High-Tech Features

Distronic Plus takes adaptive cruise control — of which Mercedes was a pioneer — to another level. Adaptive cruise uses a front-mounted radar device to maintain the following distance from the car ahead. The "Plus" means Distronic allows the car to come to a complete stop, then accelerate again when the lead car takes off. I found the feature effective to the point of being freaky more than 95 percent of the time. Unfortunately, sometimes a car turning away in front of me or a sudden bend in the road caused a surge in acceleration, which once caused a hair-raising lurch toward an oncoming car. Obviously, the system should be used with extreme caution, preferably in stop-and-go highway traffic, not when intersections are likely.

The package also has rear-mounted radar units that provide a blind spot warning in either side mirror when another car is in your blind spot, an increasingly common feature.

Less common is the Parking Guidance feature, which helps you parallel park. (Click on the video icon to the right to see a demonstration.) Unlike a feature first seen in Lexus' flagship sedan, the LS 460, Parking Guidance doesn't turn the steering wheel for you and back into the space; that requires electric power steering, which the CL lacks. Instead, graphics on the instrument panel show you exactly how far to back up and how much to turn the wheel in a few steps. It doesn't have quite the gee-whiz factor, but it beats Lexus in a few areas: It can measure parking spaces as you drive along at less than 10 mph, and it won't let you try to fit in one that's too small. It allows you to be closer to the parked cars when you start out (Lexus puts you farther into the street), and there's no complicated setup requiring the backup camera, which the Lexus requires. (Lincoln doesn't have a direct competitor to the CL-Class, but it bears noting that its optional parking system combines the best of the Lexus and Mercedes systems.)

Another cool option is Night View Assist, a night-vision camera mounted high in the windshield that displays an image on the instrument panel's LCD screen. It can see a larger area than your headlights illuminate, and because it can read heat signatures as well as light, animals and people really stick out in the image. Urban areas like Cars.com's hometown, Chicago, are bright enough that Night View Assist isn't truly necessary, but you could say the same of a $108,000 car. In the world of luxury cars, bragging rights are more important than necessity. Does your golf buddy's car have night vision? I didn't think so.

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