The Rolls Royce Phantom and Maybach 62 super-luxury saloons will soon have new competition – not from a decked out Yank tank like the Cadillac 16, but a Toyota!

According to reports, the Japanese automotive giant Toyota is planning an all-new super-luxury car designed to help the company launch its Lexus brand in its home market. It is due to go on sale in 2006.

Although Lexus is a familiar name outside the Orient, Toyota is seen as a sufficiently upmarket marque for Japanese drivers not to need a separate brand. With the new car, Toyota will establish the Lexus as a premium brand in Japan and further raise its profile on other markets.

Apparently, a large part of the work to develop the new machine is already underway. The super limo will use much of the technology that underpins Toyota's Century, a little-known limousine used by Japan's royal family as well as several of the country's politicians.

Only 200 Century models sell every year. The cars are built away from Toyota's main factory by a dedicated team of engineers. Fitted with a new five-litre V12 engine, the Century produces peak power of 209 kW and 481 N.m of torque. Power is transferred to the rear wheels via a high-tech automatic gearbox and the car rides on air-suspension.

Inside, the new limo is set to build on the considerable level of luxury developed for the likes of the LS430. While Maybach and Rolls-Royce have chosen to go retro, Toyota will aim to push its vision of futuristic opulence. That means the car will be among the quietest on the road and, theoretically, offer a host of state-of-the-art electronic gadgets.

But if Toyota’s engineers wanted to study some of the features of the Maybach, they would have to rent (or borrow) one. Sources say Toyota engineers wanted to examine a Maybach - but Toyota bosses refused to cough up the R3,55 million it would have cost to import one to Japan.