2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid Review and Test Drive


With V8 power and 4-cylinder fuel economy, the new Infiniti M35h hybrid challenges drivers to rethink everything they know about luxury sedan hybrids, including the word ‘compromise’.  What makes what was previously thought impossible is now possible with the Infiniti M Hybrid’s unprecedented balance of three attributes: Power-the innovative one-motor, two-clutch parallel hybrid system in the Infiniti M35h delivers thrilling performance and is capable of driving in pure electric mode at speeds up to 62mph; Luxury-maintaining the Infiniti M sedan’s engaging driving feel and extensive array of standard comfort, luxury and convenience features; Efficiency-utilizing the Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid system, with a powerful yet compact Lithium-ion battery pack, advanced 3.5 liter V6 engine, 50kW electric motor, connected to an electronic 7-speed automatic/sequential shifting transmission helps achieve an estimated fuel economy of 32mpg/highway and 27mpg/city with a net horsepower rating of 360.

The result is a vehicle that first and foremost delivers the exhilarating and refined power of a V8, with the fuel efficiency of a 4-cylinder engine.  Combined fuel economy of 29mpg is expected to be the best in class, and with its compact Lithium-ion battery, the new Infiniti M35h also delivers an uncompromised interior and competitive trunk space.

Taking its inspiration from the design and hybrid technology found in the breakthrough Infiniti Essence, the new M Hybrid is the only car you can buy today with more than 350hp and 30mpg.  As hybrid technology has gotten more sophisticated, so have hybrid consumers.  Where it was once enough to offer fuel efficiency alone, today’s hybrid consumers need performance and handling to go along with the ‘green’ attributes-and that’s where the new Infiniti M hybrid delivers like no other.

The top line message on the new Infiniti M Hybrid, the first true performance luxury hybrid sedan, is pretty easy to understand-cleaner, greener and faster.  With its high power output, Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid system technology and strong rear-wheel drive driving feel, it’s a true ‘driver’s hybrid’.

Key to the M35h’s inspired-and green-performance is an innovative yet elegantly simple gasoline/electric drivetrain, which ensures that zero-emissions electric propulsion is used more often, for longer periods and at higher speeds than in typical hybrids.  The M35h can drive on electric power alone at speeds up to 62mph.  It can travel on electric propulsion for up to 1.2 miles at a time.  Tests have shown that in mixed driving, the Infiniti M35h is able to drive in electric only mode for as much as 50% of the time.

The 3.5 liter DOHC 24-valve V6 combines with an electric motor and high-power battery to produce 360hp (hybrid system net power).  The M35h deploys it power in a manner entirely in keeping with Infiniti’s sport handling philosophy Infiniti owners have come to expect.  Both the gasoline V6 and electric motor deliver their power to the rear wheels via a 7-speed automatic/sequential transmission.

A new Hybrid Electric Power Steering system can help reduce fuel consumption by approximately 2%.  The single electric motor and compact Lithium-ion battery pack boost efficiency further by helping keep the weight gain over the M37 down to 276lbs.

The batteries are located behind the rear seat, but the M35h is one hybrid sedan with practical luggage room, with the trunk able to accommodate four golf bags or two large suitcases.

At the heart of the M35h is a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout based around an innovative drivetrain featuring a one-motor, two-clutch parallel hybrid system.  The technology, which was previewed in the Infiniti Essence concept, endows the M35h with linear power delivery, stirring acceleration and the responsive rear-wheel handling of a true Infiniti M sedan.  The system is called the Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid system.

Two new technologies are fundamental to the M35h’s broad-ranging abilities.  One is the Lithium-ion battery pack-quick to alternate between charging/discharging and, size for size, twice as powerful as conventional Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries.  The second is the direct manner in which the power is delivered to the rear wheels through the 7-speed automatic transmission.  This is central to providing the performance feel expected from a true luxury sports sedan.

The first of two dry clutches is a dry clutch installed between the 3.5 liter V6 and the electric motor.  It facilitates full decoupling of the V6 when the car is in electric drive and power regeneration modes.  Decoupling the V6 reduces mechanical losses and boosts efficiency of the electric motor.

The electric motor is rated at 50kW (67hp) and peak torque of 199lb.ft.  It acts as either a propulsion unit, alone or in tandem with the V6, or as a power generator.  As well as charging the battery in the normal way, the motor recovers energy otherwise lost during deceleration and braking.

The 302hp gasoline engine is Infiniti’s proven 3.5 liter V6.  It was chosen for torque characteristics (258lb.ft. at 5,000rpm) that perfectly complements the electric motor’s output.

The electric motor’s high torque from zero rpm provides strong performance from a standing start and contributes to the sporting feel.  As well as it fast charge/discharge response and 1.4 kWh capacity, the Lithium-ion battery pack is laminated to enhance the cooling performance.  Temperature stability is further improved by the use of manganese positive electrodes, helping to provide exceptional batter reliability.

