There are luxury automakers, there are mainstream automakers, and then there are those in between. Volvo, we'd argue, is one of those marques that doesn't quite compete in the same market as, say, Mercedes-Benz or Lexus, but that looks as if it's about to change.

The Swedish automaker has been toying for years with the idea of building a new flagship to take on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Audi A8 and Lexus LS, but while Volvo has dragged its feet on the prospect in the past, a series of what look like patent renderings that have leaked their way online give us what could prove the strongest indication yet of Volvo's intent.

For better or worse, the renderings bear the hallmark of recent Volvo designs like the Concept Universe (unveiled in Shanghai last year), the Concept You (showcased in Frankfurt) and the upcoming next-generation XC90 – complete with the gaping maw that seems to mock the face we make when we look at these examples of this particular styling direction.

Of course, given the big wheels, showcar grille, delicate mirrors and suicide rear doors (not to mention the overall form), it seems more likely we're looking at renderings for the Concept Universe rather than a production model in the making, but that just leaves us wondering what the patent filing is for. We'll just have to wait a while to find out one way or another.

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