the car’s steering, however; it’s direct and deliciously weighty at road speeds. It’s endowed with just enough contact patch feedback to feel tactile and lively, but not so much as to suffer with stability-bothering bump steer. It loads up with weight as cornering forces rise, to the point where the E10 becomes quite a physical car to drive fast. But the car’s body control and balance of grip are both excellent, even at high effort levels on a circuit – and the speed it can carry, from entry to exit and beyond, is considerable.
Living with the Zenos on track
The E10’s Avon ZZR tyres work very well on a dry track, but getting them warm isn’t the work of a couple of corners. After a handful of laps, then, you’ll find that the car’s front end has become notably stickier, its steering response even crisper and that its brake pedal feel has markedly improved. On cold front tyres and with no ABS, it’s quite easy to lock the E10’s brakes — something Zenos mitigates with a heavy brake pedal. But once the rubber is warm, the car’s stopping power is beyond reproach.