Audi will be as strong as ever; with the new 3-series, BMW's well placed to have a good year, too. And yet if you backed me into a corner right now and made me pick the premium brand that I'd invest my pension in on January 1st 2012, I think I'd pick Mercedes and Daimler to enjoy the biggest gains across the year.

And it's not because of the arrival of the new A- and B-class. These two big-selling hatchbacks will be vital to Daimler's onward profitability, of course, and a much more conventional platform should really make them earn their keep for Stuttgart this time around. But, perhaps unfairly, I don't expect excellence from either of those two; because, within their respective classes, merely 'good' should be good enough.

No - the reason I expect 2012 to be so great for Mercedes is because we'll be getting a new M-class and a new SL roadster. The M-class I already know, off the back of a European drive, to be a fabulous car: one with totally impervious, almost hermetic refinement, that's also fleet of foot in a way that a Land Rover Discovery could never be.

The SL, I suspect, will be even better. All I have to base that on is an advanced preview held after the Los Angeles motor show last month. But Mercedes was making all the right noises. No hint of a compromise to the wafting two-seater's legendary rolling comfort; just less weight, greater torsional stiffness, better powertrains, greater longevity. And the cleverest windscreen wipers in automotive history, oddly enough.