Extra weight, the bane of many hybrids, is kept in check in the M35h by the lightweight batteries and features such as the single electric motor, no torque converter and innovative steering and braking systems, in addition to the strict weight-savings already integrated in the Infiniti M design (including extensive use of aluminum components).

It all helps to keep curb weight of the M35h at 4,129lbs.  The technology comes together to make a high performance hybrid that’s electrically power for more of the time, and at higher speeds, than competitors’ hybrids.  You really never feel like you are driving a hybrid vehicle because the power is so linear, always pushing you faster as you push on the throttle.  All that you notice is that the fuel tank stays at a higher level as you put on the mileage.

The new Infiniti M35h is equipped with the world’s first steering and braking technologies, which have been designed to deliver both environmental benefits and natural driving feel.  The steering is an electro-hydraulic system with ‘on-demand’ assistance.  It offers the advantages of both types of steering-the natural and smooth feel of hydraulic power steering and the improved fuel efficiency of an electric system.  The assist motor cuts in only when the steering wheel is turned, further boosting efficiency.  The system is more compact and lighter than traditional power steering setups, achieved by integrating multiple parts.

The Electric Driven Intelligent Brake System is similarly designed primarily to suit sport sedan buyers’ needs, while at the same time contributing to the M35h’s efficient operation.  An electric booster motor is utilized to operate the brake cylinders, saving mass that would otherwise be added by a reserve pressure tank.  The primary benefit of the system is that by controlling both regenerative and friction braking, depending on motor operation and battery condition, the Infiniti M35h operates more efficiently-recovering otherwise wasted energy.  The simplicity of these elegant mechanical solutions, with their emphasis on compactness, lightweight and fewer parts, is made possible by advanced computerized control.

The Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid system offers an uninhibited immediacy that other hybrid just don’t have, even the more powerful models.  The M35h shows more power, with greater efficiency and a stronger feeling of connection than with other luxury hybrids that I have tested.  The seamless delivery of power and transition between gasoline engine and electric motor is seamless and remarkable.  Many times when traveling at high speeds I forgot that I was at the wheel of a hybrid vehicle.

The all-new M35h utilizes the proven FM (Front Mid-ship) platform, along with the M37’s independent double-wishbone design up front and multi-link independent system in the rear.  The suspension system also features front and rear stabilizer bars and double-piston gas-charged shocks that have been specially tuned for use with the M35h.  I tested a fully loaded M35h and it rode on custom 18X8 inch, tri-split, 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheels wrapped around Michelin 245/50R18 inch V-rated all-season performance tires for excellent traction and a smooth ride.

The new Infiniti M35h is also the world’s first hybrid to provide a standard feature to help alert pedestrians of its presence.  The new Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians (VSP) system uses a range of distinctive sounds to help alert other road users that the vehicle is approaching.  VSP automatically works from start-up to approximately 30mph, cutting back at approximately 15mph as the vehicle slows.  The noise sweeps from high to low frequency depending on vehicle speed and whether the Infiniti M35h is accelerating or decelerating.  It is loudest at start-up to indicate that the vehicle may begin to move forward, while an intermittent tone is used when reversing.

Like the gasoline engine-equipped M37, the new Infiniti M Hybrid features an elegant yet sporty exterior and interior design, like no other brand.  The exterior design is multi-layered, just like the body surface itself, which was conceived to mirror reflections from different angles to create a sense of mystery and allure.  Its balanced, rear-wheel drive proportions and wide stance, with a long, low hood and high rear deck, provides a roomy cabin, uncompromised by the M Hybrid’s compact battery’s location.

The deep body shape of the fenders and doors give the M sedan a powerful look unlike anything on the road.  The wave-style doors are constructed from aluminum for light weight, despite the material’s difficult formability.  Other exterior features include an expressive, signature Infiniti double-arch upright low grille and crystal-look headlight clusters, 18 inch alloy wheels, and a wave-like trunk with a high aerodynamic performance that works like a spoiler to increase downforce and rear stability.

Standard features include power sliding tinted glass moonroof with one-touch open/close, tilt feature and sliding sunshade, automatic on/off HID bi-functional Xenon headlights with windshield wiper interlock, dual exhaust with polished tips, power-folding/heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing variable intermittent wipers/washers and courtesy lamps built into the outside pull-out door handles.  An adaptive front lighting system (AFS) with auto-leveling headlights is available as part of the Technology Package.  My M35h came with all of the options available.

Inside, the Infiniti M instrument panel features hybrid-unique instrument meters, meter display and IT screen displays, providing battery and other essential system information.  It allows drivers to view hybrid system and available navigation system information simultaneously.  Fine Vision electroluminescent gauges, gear-like rings on the instrument cluster meters and Infiniti analog click complete the elegant design.

