2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid Sedan: First Look

  • Competes with: Lexus GS 450h, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
  • Looks like: An Infiniti M sedan with a couple of extra gauges
  • Drivetrain: 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 plus 50-kW electric motor for 360 net horsepower; 376-volt lithium-ion battery; seven-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Spring 2011

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 the Nissan Altima Hybrid, which is available in limited markets. According to Infiniti, the as-yet-unpriced sedan will achieve 25/30 mpg city/highway, though official EPA ratings aren't available yet.

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Using a single electric motor and two clutches, the Direct Response Hybrid system's mileage characteristics are closer to those of Honda and Hyundai. Their hybrids' higher mileage comes in highway driving. Competitor Lexus' hybrids get better city mileage. Infiniti points out that the combination of 360 net horsepower and 30 mpg is unmatched in the market.

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.

Through the use of a compact lithium-ion battery, a type that remains rare in hybrids, the M35h sacrifices minimal cargo room: The gas-only M's trunk volume is 14.9 cubic feet, and the hybrid's measures 11.3 cubic feet. The cabin dimensions are unchanged.

Along with the usual power-flow display and charge-assist gauge, the M35h debuts a unique feature, a pedestrian warning system. Inspired by a similar feature on the Nissan Leaf all-electric car, the M hybrid emits "distinctive synthesized sounds" once the car takes off and up to 20 mph to warn pedestrians that the otherwise quiet car is approaching.

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