German manufacturer BMW has unveiled the first Rolls-Royce to be introduced under its ownership.

German manufacturer BMW has unveiled the first Rolls-Royce to be introduced under its ownership.

BMW agreed to acquire the brand from 2003 under a 1998 agreement with Volkswagen. The carmaker says the new Phantom has been inspired by the success of Rolls' Silver Cloud model of the 1950s and the Silver Shadow of the 1960s. The new car has the distinctive Rolls grille and the famous Spirit of Ecstasy mascot.

The early Phantom models were very popular in aristocratic Britain between the two world wars.

The car continues the luxury tradition with humidified cigar case and umbrella stands in the rear doors, which open stagecoach style with handles in the middle of the car rather than the back.

The Phantom is powered by a 6,75-litre V12 BMW engine. The carmaker claims it accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 5,7 seconds. Top speed is 240 km/h.

The new car’s wheelbase is 3 570 mm, while the overall length is 5 834 mm. It is 1 632 mm tall and 1 990 mm wide. The Phantom has run-flat tyres which allow the car to travel for about 160 km at about 80 km/h after a puncture.

"For nearly 100 years, Rolls-Royce has been the icon of motor engineering and design,” said Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief executive Tony Gott.

"The name has entered the language as an expression of perfection. The new Rolls-Royce Phantom is, we believe, entirely in keeping with that long and illustrious heritage, yet is totally contemporary in its design and technology."

BMW hopes to make 600 to 700 of the new Phantoms in 2003 and to eventually increase production to about 1 000. VW sold about 300 Rolls-Royce cars in 2002. The Phantom will sell for R2,9 million.

Rolls-Royce spokesman Fred Fruth said the first of the new cars was delivered last week to an "English gentleman" in Britain.