Infiniti M Hybrid Performance
The 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid offers a combination of power and fuel economy that other luxury large cars can’t match. Reviewers say that its 3.5-liter V6 and electric motor make the M35h almost as quick as Infiniti’s non-hybrid M37, yet if you’re light on the gas, the M Hybrid is capable of accelerating on electric power alone. Transitions between gas and electric motors are smooth, and the M Hybrid puts power to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission – a plus if you dislike the continuously variable transmissions often fitted to other luxury hybrids. On the downside, most reviewers don’t like the M Hybrid’s Eco mode, which increases fuel economy, but also makes the M Hybrid feel sluggish.
The regenerative brakes in this Infiniti also receive mixed reviews from test drivers, but most like the way the M35h steers and handles. It’s no sports car, but the M Hybrid offers a balanced ride that’s neither overly soft nor too firm.
- "A button on the center console allows you to switch driving modes: a fuel-sipping eco mode, which we absolutely couldn't stand because it felt as if there was a Coke bottle stuck under the gas pedal; a sport mode, which after our drive we felt should be the default position, and standard and snow modes.” -- AutoWeek
- "Just the faintest of shudders can be felt when the transmission transitions from pure-EV to gasoline mode, and the brakes still feel linear and direct despite the system’s by-wire complexity and added effect of the regenerative braking.” -- Car and Driver
- "Electric-only operation is smooth and silent and the sensation of extra vehicle mass, while noticeable, does not dominate the M Hybrid's feel on the road."-- Edmunds
- "When you do crave that extra grunt, the sleeping gas engine under your right foot is ready to awake in an instant. Further, the hybrid doesn't lack for sportiness -- hit a corner aggressively and it feels much like a sport package-equipped M37, plowing mildly but remaining tractable and collected.” -- Motor Trend
- "Infiniti did away with the second motor altogether, opting instead to position a single electric motor between the 3.5-liter V6 and seven-speed automatic transmission via a two-clutch system (similar to the system in the Volkswagen Touareg). One clutch separates the engine from the electric motor and the second makes up the gap between the motor and the transmission. This makes for a considerably smoother transition between all-electric, gasoline-electric and all-gasoline power. And it means that recharging the battery doesn't yield a twitchy brake pedal.” -- Popular Mechanics
- "Interestingly, the M35h is not alone as an executive-class hybrid. Last year, BMW released its ActiveHybrid 7, and Mercedes-Benz previously launched the S400 hybrid. But of these cars, Infiniti really has the best hybrid system. It not only features idle stop, but it also is able to propel the car under electric power alone, and it gets the best mileage of its competition. It doesn't hurt that the M35h is the cheapest of the lot, either.” -- CNET
Acceleration and Power
Like the Lexus GS Hybrid, the Infiniti M35h uses its electric motor to boost power and increase fuel economy by using a system that’s similar to that in the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid. A 3.5-liter V6 is paired to an electric motor that’s sandwiched between the engine and seven-speed automatic transmission. Combined, this system is good for 360 horsepower, 20 more horses than the Lexus, and the M Hybrid is capable of propelling the car on electric power alone if you’re easy on the gas.
Reviewers generally like the system and the power it provides. They say that the M Hybrid feels nearly as quick as the M37, and that transitions from gas to electric power are smooth. You can choose between Sport, Normal and Eco driving modes in the M35h, which adjust throttle sensitivity and gear shifts. Reviewers like Sport and Normal modes, but say that the fuel-saving Eco mode makes the M Hybrid extremely sluggish.
The EPA has not yet posted fuel economy data for the M Hybrid on its site. However, Infiniti states in a press release that the M35h has been officially rated by the EPA with 27/32 mpg city/highway fuel economy. These averages are considerably better than its main hybrid competitor, the Lexus GS 450h, which gets 22 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. If the M Hybrid isn’t quite for you, look to the Mercedes E350 Bluetec and the BMW 528i. Neither of these rivals can match the M35h’s power, but the Mercedes and the BMW get 22/33 and 22/32 mpg city/highway fuel economy, respectively.
