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Monday, December 14, 2015

The Zenos E10 S is the Antidote for Autonomy: First Drive


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
Zenos E10 S 1

Each day, we are inundated with lamentations about the death of the automobile as we know it. That the age of self-driving, autonomous cars is creeping ever closer and that we, the enthusiast, will become an endangered species. “One day,” these prophets begin, “you won’t be able to drive yourself, and it will be for the greater good.” They say we will be safer, and more productive as we begin working earlier. We ask, “Why would we want that?”
For those of us that drive for purely the joy of driving, why would we consent to such an autonomous future? Enthusiasts are passionate in the same way as painters, writers, and musicians. And while many believe that the car is just a tool, others, like the producers of the Zenos E10 S, rail against that rising tide.

Zenos E10 S 5

At One With the Car
Like the Ariel Atom, the Drakan Spyder, the BAC Mono, and the Rezvani Beast, the Zenos E10 S has no doors and no traction control. The E10 S has manual brakes, transmission, and steering. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine from a Ford Fiesta ST sits behind you, mere inches away from your ears. You sit impossibly low, almost to the point where you expect that you’ll scrape you backside on each manhole cover you pass.

There’s nothing autonomous here. You aren’t reading the paper or clicking on another cat video. You secure the five-point safety harnesses, depress the starter, and rocket into the world of actual experience. Everything fades away as you become one with the car.

Zenos E10 S 4

Distilled Driving

The Zenos E10 S is about a pure experience, and that makes itself known by the lack of driver aids. The steering is manual and extremely heavy when the car isn’t moving fast. The brakes need to be hot to give adequate feel, and it takes real pressure to stop. The sound that radiates from the engine behind your head is addictive. It’s a mix of the Ariel Atom’s psychotic concerto, and the lower grumble of Volkswagen’s VR6.

Piloting the Zenos E10 S through canyons and deserted highways, you get the sense that this car was built as last bastion against the mounting surge of autonomous vehicles. It’s pure, distilled driving. It doesn’t coddle you when you inevitably screw up, cutting power or vectoring its torque. It will bite you given the chance. Where it differs from others in its class is that it won’t cripple you.

Zenos E10 S 3

Progressives Aren’t Just Politicians

Ninety percent of track cars, sportscars, and supercars have one job: destroy lap times. Thus, manufacturers fit these cars with suspensions that feel as if they were made of a solid pieces of metal. Manufacturers overlook that many of these cars will never be taken to the track. Rather, they’re driven on the street where the pavement isn’t pristine, and pot holes exist.

For the E10 S, Zenos fit progressive springs, which gives it a much softer ride when pootling along, but as you dive deeper and harder into a corner, the spring rate shoots up, and the ride becomes rigid. The car we drove, though, felt as if it had teddy bears for shocks, and took ages to settle after we initiated the corner. It didn’t roll egregiously, but it wasn’t as confidence inspiring as we hoped. This E10 S though, was still a preproduction unit, and its suspension settings are fully customizable.

Zenos E10 S 6

Saves Your Soul, Your Spine, And Your Bank Account

The world is replete with supercars and track cars that come with price tags made to turn your hair grey. McLaren’s 675LT costs $265,000, the Ariel Atom 3S costs almost $90,000, and the BAC Mono, which we’ll remind you has only one seat, costs a staggering $245,000. With the driving experience being assaulted, and the very act of driving oneself in danger, Zenos wanted to reignite the joy that everyone once had for driving, not just the rich.

Somehow, with a hybrid carbon tub and an aluminum spine, the Zenos E10 S starts at only $39,950. There are a few options, but the price barely increases. It’s a supercar that you don’t have to take out an insurance policy worth the sum total of the Vatican archives.

Zenos E10 S 2

The Verdict

With Tesla debuting its autonomous system to much success, and every other manufacturer announcing they’re working on their own as well, the world of self-driven automobiles will gradually shrink until it evaporates. Cars like the Zenos E10 S have the ability to stymie that “progress.” It’s not perfect, but nor is it supposed to be. It delivers the satisfaction of driving just for the sake of driving.


Engine: 2.0-liter EcoBoost Four-Cylinder
Horsepower: 250
Price (base): $39,950


Pure, distilled driving pleasure
Manual transmission
Ford engine is cheap and reliable


Suspension needs to be dialed in better
Gauge cluster could be bigger and easier to read
Strong winds have a tendency to blow it around

Photo Credit: Jonathon Klein for BoldRide