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Thanks for the responses. Lotus responded:
“Our cars come with a low inertia flywheel, due to this, 1st and reverse may take a second to engage after pressing the clutch in. The quick test of this is to press the clutch in, count to 5 in your head, and then try to engage 1st. If it goes in, there is no issue, if it still does not go into gear without running through the rest of the gears first, there may be a small issue within the shift system that needs to be looked into.”

I’ve only ever fixed bicycles so I don’t fully understand what that means in this context. I’ve never had an issue going in reverse. The roads in my area are covered in ice and salt, and I haven’t gone out to test. But just turning on the car it won’t immediately shift and then pressing the clutch (much) longer sometimes seemed to help. Odd that no mechanic ever seems to have told other people this or no one asked Lotus itself, so we are left with theories based on old cars or on terrible movies (jk!). I’ll try to test soon, but maybe that will help someone else. The answer feels feasible, albeit incomplete: no car that I tested did this.
Wonder if it's because of the clutch damper.

 
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