Due at dealerships in spring 2011, the 2012 M35h is Infiniti's first hybrid, and parent company Nissan's first homegrown hybrid technology after many years of selling a Toyota-derived system in Nissan Altima Hybrids in limited markets. According to Infiniti, the sedan will achieve 25/30 mpg city/highway, though official EPA ratings aren't available as of this writing. The midsize luxury hybrid's main competitors are the Lexus GS 450h and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
Apart from badges, the M35h has no features to distinguish it from the gas-only M37. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust pipes, xenon headlights and power-folding heated side mirrors are standard.
When compared with the gas-powered M37 and M56 sedans, the M35h's cabin dimensions are unchanged. Through the use of a compact lithium-ion battery pack, a type that remains rare in hybrids, the M35h sacrifices minimal cargo room: 11.3 cubic feet of trunk volume versus the gas-only M's 14.9 cubic feet — though the trunk isn't exceptionally large in this vehicle class to begin with.
Standard interior features include leather upholstery, ash wood trim, keyless access and start, Bluetooth connectivity and moonroof. XM Satellite Radio is standard but requires a subscription. A navigation system is among the available options.
Along with the usual power-flow display and charge-assist gauge, the M35h debuts a unique feature, the first audible pedestrian-warning system on a hybrid. Inspired by a similar feature on the Nissan Leaf all-electric car, the M hybrid emits "distinctive synthesized sounds" once the car takes off, up to 20 mph, to warn pedestrians that the otherwise quiet car is approaching.
Under the Hood
The Infiniti hybrid system combines a 302-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with a 50-kilowatt electric motor and 376-volt lithium-ion battery pack for 360 net horsepower, and it drives the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Using a single electric motor and two clutches, the Direct Response Hybrid system's mileage characteristics are closer to those of Honda and Hyundai, whose higher mileage comes in highway driving. Competitor Lexus' hybrids get better city mileage.
Infiniti says the car can drive on electric power alone up to 62 mph and as far as 1.2 miles. In mixed driving, the car runs in electric mode as much as 50 percent of the time.
Like the gas-only M sedans, the M35h comes with six airbags, active front head restraints, antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system. Blind spot and lane departure warning systems are optional. So is Infiniti's Lane Departure Prevention system, which employs light braking to keep the M37 from drifting into an unintended lane. New this year is an optional Blind Spot Intervention system, which attempts to keep the M in its own lane — using similar braking techniques as Lane Departure Prevention — should it detect the car moving toward traffic in the driver's blind spot. Optional adaptive headlights can swivel a few degrees in the direction of a turn. The adaptive cruise control system can warn the driver and pre-load the brakes for faster response, should it detect rapidly slowing traffic ahead.