By Wayne Gorrett, Silverstone.
Update @ 24.03.2017: The future of Zenos Cars, which went into administration in January, 2017, has been secured as the administrators have found a group of buyers for the company’s assets, thus securing a future for the marque. The new owners will be an ensemble of investors, a few of whom are also backers of another British sports car manufacturer, AC Cars.
In the fifteen occasionally turbulent years since returning to the UK from Zimbabwe, I continue to be buoyed by our entrepreneurial ‘Made Great in Britain’ spirit.
I can’t recall a country so hardboiled in its ‘can-do’ attitude when it comes to business start-ups. I’ve been involved in a few since 2001 and to be honest, I’ve even been one or two in my efforts to re-invent myself during the past decade and a half.
For dogged, can-do spirit, we need to venture off-piste to the niche end of Britain’s sports car industry; BAC, Noble, Ariel, David Brown, Caterham, Westfield, Radical and Grinnall and other lesser-known lights. But one – our newest – already has its nose slightly ahead of the pack.
Zenos Cars is Britain’s newest light sports car company, formed in September 2013 and based in Wymondham over in Norfolk, just five miles from the Hethel-based facilities of Lotus.
Its first production car – the E10 – had its world debut as a concept at the Autosport International Show at the NEC in Birmingham as recently as 2014. It was squeaky bum time to get the E10 ready for its debut as, with less than 24 hours until the show’s doors opened to visitors, the show car was still languishing in the Zenos paint shop.
Such heart-in-mouth moments highlight the grit and determination of an elite team of ex-Caterham and Lotus engineers, headed by company co-founders Ansar Ali and Mark Edwards, formerly CEO and COO of Caterham Cars.
With an invitation wedged firmly in my back pocket and, with what felt like a swarm of butterflies in my stomach, I met up with the Norfolk outfit at Silverstone late last year to try out their latest offering; the E10S.
The Zenos E10S is a turbocharged, lightweight, ‘drop-in’ mid-engined two-seater which offers a driving experience on both track and road. To facilitate that dual purpose, Zenos engineers adopted almost fanatical detail to weight control.
The result is a featherweight structure of the E10S, which uses a central extruded aluminium beam (above) and a flight deck made from recycled carbon fibre and a thermoplastic honeycomb core for lightness and rigidity. Saddle-like, the cockpit sits astride the car’s backbone (below) and creates a cabin that’s reassuringly protective yet refreshingly exposed to climatic elements.
Engine, Drivetrain & Performance
Thanks to an agreeable arrangement in powertrain supply with Ford UK, the E10S deploys the mid-mounted 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. It develops 250bhp at 7,000rpm and 400Nmt at just 2,500rpm and weighs only 725kg, ensuring the E10S reaches 62mph from nada in a less than four white-knuckle seconds, culminating in a sinus-clearing top speed of 145mph.
That power is transferred via an open differential to the 17-inch rear wheels (16-inch up front) through the standard but VERY close five-speed manual gearbox. There is an optional six-speed ‘box and limited-slip differential priced at £1,495.
The E10S’s suspension features a double wishbone setup at each corner with inboard Bilstein dampers in the front. All four tyres are supplied by Avon with ZZR 195/50ZR16 rubber in front and ZZR 225/45ZR17 at the rear.
Other technical options include road-tuned springs and dampers with adjustable platforms and uprated front discs and calipers.
The Inside Story
Make no mistake, frills and soft-furnishings on the E10S are as absent as musical (or any) talent on a Kanye West album. This car is all about the drive and nothing else.
As a token nod to the avoidance of bug-splattered teeth, the diminutive ‘aero screen’ fitted as standard maximises the intensity of the driving experience. However, better sense would be to opt for the detachable and functional full-width windscreen to minimise the threat to dentistry from suicidal pheasants and the like at cruising speeds.
