Frank S. Washington, Fri, 20 Jan 2012 07:33:40 PST
TEXAS - Infiniti bills its 2012 M Hybrid as a luxury sedan with four-cylinder fuel economy and V8 power.
That might qualify as hyperbole - or not. But I can say that after 10 days of driving in Dallas and then to Houston and then back to the Big D, the Infiniti M Hybrid was a lot of fun. That's a verb I have never used in describing my time behind the wheel of a hybrid.
In a mix master of Interstates 30, 35 and 45 in downtown Dallas, I found myself repeatedly in the wrong lane needing to quickly get over lest I missed the entrance to the next Interstate. My point is that I needed power, I needed agility, I needed both immediately and I needed them repeatedly.
The car's street manners were better than average. Handling was precise, cornering was accurate and acceleration was outstanding. A quibble was that my test car did not have a lane changing signal. In the big metropolitan areas of Texas, where getting to the grocery store could involve an Interstate or a state highway, I found that lack nettlesome.
Still, the 2012 Infiniti M35h sedan had a 3.5-liter V6 and one electric motor. Together they generated 360 horsepower for the rear-wheel-drive hybrid. The car had a seven speed automatic transmission and a Lithium-ion battery energized the electric motor.
This battery had twice the oomph of a comparable Nickel-Metal Hydride battery and it weighed less. The weight saving, the car weighed a scant 276 lbs. more than a standard M35, translated into better gas mileage and the agile handling that I talked about earlier. It had an EPA rating of 27 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway.
The Infiniti M Hybrid's battery was housed behind the rear seat. I think it curtailed the amount of cargo space. That was my other quibble but it happens when a regular model car is converted to a hybrid. The battery takes up space and the car get's heavier because of a regenerative battery that can weigh several hundred pounds and the electric motor or motors.
What Infiniti called a one motor two clutch system delivered power and allowed the 2012 Infiniti M35h to operate in full electric mode at speeds up to 62 mph. While using my test car's adaptive cruise control on I-45 to Houston, someone cut in front of me causing the car to automatically brake, my speed dropped from 77 mph to 60 mph, then the odometer plunged to zero, the EV (electric vehicle) light came on and for a second or two, at 60 mph, the car was in full electric mode.
Between Dallas and Houston, I-45 was pretty straight and it continuously sloped downward in long and gentle undulations. The Infiniti M35h tracked true, the suspension compression was firm without being harsh, I never felt the extra 276 lbs of weight and the car was pristinely quiet. I heard little road noise but there was no wind noise around the side view mirrors or from flowing over the roof.
I stopped in a picnic/rest area to take a few photos of my M35h and that's when I really noticed its wave design. A crease arcs from the corner of the headlight to the C pillar where it is met by a second arc that ends at the taillights. Those arcs gave the car a swept look of movement even while it was parked. My M car had a long hood, short rump and bulging fenders. It really did look good.
The wave motif continued inside. The dash curves around driver and passenger creating a dual cockpit. My test vehicle featured white ash would veneer that gave the interior a distinct elegance. The wood trim was carried onto the front and rear door panels and continued the swept look of the exterior.
I was particularly surprised by the spaciousness of the back seats and the audio speakers housed on the top of the front seats. There was an extensive compliment of creature comforts but I was impressed with the 2012 Infiniti M35h's power retracting front seat belts. It was nice not having to fiddle with my seat belt to get it to retract every time I took it off.
The sticker on my test car said $67,955. However, the price included three option packages: technology, deluxe touring, premium and an aerodynamic kit. Those packages accounted for more than $12,000 in options.
In other words, start with the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid's $53,700 and you can order it to your financial liking.