The interior of my M35h also features comfortable and supportive leather-appointed, heated/cooled/10-way powered driver and front passenger’s bucket seats including 2-way power lumbar support and dual occupant memory system for the driver’s seat, steering wheel and outside mirrors.  An entry/exit assist system for the driver’s seat and steering wheel, sequential welcome lighting illuminated entry system and dual-zone automatic climate control system also contribute to the M’s outstanding level of standard luxury appointments.  Standard technology equipment includes Bluetooth, Infiniti Intelligent Key with Illuminated push button start/stop, HomeLink and RearView Monitor.

Other interior highlights include a large center console with dual cupholders, ashtray and lighter, deep and wide two-tiered storage bin with padded armrest, one-touch up/down power windows/door locks, power trunk release, grab handles above each door, dual map lamps, rear air vents for the rear seats, pull-down rear armrest with dual cupholders, dual lighted vanity mirrors, storage slots in each door, self-dimming rearview mirror, retained accessory power, XM satellite radio with AM-FM-CD radio data system with six speakers, USB connection port for iPod interface, leather-wrapped/power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls/speed sensitive volume control/adaptive cruise control buttons.

The M35h also features a standard Active Noise Control system, which generates ‘canceling’ sound from four door speakers (and subwoofer for models equipped with a Bose sound system) to reduce unpleasant engine harmonics when they occur.  The Premium Package also adds an Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation system with an 8 inch WVGA color touch-screen display, XM NavTraffic with Real-Time Traffic information, XM NavWeather with Real-Time Weather and 3-day forecast, Zagat Survey Restaurant guide and a 9.3GB Music Box hard drive.

My test M35h came equipped with the Deluxe Touring Package that adds the Bose Studio Surround Sound system with digital 5.1-channel decoding and 16-speakers including two personal speakers located on the shoulders of each seatback top, power rear sunshade, unique quilted seat pattern with contrasting piping and additional seat bolstering, suede-like headliner and premium stitched instrument cluster hood.

The Deluxe Touring Package that came with my M35h test vehicle also features semi-aniline leather and specially developed soft touch materials for the armrests, door inserts, center console and kneepads.  The Deluxe Touring Package’s genuine White Ash wood trim has been enhanced with real silver powder.

The Forest Air system, first introduced on the Infiniti M, attempts to recreate the refreshing climate and natural breezes of a relaxing forest setting.  System sensors automatically open and close air intake ports to reduce the intrusion of dust, exhaust or unpleasant odors into the cabin, while the special Grape Polyphenol filter and Plasmacluster air purifier help filter allergens, mold and viruses out of the cabin.  Humidity control prevents the over-drying of air from the A/C, while Breeze Mode provides a natural airflow feeling, gently and subtly varying the airflow from the upper and front air vents.  The new M35h’s cabin is one of the most technologically advanced in the segment.

Like the M37, the M35h is available with a number of innovative technologies including Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) systems and Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Blind Spot Intervention (BSI) systems, all of which are available as part of the Technology Package that my M35h came with.  Other available safety features include Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Front Pre-Crash Seat Belts.

In addition, the M35h comes equipped with standard Infiniti Advanced Airbag system with dual-stage front airbags with seat belt sensors and occupant classification sensor, standard front seat-mounted side impact supplemental airbags, and standard roof-mounted curtain side impact airbags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection.  Also included are standard 3-point seat belts with automatic locking retractor and emergency locking retractor (driver’s seat only), front seat active head restraints with 4-way manual adjustments, along with Zone Body construction with front and rear crumple zones and the LATCH system for child seats.

Wow!  The new Infiniti M35h has it all to keep you and your passengers happy whether on a short or long drive.  It comes with every conceivable creature comfort, high-tech gadget interface, awesome audio system, incredible navigation system and the ride-you’ll forget that you are getting more than 30mpg combined when you are behind the wheel because this hybrid drives and handles like a luxury sport sedan powered by a gasoline only engine.  The new M35h is the choice for luxury sport sedan consumers looking to lesson their impact on the environment and get 30+ mpg.





  • Price: Base Infiniti M35h $53,700.00 As-Tested $65,395.00
  • Wheelbase: 114.2in.
  • Total length: 194.7in.
  • Total width: 72.6in.
  • Total height: 59.1in.
  • Track: f/r-62/61.8in.
  • Brakes: f/r-12.6in. vented discs/dual piston calipers-r-12.1in. vented disc/single-piston calipers, ABS, BA, EBD
  • Fuel tank: 17.8 gallons
  • Ground clearance: 6in.
  • Coefficient of drag: 0.26
  • Headroom: f/r-39.1/37.7in.
  • Legroom: f/r-44.4/36.2in.
  • Passenger volume: 103.6cu.ft.
  • Turning circle: 36.7ft.
  • Curb weight: 4,129lbs.
  • 0-60mph: 5.9 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 27mpg/city, 32mpg/highway