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We report the light-current (L-I), spectral, and far-field characteristics of quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) with seven different wavelengths in the λ=4.3 to 6.3 μm range. In continuous-wave (CW) mode, the narrow-stripe (≈13 μm) epitaxial- side-up devices operated at temperatures up to 340 K, while at 295 K the CW output power was as high as 640 mW with a wallplug efficiency of 4.5%. All devices with λ≥4.7 μm achieved room-temperature CW operation, and at T=200 K several produced powers exceeding 1 W with ≈10% wallplug efficiency. The data indicated both spectral and spatial instabilities of the optical modes. For example, minor variations of the current often produced nonmonotonic hopping between spectra with envelopes as narrow as 5-10 nm or as broad as 200-250 nm. Bistable beam steering, by far-field angles of up to ±12° from the facet normal, also occurred, although even in extreme cases the beam quality never became worse than twice the diffraction limit. The observed steering is consistent with a theory for interference and beating between the two lowest order lateral modes. We also describe simulations of a wide-stripe photonic-crystal distributed-feedback QCL, which based on the current material quality is projected to emit multiple watts of CW power into a single-mode beam at T=200 K.