The exterior is handsome enough, if a little underwhelming, although I do like looking down the hood over those sweet front fender bulges. The interior’s quite impressive, though: soft-touch leather seats, handsome design and wood trim with silver powder impregnated in it, which looks much better than it sounds. There are a lot of buttons, but the audio and navigation systems are easy to figure out. Especially nice is an Infiniti exclusive called “Forest Air,” which includes special filters and humidity control. Once the cabin’s at the set temperature, the system alternates airflow through the dash vents to simulate a breeze that’s surprisingly refreshing.
2012 Infiniti M35h. Click image to enlarge
Nissan loves its technology, and the M35h is stuffed with it. The adaptive cruise control regulates the distance from the car in front, and while a few of these systems are still a bit jerky, this one has very smooth operation. A blind spot warning system lets you know if there’s a car alongside, a forward collision warning beeps if you’re too close to the car in front, and the lane departure warning will tell you if you’re drifting across the line. The car takes it a step further with its lane departure and blind spot prevention systems: if you ignore the warning and continue to creep over, the system will apply the brakes lightly on one side, guiding you back into your lane. You can shut most of these systems off if you prefer, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the rapidly expanding number of electronic nannies that automakers are introducing. In theory, they should be an extra pair of eyes to help for the odd time that drivers, being human, make mistakes. In practice, I fear that drivers may come to depend on them, figuring that it’s okay to text or play with the stereo controls, since the car will warn if traffic has stopped up ahead.
The battery resides in the rear, so the trunk is shallower than on the gasoline-only M models (320 litres for the hybrid, versus 422 litres for non-hybrid). I don’t golf, so I’ll have to take Infiniti’s word that you can still put four golf bags into the trunk, but I had no problem bringing home a week’s groceries with some room left over.
The big question, of course, is whether you should pop for the M35h’s extra cost. You can’t get an apples-to-apples comparison to its rear-wheel drive siblings, because the option packages for the gasoline-only models that add most of the M35h’s standard technology can only be added to the all-wheel models. The M35h then sits in the middle price-wise, its $67,300 tag between the M37x equipped with the package at $63,800, and the M56x which shoots up to $73,800 with it.
If it’s tough to get the purchase price back out of a Prius with its fuel savings, it’ll be pretty much impossible with the M35h when compared with its conventional V6 sibling. According to the Canadian government’s official fuel figures, the annual gasoline costs for the hybrid are $667 less than with the M37, but the M35h is $14,900 more than the base M37. By those numbers, expect a return after 22 years. (There’s an annual $989 savings for the hybrid over the eight-cylinder M56.) The M35h is pretty much the definition of premium: you buy it because you want it for what it is. And what it is, is a very nice interpretation of what gasoline and electricity working together can do.
Pricing: 2012 Infiniti M35h
Crash test results