First Drive: 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid infiniti hybrids first drives
2012 Infiniti M35h. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2012 Infiniti M35h

Vernon, British Columbia – A few years ago we ran a small event here at Autos.ca to debunk the common belief that hybrid equals ‘slow’. With Hemi vs. Hybrid we showed that a hybrid (the Lexus GS 450h) could be both fuel efficient and fast – and that a Hemi (a Chrysler 300C with Multi-Displacement System) could be both fast and fuel efficient. It all depends on how you use your right foot.

Contrary to common belief, a gasoline-electric hybrid system is not exclusively about saving fuel, although it can be if designed that way. While Toyota has taken both approaches – fuel efficiency vs. power boosting – other manufacturers have seen the power potential in hybrids. Fuel efficiency is an added bonus.

Other forms of power boosting – turbocharging and supercharging, for example – increase power by forcing air into the combustion chamber and balancing the air/fuel ratio by adding additional fuel to the mixture. Adding a high torque electric motor to a drive-train doesn’t increase fuel consumption like turbocharging and supercharging, but reduces it because the motor assists the gasoline engine all the time – at rest, at idle, under light load and at wide open throttle.

First Drive: 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid infiniti hybrids first drives
2012 Infiniti M35h. Click image to enlarge

While Honda was probably the first manufacturer to take this approach with its V6-powered 2005-2007 Honda Accord hybrid (if you can find one of these, keep it; it didn’t sell well), it is the luxury manufacturers who have embraced the concept. Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche now sell a variety of powerful and fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles.

The latest to embrace the philosophy is Infiniti with the 2012 Infiniti M35h. The Infiniti M mid-size sedan was completely redesigned for the 2011 model year with two new and larger V6 and V8 engines in the M37 and the M56 with rear and all-wheel drive.

The M35h uses the previous generation’s 3.5-litre V6 engine, operating on an Atkinson cycle, which produces 302 horsepower. Combined with a 50 kilowatt electric motor, the combined output of the hybrid system is 360 hp. The V6 has 258 lb.-ft. of torque, while the electric motor contributes 199 lb.-ft. of torque, giving the M35h impressive off-line and 80-120 km/h power.

First Drive: 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid infiniti hybrids first drives
2012 Infiniti M35h. Click image to enlarge

Fuel consumption, as rated by Energuide, is equally impressive; with a city driving rating of 7.5 L/100 km and highway rating of 6.1 L/100 km, it is considerably less than M37’s 11.4 L/100 km in the city and 7.6 L/100 km on the highway, while offering 30 more horsepower.

The hybrid system, called the Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid system, combines the V6 engine with a 7-speed automatic transmission and a single electric motor that is located between the engine and transmission in a parallel configuration. There are two clutches – one that disconnects the gasoline engine from the electric motor when the car is in electric drive or power regeneration modes, while the other is located between the motor and transmission.

The electric motor replaces a torque converter and 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.

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