In The Shadows - the Erin Berlose Mk 3
The first half of the 2000s were a real mixed bag for Erin. They saw immense success with their new focus on making efficiency and economy availible to all drivers, embodied by their new Millenial engine range and the Erin Tauga. But on the other hand, they struggled to make everything work; there return to endurance racing with the GT01 was shakey, and in the showrooms, they had a real unavoidable problem: the new Berlose.
Story - The Car That Couldn't Quite Make It
The Mk 3 Berlose shouldn't have been a difficult car for Erin. It was coming off the success of the Mk 2, which had made the company's mark very clear in the Executive saloon market and had pioneered a number of technologies. And yet, things just didn't quite go right.
The development of the car was potholed from the start. While early concepts began in 1997, the new Tauga project quickly took precedent, given that many in the company believed it could to define Erin over the next 10 years. That importance meant that the design of the Berlose ended up being a bit rushed, and and shortcuts had to be made.
S 2.2l trim in Sunburnt Orange
When the car was released in July 2000, it was sitting right in the wake of the Tauga. It was still making big headlines with its sales and innovations, clouding the release of the Berlose to poor effect. But the problems ran a lot deeper than in its launch.
Make no mistake, it wasn't a bad car. Above average fuel effiency, good to drive and very comfortable over long distances; it was very good in certain places. But these outweighed by weaknesses that were very unusual for Erin.
For starters, its design was a little off. The Mk 2 Berlose had stunned back in 1993 with its smooth, sweeping lines, yet here they were again 7 years later - a serious lack of innovation. This was made worse by the fact that most of the fixtures were simply enlargened versions of those found on other cars. They weren't unique enough to not make it look like an inflated Tauga. As a result, it didn't catch buyer's eyes quite like the previous model had.
Lex 2.8l in Pastel Steel Blue
Styling issues continued on the inside of the car, where many reviewers noted how the dials and centre console were very different in their styling and material choice, making the car look almost incomplete. The features of that centre console were also a little ill-concieved. You could brilliant optional extras like an in-car telephone, sat-nav and multimedia storage, but none were very well implemented. It felt like it had been rushed.
And while the engines were certainly very nice, only one in the whole range was unique to the Berlose. Furthermore, the middling 'X' trim model only went on sale in 2003, long after the previous Berlose X-AllDrive - today considered one of the best Erin's of all time - had ended production. It was a tell-tale sign that the car hadn't been fully developed.
Vox 3.5l in a classic Erin colour, Pacific Ocean Blue
Still, like previous Berlose's and indeed today's Mk 5 model, it was a superb long distance cruiser - quiet, comfortable and stress free, which did ensure that it maintained most of its key buyers. But in the grand scheme of things, sales were poor. Not bad enough to consider it a disaster, but it resulted in Erin scaling back production in 2002 to keep costs in check, and it only began making a profit some 5 years after it went on sale.
The Mk 3 Berlose is a prime example of what happens when a car companie loses focus. Had the Berlose come out a year later, it would have likely been a far better car. But the need to try and stay competitive and get the car out along with its new younger sibling, the Tauga, became its Achilles heal. It's no wonder that it was the first car to be replaced in Erin's mid-2000s release of new cars.
Vox 3.5l in Pacific Ocean Blue
Stats and Prices
Trim pricing, stats and what not!
Please note: 'Touring' designates the estate verison of the car which I couldn't build as there was no appropriate body for it
Overview:Stats for Vox 3.5l trim, with Millenial 3.5l i6
S Trim - From £22549 for Saloon, £23899 for Touring
Standard Suspension, Standard transmission, Basic Premium Interior (Sat-Nav as opntion), 15" Wheels
Lex Trim - From £26659 for Saloon, £27949 for Touring
Standard suspension, Standard transmission, Premium Interior with Sat-Nav, 16" Wheels
Vox Trim - From £31459 for Saloon, £32110 for Touring
Active Adaptive suspension, Limited Slip Diff, Full Premium Interior with Guardian™ Info-Entertainment system, 17" Wheels
Naturally, Erin were well aware that the Mk 3 Berlose wasn't their strong point. However, in 2003, with the Scarlet's production line now empty after ending production the previous year, they suddenly had a vacancy on their specialised production line. Couple this with an interest in improving Erin's standing as a premium car maker and...
2003 Erin Berlose Statesman
What we have here is a luxury version of the Berlose, designed by a specially employed team to create what Erin described as a "Compact Limousine", and branded the Statesman.
The idea was to challenge the small area of the market filled by cars like the VW Phaeton - luxury cars on a smaller scale, not designed to compete with the top-end S Class's and 7 Series's; rather, this would be an affordable way to experience such luxury on a car.
Outside, the Berlose was clad with chrome detailing. It was lengthened slightly to provide more room in the back. And, under the bonnet, a 5.0l V8 from KHT, derived from the one in the Bahn GT and GTR, to deliver 266 hp to the rear wheels, carrying the car from 0-60 in 6.8 seconds and topping out at 150 mph.
Inside, a plush, spacious interior was to be found, with clean cocktail-bar inspired styling and a wealth of features, such as in-car TV, reclining rear seats, BnW sound system and more. Alongside these changes, a specially developed air-suspension system was fitted, along with a 6 Speed Auto-Sequential transmission developed from technologies used in their racing programs.
The result? A huge amount of luxury and refinement in a usable and somewhat affordable package; at £45419 it was far more expensive than the rest of the Berlose range, but it put it inline with Range Rover's from the day, and was far cheaper than most luxury limousines. But, thanks to that highly efficient KHT engine, it could achieve far better fuel economy than anything remotely similar to it.
Did it do well though? Sort of. Sales were by no means crazy, and it took a little while to get going, but in all some 15000 would be built, and it's predicted that they will become a rather sort-after Erin classic.
Feedback is most encouraged! Thank you very much to @squidhead for letting me borrow KHT's engine, I hope I have done it justice!