2012 Infiniti M35h Review

2012 Infiniti M35h

wasn’t sure what to expect when I first slid behind the wheel of the M35h, Infiniti’s newfangled, luxury-sport hybrid sedan.

But within a few clicks, I had two big, first impressions: this thing is awfully pretty; this thing is awfully fast.

M for Marvelous styling

This third-generation M sedan, introduced for the 2011 model year, has a promising future for Infiniti. Sales are steady, while both critics and consumers have universally loved its styling, which somehow manages to combine muscles and flowing lines. The inside is equally appealing, with exquisite detailing and colour combinations — way more inviting than its earnest German competitors.

For model-year 2012, the Infiniti added this $67,300 hybrid model. The M line starts at the $52,400 for the rear-drive, V6-powered M37, but the hybrid is similarly equipped as an all-wheel drive M37x model with the Deluxe Touring and Technology Package. Basically, you’re paying $7,300 for the hybrid option, and must live without all-wheel drive.

H for Holy smoke

The V8-equipped M cars start at $66,200 for the rear-drive M56. On paper, the hybrid can’t match the prodigious output of the 5.6L, direct-injection V8, but I’m here to tell you that the hybrid can provide just as much visceral acceleration fun as the bigger-engined car.

If you flatten the throttle from a full stop, it takes a few moments for the powertrain to sort itself out, but once hooked up, it heads for the horizon like a missile. It doesn’t even feel like it has a torque curve — just uninterrupted propulsion.

But I guess that’s what happens when you add a 50-kW electric motor, capable of 199 lb-ft of torque, to a V6 powertrain already making 302 horses and 258 lb-ft. You can’t access that electrical torque continuously — the lithium-ion battery is not as big as a house — but for short bursts, there is nothing like it.

Simple yet effective
Infiniti’s homegrown hybrid technology is a simple yet effective and elegant solution. Moving front to back on the powertrain, you’ll find: the north-south mounted 3.5L V6; a dry clutch which can decouple the V6 when the car is in electric drive and power regeneration modes; the electric motor itself; the 7-speed automatic transmission with another clutch, then a driveshaft to the rear wheels. There is no torque converter.

Infiniti says the setup keeps weight down, and makes more direct power delivery to those rear wheels.

To save more weight, Infiniti developed a new electro-hydraulic steering system and a new braking system with an electric booster. To aid steering feel, the assist motor only cuts in when the wheel is turned.

The 1.4-kWh capacity lithium-ion battery pack, located in the trunk area, is also light and was designed for fast charging/fast discharging.

Net result: the hybrid weighs 125 kg (or 275 lbs) more than a rear-drive M37, and trunk space has been cut down by about 113 litres (4 cubic feet), to 320 litres (or 11.3 cubic feet). If you like traveling in foursomes and need to carry luggage, trunk space could be an issue.

On the road

M35h is capable of driving solely on electric power to speeds up to 100 km/h. But you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to reach that speed without the gas engine firing up; I couldn’t do it. Maybe I should have tried it on a decline. It’s a heavy car and not a huge electric motor, so you don’t have to squeeze the throttle too much to awaken the V6.

But I don’t think the powertrain was designed for that kind of electric driving. Rather think of it has a vehicle with a cool “creeping” mode in traffic, a fantastic “go fast” mode for passing and boredom relief, and an all-electric “cruising” mode for about 2 kilometres at a time; it’s a brief, but serene experience.

The M is already a very quiet vehicle. An M in all-electric mode is, well, quieter. All you hear is road noise, the stereo and the air conditioning.

The only glitch in the hybrid powertrain, from my perspective, is how the vehicle downshifts just before it “auto stops” the engine at intersections, and in traffic. I thought it could be just a tad smoother. And sometimes at startup, I thought it took a moment or two longer to do some software math, before determining the launch sequence — but only a few times.

The M35h’s fuel economy number that really impresses is highway efficiency — 6.1L/100km or 46 mpg! The city and combined numbers aren’t too shabby either — 7.5L/100km (38 mpg) and 6.9L/100km (41 mpg), respectively.

Like all hybrids, M35h features a regenerative charging system, which adds some resistance when you get off the throttle, and a different feel to the braking, but neither impacts the great driving experience. The new steering system also seems fine, and the overall sportiness of the chassis is perfectly intact in this hybrid model.

Lap of luxury

2012 Infiniti M35h

We’re going to finish up by rattling off just some of the M35h’s technological features and creature comforts, because otherwise we’d be here all week.

  • Audible Pedestrian Warning System (for that all-too-quiet EV mode)
  • Active Noise Control System
  • Lane departure prevention system
  • Blind spot warning and intervention
  • 16-speaker Bose 5.1 surround sound system with navigation and rearview camera
  • Japanese Ash wood trim with “real” silver powder
  • Heated and cooled seats
  • Forest Air System, with Breeze Mode and air purifying systems
  • Selectable “Eco” or “Normal” or “Sport” powertrain modes
  • Ash tray!


Everybody, and I mean everybody that I showed this car to, loved it — my mother, my kids, my great aunt, my neighbours, strangers…

And this was before they knew it was a hybrid, a specific type of hybrid that makes it more of a blast to drive, and incredibly fuel efficient for its size. If you’re in the market for a $60K-plus sport-luxury sedan, you need to check it out.