YOUNTVILLE, CA – The redesigned ’12 Mercedes-Benz CLS lineup promises to get you there quicker than the models they are replacing, so the auto maker felt obliged to light the way more efficiently.

Mercedes says the new CLS 550 and CLS 63 AMG are the first production cars in the world to feature active light-emitting-diode headlamps.

Active headlamps, which illuminate curves in the road ahead by turning in concert with steering-wheel movement, have been on the market for several years. But until now, they have featured bi-Xenon lighting.

The CLS applications mark the first use of LEDs. “They produce a light closer to natural light,” says Bret Melillo, assistant product manager at Mercedes-Benz USA.

“LED light is 5,500 degrees K,” he adds. “Natural light is 6,000.” Bi-Xenon light is cooler than what comes from LEDs.

The motives behind the switch are simple. “They draw less power,” Melillo says. “They also last a lot longer.

“From a customer perspective, for warranty, for liability standpoint, it’s more reliable than bi-Xenon,” he adds.

So expect more LED applications by Mercedes. “Eventually, you will see it trickle through,” Melillo tells Ward’s.

Even though LEDs emit less heat than other lighting systems, Mercedes also outfits the CLS headlamps with small fans to keep them cool in summer. And in cold-weather driving, warm air is circulated to clear the lenses.

The CLS headlamps are a complex, 3-layer affair. The top is home to LED turn signals, while the middle features a low-beam array encircled by a ring of LEDs that form the letter “C.”

The high beam is at the bottom of the assembly, framed by a row of LED daytime running lights located below the bumper.

The lamps move 15 degrees left and right as the driver negotiates turns. Such adjustments increase viewing distance by some 80 ft. (24.4 m), compared with conventional systems, Mercedes says.

The LED lamps are included in option packages. On the CLS 550, the package starts at $4,390 and includes items ranging from a rear-view camera to an electronic trunk closer.

CLS 63 AMG buyers will pay $3,690 and get additional features such as an active multi-contour driver’s seat.

The’12 CLS also marks the first Mercedes car application of electromechanical rack-and-pinion steering. The system is powered by an electric motor instead of a pump and its associated hydraulics.

Electromechanical steering will proliferate through Mercedes vehicles, replacing hydraulic systems “for sure,” Melillo says, because the technology improves fuel economy. “It’s up to 90% more fuel efficient,” he adds.

emayne@wardsauto.com