Auto Review: Sport sedan muscle, hybrid efficiency
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Sep. 6, 2012
There are times when automobile manufacturers like to combine contrasting design ideas and challenges, and build a car that does some pretty unexpected things. Nissan’s flagship Infiniti division, for example, has recently taken two concepts that seem at odds with each other (high-performance and fuel economy) and found engineering solutions that can meet the needs of these two ideas and ultimately create something very unique and entertaining.
This week’s beautifully-sculpted sports sedan is the Infiniti M35h, which is the hybrid version (gasoline engine plus electric motor) of the athletic M series sedans that blend great road manners and performance with the latest in technology and upscale appointments.
Infinitis have always had a unique presence in the ever-expanding class of sport/luxury sedans and SUVs, and as if the existing line of cars wasn’t interesting enough, this new hybrid adds a whole new wrinkle to this family of intriguing automobiles.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this rather striking hybrid, I want to again mention that the body surrounding the mechanicals is a real eye-catcher, with elegant (yet aggressive) lines and a long, 114.2-inch wheelbase. The hybrid powertrain is unusual compared with most on the market in both layout in execution, starting with a 3.5-liter V6 coupled with a 50kW electric motor mounted longitudinally (most hybrid systems are arrayed in transverse fashion in the engine compartment). Total output is 360 horsepower, and the car runs on the engine, motor, or both together and uses a seven-speed automatic transmission, as opposed to a constantly variable transmission found on most hybrids. Also atypical are the drive wheels, as the M-series is a performance sedan that incorporates a rear-drive platform instead of front-wheel drive. The battery pack that powers the electric motor is a Lithium-Ion unit featuring some of the latest technology, and is recharged by either the engine or regenerative braking.
All this produces a performance car that can scoot to 60 mph in 6.34 seconds, with brakes that can bring it to a halt from that speed in 103 feet. Handling is sharp and ride quality is firm yet compliant over rough surfaces with a true luxury car feel to the rock-solid chassis. The only downside is a power transfer glitch, when the transition from the electric motor and gas engine is often awkward compared to the flawless experience you get from every other aspect of the car. It’s not a deal-breaker; it just stands out because of the substantial refinement the rest of the sedan delivers.
Interior appointments are first-class, and seat comfort is excellent both front and rear, with the kind of coachwork that verifies this is a true luxury car with a premium price. It is also a very unique one, what will all that performance and a hybrid drivetrain that delivers an EPA rating of 27 MPG city/32 highway (we observed 29 MPG in a week of fairly enthusiastic driving). The 2012 M35h Hybrid has a base price of $53,700. With extensive options, our sticker came to $65,395. www.infinitiusa.com