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.

At the end of the year there's a new S-class as well, and Merc rarely misses with one of those. Which, with my road test head on, makes me wonder. After the launch of the 3-series, they may have some catching up to do in the compact exec segment but by the end of 2012, how many of Autocar's other class league tables will Mercedes be topping? More than either of its German premium brand rivals? I reckon so.