As one of the lead instructors for several car clubs I have the chance to drive a lot of interesting machines at the track. This past weekend my friends at | Gator Motorsport| Gator Motorsport
provided the chance to try something new, an entry level E10S, base brakes, base suspension, base motor. Needless to say I was anxious to give it a try as the car has had my attention since I first heard about the concept a couple years ago. It wasnít my car to romp on and as such I drove it well within its limits during some spirited touring laps and while Iím sure there are far more professional reviews of the car I thought I would share some amateur thoughts compared to the Lotus for you to take or leave as you see fit.
Pulling the car out from the where it was parked I was surprised by how light the steering felt, I worried how that might play out on the track at speed. Turned out that it was not an issue at all, steering input felt great although I would have liked a bit less body roll at turn-in as the suspension set and the car initiated the turn. (This coming from a guy driving an Exige S with Sector's firm springs on Nitrons) That said, the base suspension is probably ideal for someone looking for a set-up that can handle the abuse of public streets.
I was surprised by how hard the car pulled given it had the base motor. I suppose shedding 500 pounds from the weight of an Exige and adding 30 hp will help achieve some impressive results. Oh, and that turbo torque! Yes, I know thereís a camp that is always looking for more horsepower but I would suggest that the base motor is enough to put a smile on the face of even the most hardcore of track rats.
As I try to think back to describe the exhaust note Iím left scratching my head. Anything happening with the sound of the air exiting the engine was dwarfed by the sound of air being sucked into the intake right behind you. And forget about masking anything youíre doing with the accelerator as you throttle steer through a carousel, the blow-off valve is equally loud and sounded to be right behind my head. It was wonderful!
At first I wanted a bit more initial bite from the brakes as they required substantially more pedal pressure (again, point of reference being an Exige with XP12ís up front & 10ís in the rear) however I quickly grew to like the ability to modulate braking. The pedal was very firm with little movement as opposed to the Lotus that has a bit more travel as you apply more pressure. Given the lack of ABS, modulating the brakes becomes all the more important.
Last thought on the brakes is that I found it a bit more challenging to heel toe as the brake pedal was deeper in the footwell than the throttle and therefor actually required more rotation of the right foot compared to the Lotus which is just an easy roll of the foot to get to the throttle. Absolutely was doable, just not quite as effortless as the Lotus, I have no idea if the pedals are adjustable.
The concept of multiple body panels (I think I was told 12?) is also appealing for those of us playing at the track.
Getting back to my car for the next session the Exige feltÖ Substantial is first word that comes to mind. Iíve never even considered describing the Lotus that way but suddenly all the interior aluminum and nicer plastic bits made the car feel more luxurious. It felt heavier. It didnít pull quite as hard as I remembered. The best way I can describe the feeling of the Zenos to you, remember the first time you drove your Lotus after a lifetime of mass produced large volume vehicles?... Remember wondering how this impractical car, so small and light and quick and quirky could be street legal? Remember what a huge leap it was from your Audi or BMW or whatever it was? After 8 years of rocking an Exige S the Zenos provided that same feeling, moving to something even more basic, raw, impractical and purpose built. The folks over at Zenos have taken so many of the qualities that drew me to Lotus years ago and created a machine thatís gone even further. Youíll have to decide for yourself if that means that you absolutely have to have one or could not possibly live with it.