Fans of the Infiniti M line now have a powerful hybrid to consider with the 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid that goes on sale in two weeks – March 16. Infiniti, the luxury division of Nissan, just released the base price for its hybrid addition at $53,700 ($54,575 with $875 shipping charges). Considering that consumers are showing increasing interest in hybrids and electrics, Infiniti may have a winner on their hands.
What you get: power and performance
Luxury car buyers want excellent performance and handling along with all the first-class amenities they can get for a price that doesn’t go stratospheric. With the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid – model designation M35h – Infiniti delivers a rear-wheel drive luxury hybrid sedan with the power of a V-8 and the fuel economy and efficiency of a four-cylinder.
The powerplant for the M Hybrid is a 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine plus Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid System featuring one-motor (50-kilowatt), two-clutch parallel hybrid powertrain with electronically-controlled seven-speed automatic transmission with adaptive-shift control for a combined 360 horsepower. Launching from zero to 60 mph takes less than six seconds. Peak engine torque is 258 pound-feet, and peak electric motor torque is 199 pound-feet.
The Infiniti Drive Mode Selector, which allows the driver to choose between four driving modes (standard, sport, snow or eco), controls throttle responses and transmission shift points. Hill start assist is also standard on the Infiniti M Hybrid.
As for fuel economy, the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid achieves an EPA-estimated 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway. On the Infiniti website, a comparison with the Lexus GS 450h shows Infiniti M Hybrid coming out the winner, both in horsepower (360 versus 340 for the Lexus hybrid) and highway fuel economy (estimated at 25 mpg for GS 450h).
Infiniti M Hybrid uses a lithium-ion battery to provide for fast switching from power to discharge, essentially doubling the power density of older nickel-metal hydride battery technology. The result, says Infiniti, is smoother performance delivered more efficiently. The lithium-ion battery is also lighter and more compact than nickel-metal hydride, allowing for more trunk space in the Infiniti M Hybrid – 11.3 cubic feet (slightly better than the 10.3 cubic feet in Lexus GS 450h).
A regenerative braking system recaptures energy normally lost during braking and uses it to charge the lithium-ion battery.
In addition, the Infiniti M Hybrid features a hybrid electric power steering system that combines hydraulic and electric components to provide precise and natural steering feel – perfect for navigating switchback roads or maneuvering in heavy traffic.
Infiniti says the M Hybrid is the first of a new generation of luxury performance hybrid vehicles it plans to offer.