Time off over Christmas is – if you’ll forgive the pun – a Godsend. It also means there’s plenty of time for reading, so I’d thought I’d try and sum up my motoring year month by month over the holiday period. It’s a year which has taken me around the from the Middle East, to California and to Japan and back and easily the most interesting and engaging year I’ve seen so far as an automotive hack.

January 2011 kicked off, as it usually does, with a trip to a freezing Detroit, which blended straight into a flight to the Mexican border, to try the new Mercedes CLS 63 AMG. January ended with a trip to Dubai to drive Volkswagen’s radical XL1 which claims 313mpg and 24g/km of Co2. It was a neat experience: just about the two extremes of motoring possibilities.

The AMG is a beautifully re-engineered (with bespoke steering and suspension systems) high-quality road car of extraordinary competence. Indeed, the driving experience on the roads around the Mexican border in the AMG would have been unimaginable a decade ago. It felt like it had been mostly machined from solid billet and delivered the kind of feedback through the driver’s contact points that wouldn’t have shamed an expensive bicycle.

In many ways, the CLS 63 AMG was just about the ultimate expression of the internal-combustion driven automobile, or at least one that tries to balance practicality with the need for speed.