It's a long way from England and Germany to Indianapolis, but European automotive activity of a couple of weeks ago had some tie-ins to the local community.

The association comes via BMW's purchase of the rights to the name Rolls-Royce after Volkswagen AG trumped BMW's efforts to purchase Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, the manufacturer of the Rolls and Bentley automobiles.

The Rolls-Royce name actually was owned by Rolls-Royce PLC, the jet engine manufacturer that now owns the former Allison Engine plant in Indianapolis. That's one tie-in.

The other is the Albers Rolls-Royce agency in Zionsville, which sells both Rolls and Bentley cars.

According to reported plans, BMW is going to take the Rolls to another manufacturing facility in England and build a new Rolls-Royce - but not until 2003. At that time, VW will rename its English-based subsidiary Bentley Motor Cars.

Between then and now, it will apparently be business as usual, with VW having the right to use the Rolls name and manufacturing both automobiles in Crewe, England.

All this is happening after Rolls-Royce Motor Cars launched an all-new 1999 Bentley Arnage model following this year's Le Mans 24-Hour race. The unusual model designation comes from the challenging Arnage bends on the Le Mans circuit.

From where I'm standing, it sort of looks like VW might have gotten the best end of the deal.

The Bentley Arnage is a smoking set of wheels, with a new aluminum, four-cam, 32-valve V-8; twin water-cooled turbochargers with intercooler; a five-speed automatic transmission; a new body platform with increased torsional rigidity; four-wheel independent suspension; and new braking and stability-control systems.

The Arnage sounds like the sort of car that's meant to be driven with the hammer down, and it is. It's far faster than its sibling model, the new Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph.

Ever since the day that Walter O. Bentley founded his auto company, the Bentley has been a performance motor car.

One of the highlights of its career was when it defeated the Indianapolis-built Stutz in the 1928 Le Mans race.

This theme is carried forward to today with the Arnage's V-8 putting out 350-horsepower and a whopping 413 foot-pounds of torque. This torque is what really makes the V-8 get in and dig, as it hurls more than 2 1/2 tons of automobile from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds.

Top speed is electronically limited to 150 mph.

Bentley lists the engine as a 4.5-liter (274 cubic inches), the same displacement carried by W.O.'s Le Mans cars. However, the spec sheet says the V-8 displaces 4,398 c.c., which actually is 4.4 liters (268 cubic inches).

No matter. At 350-horsepower, the engine that was jointly developed by Bentley and BMW is well above the performance benchmark of l-horsepower per cubic inch, and fitting testimony to the power advantage of running a pressurized intake manifold courtesy of turbocharging.

The Arnage's body structure follows the construction of the Rolls Seraph, wit h the sedan being given its own front end identification.

Exterior lines flow unbroken along the length of the car. The front end has been visually lowered, achieved by a curving hood mating with a softer radiator shell.

The shell houses a laser-cut, stainless-steel grille matrix that is a modern interpretation of the traditional Bentley honeycomb grille of the 1920s and 1930s.

At the rear, the trunk line is kept high to aid aerodynamics and to increase trunk capacity. The rear finishes in a featured step in the bumper.

Interior-wise, it's a little hard to know where to start, except to say "luxurious."

The hand-crafted interior features Connolly leather, detailed stitching unique to Bentley, veneered woodwork, Wilton carpets, smooth chrome switches, and a complex curvature for the dash panel and center console.

The Arnage is a five-seater with complete power accessory application. Even the back seats are electronically adjustable. And about all you have to do i s steer.

With it's 122.7 inches of wheelbase and 212.2 inches of overall length matching that of the Seraph, and being quicker on acceleration and faster in top speed, the Arnage is a matter of "more go for less dough."

Pricing is $203,800 to the Seraph's $216,100. Not a great deal of difference, but then, every little bit helps.