Codenamed BY616, with 450bhp 6.0-litre W12 engine, the luxurious offering is among a number of proposals put forward by parent company Volkswagen in recent months as a means of further expanding the Bentley marque against a backdrop of surging sales, renewed brand awareness and an expanding customer base.

The big new Bentley, depicted here in our exclusive computer-generated images, is derived from the forthcoming Audi Q7 – Ingolstadt’s answer to the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-class – due to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

However, like Bentley’s recent models, the BY616 has been conceived with a unique body and interior – the latter foregoing the Audi’s seven-seat layout for a more commodious five-seat arrangement.

Production of the proposed model had been rejected by Bentley boss Franz-Josef Paefgen in a boardroom debate last December, and a senior Bentley insider told Autocar that he was also strongly against the idea of a 4x4.

But there remains a strong lobby of support for the new car, and the Bentley boss could be overruled by the upper echelons of VW, which is keen to see the British car maker’s production volume rise above 10,000 annually in the long term. ‘At this level Bentley can be self-sustaining,’ said a high-ranking Wolfsburg insider. ‘With the existing range that is only possible for one or two years at best. We want to sustain it at this level indefinitely.’

Paefgen has had disagreements over 4x4s before. When boss of Audi, he refused to build an Audi version of the Touraeg/Cayenne project, commissioning the Allroad instead.

As with the Continental GT and Flying Spur, the BY616 has been conceived to use a 6.0-litre W12 engine. Unlike in its coupé and saloon siblings, however, the four-valve-per-cylinder unit is normally aspirated, with power dropping from 650bhp to 450bhp – as in the Touareg W12 Sport – while torque dips by 37lb ft to 442lb ft. Despite the drop and a probable kerbweight well above 2000kg, performance would be quite impressive if the Touareg’s 0-62mph time of 5.9sec is anything to go by.

There is also the possibility of endowing the BY616 with hybrid power, boosting the W12 with electric motors. Such a set-up is being readied for the Q7, according to Audi chairman Martin Winterkorn, which would make it easily adaptable for the Bentley.

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