2012 Infiniti M35h
2012 Infiniti M35h. Click image to enlarge
More Infiniti M reviews on Autos.ca

Manufacturer’s web site
Infiniti Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2012 Infiniti M35h

Earlier this year, Nissan introduced its 2012 Leaf, the first all-electric car from a mainstream manufacturer to go on sale in Canada. It’s almost enough to make hybrid technology, which combines a gasoline engine with an electric motor fed by a high-capacity battery, seem so “last year.” But even as electric vehicles are set to be the next big thing for saving fuel, hybrids remain the alternative power vehicle type of choice here in Canada.

One of the latest of these comes from Nissan’s own upscale Infiniti brand: the M35h. Based on the brand’s flagship M sedan, the M35h ditches the 3.7-litre engine that powers other six-cylinder M variants and instead plugs in a 3.5-litre that makes 302 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That engine is matched with an electric motor rated for 67 hp and 199 lb.-ft.; Infiniti says the total power available is 360 horsepower, a number that slots in nicely between the 3.7-litre’s 330 hp and the 420 hp from the available 5.6-litre V8 (used in the M56).

2012 Infiniti M35h
>2012 Infiniti M35h
2012 Infiniti M35h. Click image to enlarge

In lower price ranges, hybrids tend to be slow, designed primarily for efficiency with the implied suggestion that enthusiasts look elsewhere. In the luxury hybrid field, though, you’ll find cars designed both for pragmatists who value day-to-day efficiency along with high-performance abilities. As such, speed comes easily for the M35h. Its electric motor generates some serious low-end push when big acceleration is called for, and the result is a powertrain that feels like a turbodiesel at lower engine speeds without giving up the high-rev thrills that the M37 and, more so, the M56 provide. In normal acceleration, the electric motor generates enough torque that the engine rarely exceeds 2,000 rpm. The lovely exhaust note at wide throttle openings is a nice touch carried over from the M’s gasoline-only models.

As much as this car is capable of sport sedan performance – hybrid or not – Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system provides adequate electric-only capacity for what most would consider near-normal acceleration on side streets. With a well-charged battery, it’s easy to cruise around suburbia up to about 40 km/h, making it possible to turn into your neighbourhood, ease off the throttle to transition into EV (electric vehicle) mode and make it all the way home without lighting up the gas engine. That kind of ability alone also lends itself well to mall and big-box parking lots, and makes a big difference in fuel consumption.

Unlike other recent hybrids, ranging from the Prius to the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, the M35h doesn’t have a driver-selectable EV mode; the car’s electronics do all the work of deciding when to run on battery juice alone, though it can be influenced by a gentle right foot.

Connect with Autos.ca