- "Gently feathering the throttle straight out of the parking lot, we only got three blocks before the internal-combustion engine kicked in, not the 1.2 miles Infiniti said it'll do, but that all varies depending on the battery pack's state of charge.” -- AutoWeek
- "Although the M35h seemed to spend much more time burning gas than electrons, we were flabbergasted by the stats that the computer gave us on the completion of our short drive. In 33.7 miles of mostly city stop-and-go driving, the M ran in electric mode for 14.2 of them. That is indeed pretty close to 50 percent.” -- Car and Driver
- "The discrete shifts from the seven-speed gearbox make for a very natural driving experience as the revs climb with vehicle speed. If you've ever been irked by the seemingly arbitrary rubber band-ness of CVT-equipped hybrids, you'll love the M Hybrid.” -- Edmunds
- "Lean into the throttle and acceleration is immediate and smooth; it gently jostles you back into the supportive throne. While the hybrid doesn't feel as quick as the M37 and certainly not as brisk as the 4.6-second-to-60 M56, don't throw this hybrid into the pile of boring gas-electric road machines just yet.” -- Motor Trend
- "On the highway, the M hybrid gets an estimated 32 mpg, while the city number is expected to be 27 mpg, for a combined rating of 29. Both of these numbers make the new M hybrid the best in its class, and super impressive for a car with a net output of 360 bhp.” -- Road and Track
- "It's not quite as fast as the mighty V8-packing M56, but with the gas pedal pinned to the floor and both the engine and motor humming in coordination, the car is quicker than you'd expect.” -- Popular Mechanics
- "To maximize EV time, the car features an Eco mode, accessible with a dial on the console. Eco mode detunes throttle response to a sometimes frustrating degree. Forget about any sort of satisfying acceleration, the M35h will barely get out of its own way.” -- CNET
Handling and Braking
Reviewers are generally glad to report that the M35h handles much like the gas-only Infiniti M. Despite the absence of the Sport Package, which is available on the M Hybrid’s gas-only siblings, the M35h handles well for a luxury large car, splitting the difference between posh luxury and sports-sedan agility. One reviewer even comments that the M Hybrid’s weight distribution is better than the gas model, thanks to the battery pack that lives behind the back seat.
The M35h’s steering system also garners positive reviews from the automotive press, but reviewer opinion on the brakes is somewhat mixed. Some reviewers say that the regenerative brakes used in the M Hybrid felt natural – a plus for these types of brakes, which can often feel synthetic and grabby. Other test drivers, however, think that the braking system feels weird.
- "Although the brakes can rip your dentures loose if you’re not judicious with the pedal, the system feels more or less natural -- at least by Infiniti standards.” -- Car and Driver
- "Since the brakes are juggling the duties of regeneration and stopping, the pedal response is somewhat synthetic-feeling.” -- Edmunds
- "The M Hybrid also employs a new electro-hydraulic power steering system -- another fuel-saving, world's-first technology. Power assist comes from hydraulic pressure and is controlled by an ECU and motor drive that operate only when steering assist is called for. As we felt during our short flogging, the helm proved smooth, weighty, and precise.” -- Motor Trend
- "Further putting the M35h in the efficient luxury camp more than sport luxury is the suspension, which is sprung soft. Infiniti also doesn't take the M35h's tech so far as to offer an active suspension. Sway bars keep the car reasonably stable under hard cornering, but as a fixed suspension, Infiniti had to find a compromise setting between rigid and soft.” -- CNET
- "The non-sport suspension (only modified for the higher curb weight) gives the M35h surprising sure-footed agility. Thanks to the batteries hidden behind the second row of passengers, the weight distribution of the hybrid is actually better than that of its siblings.” -- Autoblog