MERCEDES-BENZ HAS SET THE STAGE for an exciting clash in the U.S. luxury market sales battle.

To date, Mercedes has the upper hand on arch-rival BMW, or the two are in a standoff, depending on how 2011 sales are counted.

But American consumers have yet to see key '12 products such as the revamped C-Class sedan, next-generation CLS550 and CLS63 4-door coupes and the SLK coupe and roadster.

Not counting Smart sales, the tri-star brand chalked up 75,152 deliveries through April for a 9.2% gain over like-2010, according to Ward's data. That's 3,735 more than BMW, minus Mini-brand results.

Subtract Sprinter fullsize van sales from Mercedes and BMW is ahead, but by a mere 29 units.

Reigning luxury-segment champ Lexus, beset by supply-chain woes stemming from the earthquake that stunned Japan in March, is a distant third with a sales tally of 64,932.

“We'll be watching our cross-town rivals, as they're watching us,” spokesman Dave Buchko tells Ward's. “It should be fun.”