The cockpit is kept intentionally fuss free and spartan. All you’ll find inside are a pair of lightweight composite seats, inertia reel lap belts, a 12V power socket, a cockpit light and a centre console multi-function TFT and separate driver display. It is spartan to say the very least.
Interior options include twin-skin composite seats by Zenos, heated front seats, four- and six-point race harnesses, quick release steering wheel, ‘get home’ storable hood, storm cap, premium or customisable coloured wings.
Track and aftermarket accessories
If you intend to enjoy regular track days in your E10S, you might want to consider the following…
Competition steering rack, oil cooler, uprated master cylinder, battery cut-off switch, plumbed-in fire extinguisher, catalyst bypass, sports exhaust, re-packable silencer, third high level brake lamp, windscreen with actual wipers and a flat-floor set-up at the factory.
And that, as some classics would have you believe…is that.
On the Road
On public roads, the Zenos E10S is a phenomenal car to drive. The excitement is unadulterated and the car’s predictability is just about discernible. It is utterly brilliant fun and more physically engaging than I had anticipated (my racing days are 35 years behind me). It takes physical effort, severe concentration and a dollop of self-levelling fear from the first gear change.
Because the car sits so low on the road, coupled with a cockpit more exposed that your average Kardashian, there is a thrilling sense of being in a real racing car.
The steering is lightning fast when underway and its every minute movement results in a blistering bite from the front end. It handles sharply and the ride is of course very firm yet remarkably pliant. The Alcan brakes are brilliant and the pedal delivers fantastic sensations.
The Zenos E10S is very quick. With a kerb weight of only 725kg, it can’t fail to deliver thrills galore. It’s very easy to drive and the raised, short-throw gear-lever is super slick.
But crikey, it’s loud. Even under a snug helmet and a fireguard balaclava, it’s astonishingly deafening. But, it isn’t the engine that creates those atmospheric tsunamis, it’s the turbo induction roar with its whistling and screaming chatter – all going on just inches behind your head. It’s bloody brilliant!
The noise won’t, of course be an issue if, like most Zenos owners, you take in on the track from time to time…
On the Track
If you’ve been lucky enough to have raced cars before – and no I’m not talking about the odd track event where health and safety rules supreme and the overly-cautious pro co-driver insists on grabbing your steering wheel the moment you eclipse every apex, thus screwing up your oversteer power slide and the entire raison d’être for being there in the first place…[and breathe].
No, I’m taking about actual racing, when there’s several other attitude-laden cars entering the chicane at the same time as you. Yeah, that. That’s what the E10S feels like…a real racing car.
On track it’s a beast and every one of the fast laps were glorious. The acceleration and straight line speed is raw and exhilarating. And loud. Every gear change was deliciously thrilling.
It feels very capable and stable on circuit and your confidence increased with every additional degree of heat acquired in the tyres. Its track talents are surprisingly forgiving. The car doesn’t require buckets of track skills or excessive bravery to enjoy each and every gear change.
If you can secure a drive in the Zenos E10S you must grasp it with both gloved hands. The 250bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged Ford engine (as deployed in the Focus ST) makes this a quick and fun car but there are buckets of advanced engineering expertise poured into safety, aerodynamics and handling too. This is the kind of car that’s perfect for a track day but it’s equally as fun on country lanes – lots and lots of them.
At the end of the day and before I dragged my jellied knees from the paddock at Silverstone, the Zenos support crew were putting the finishing touches to a glistening, brand new E10S painted in ‘Soarin’ Blue’. The customer had requested a trackside handover…at Silverstone…how about that?
I know, I know…haters gonna hate.
Takeaway nuggets : Zenos E10S
* Price: From £32,995
* Engine: Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbo-charged 4-cylinder, mid-mounted
* Power: 250 bhp @ 7,000 rpm
* Torque: 400 Nm @ 2,500 rpm
* Transmission: Five-speed manual (six optional), rear-wheel drive.
* 0-62 mph: 3.96 seconds
* Top speed: 145 mph