For those who may think that hybrid vehicles are underpowered, slow, noisy and difficult to drive, well the M35h model from Infiniti, the first in-house hybrid car from the premium brand is here to tell you that’s not the case, and you are wrong.
You see, this is the most powerful hybrid vehicle available today (of course there’s the new Ferrari LaFerrari but that’s not available yet … and of course, it’s something else) as at the end of 2011, the M35h broke down the quarter-mile track in 13.9031 seconds – same as the 1982 Lamborghini Countach S or 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera (13.6 sec).
Engine, hybrid powertrain and transmission
The 2013 Infiniti M35h uses the aluminum-made 3,498 cc V6 24-valve VQ35HR engine, the same engine that was found on the Nissan 350Z. The engine is rated at 303 hp (226 kW) @ 6,800, 358 Nm, and because this is a hybrid vehicle, there’s another electric motor that makes 67 hp (43 kW). Total output: 360 hp (268 kW) @6,800 and 358 Nm of torque.
But even more impressive is how the petrol and the electric motor work together with the 7-speed automatic transmission – because on most cases you’ll never know when the petrol shuts down and you’re only in electric mode, or when the petrol kicks in to recharge the 1.3-kWh laminated lithium-ion batteries and help you accelerate.
Of course the idea behind any hybrid car is to rely on electric as much as possible. We’ve tested this car for over 2500 km and let me tell you that I found myself many times going over 100 km/h in electric only.
There are four settings for the transmission: Snow, Eco, Normal and Sport. Of course we haven’t tested the car in Snow mode (it’s summer in here now, finally); basically in Snow, the car will reduce the number of shifts between petrol and electric motor to minimize slips in frosty weather.
In Eco mode the throttle feels strangled … feels like you have 60 – 70 hp. However if you push the peddle hard the car responds almost instantly (if it’s in Electric only it takes about 0.3 – 0.7 seconds until the petrol kicks in and the transmission moves to a lower gear). You also have an indicator on the dash that tells you if you’re driving economically or not – so if you push the pedal too hard it gets orange from green. We’ve tested the car in this mode in the city during rush hours with great results – but you have to learn how to use the throttle pedal to really achieve great results.
Rotating the driving-mode knob to Normal the car gets more active, as the throttle is not strangled anymore. There’s no Eco indicator anymore.
In Sport, (here gets interesting) the car engine and transmission gets very sharp and all its power from the petrol and electric motor is instantly available. As a result the M35h drives then more like a conventional gasoline-powered sports sedan. The automaker claims that there’s no mechanical friction when the petrol shuts down, and in sport mode the car is capable to 62 mph to 5.5 seconds. We’ve tested its acceleration capabilities at the Monza circuit and we’ve achieved 5.7 and 5.6 seconds during our tests.
Suspension, handling, breaking
First of all, keep in mind this is a big luxury sedan. So it’s heavy (it has 1.830 kg ).
This comes with Nissan’s “Electro-hydraulic Power Steering system”. Basically the motor is activated only when the driver is steering. It has the same steering ratio as other non-hybrid M models (16.9:1), but it doesn’t have the same feedback as a normal model. So what does this mean? It means that you have to “work” a little bit more with the steering when you are into a corner because the steering gets heavy and stays heavy sometimes for too long even if you are out of the corner (at medium and high speeds).
So you have to “understand” for a while how the steering works – and correct the trajectory often compared to a normal steering. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not bad, but for most drivers, at least at the beginning will be a little “difficult”.
The suspension of the M35h is softer. The vehicle comes with only one type of tires: 245/50-18, in our case Dunlop Sport Max 3D. The result: a smooth ride compared to other vehicles we’ve tested in this class, but with some drawbacks when it comes to dynamic performance, even if Infiniti installed some uniquely tuned shocks and anti-roll bars to the vehicle. But overall, they managed to find a good balance between a smooth ride and a competent handler.
Regarding its brakes, the vehicle stops firmly and in case of an emergency stop the seat belts will pull you back very fast. But the brake pedal modulation is quite touchy at low speeds when you are in electric mode. For example if you are staying at a red light and you lose the foot from the pedal, the vehicle, of course because of its automatic transmission will begin to move forward slowly. Push the brake pedal again as gently as you can and sometimes the car stops instantly, not as gently as you want; so what I mean here is that these brakes sometimes have an on/off character. Also the same thing happens when you are descending in electric mode.
According to the automaker, the M35h “eats” 9.0 l/100 km in the city and 5.6 l/100 km outside. Infiniti also tells us that combined, the M Hybrid consumes 6.9l / 100km. To test this we’ve started our two-days trip from Milan (Italy ) to Nice – France. 350 km. To get back we decided to go from Nice to Monte-Carlo > Menton > San Remo and then back to Milan. In two days we’ve done approx. 830 km with 62 liters of fuel. The result: 7.4 liters / 100km. Impressive for a car that has 268 kW (364 hp).
We’ve also tested the car during rush hours in the center of Milan: 10.2 /100km in Eco Mode. Again, impressive.
In Europe, Euro NCAP hasn’t tested this car. However the hybrid was tested by NHTSA in the United States and received 5 stars. So we don’t expect to perform poorly in case of a crash. It comes with Blind Spot Intervention, Intelligent Cruise Control with Low Speed Following, Blind Spot Warning in addition to Intervention, Distance Control Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention systems, and as if this wasn’t enough, it offers Intelligent Brake Assist, too.
Also, because this is a hybrid and many times we can’t hear the vehicle coming, Infiniti fitted the vehicle with a standard audible pedestrian warning system. Called VSP or Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians – this will emit non-intrusive sound that varies in pitch and volume at vehicle speeds up to about 20mph. In English it sounds like this: Beep Beep Beep … You got the point…
The quality in this vehicle is at high standards. Just to give you an idea: it comes with a silver-powdered finish to the wood panels. There’s nothing “cheap” in this car. Almost every surface is covered with leather, wood or real aluminum. The instrument cluster is very clear, and the center console, even if at the beginning looks complicated, is very intuitive and easy to use; almost everything has its own button, so you don’t have to lose minutes to go inside complicated menus. Also the touch screen is very clear and clean – very intuitive and easy to operate. The only “problem” is that they fit the all-in-one control knob too high so you can’t rest your arm while operating it.
As expected, a hybrid needs space for its batteries; so it loses some trunk space, but the automaker says it still fits four golf bags. With no folding rear seats the M35h’s cargo room leaves a little to be desired. Then again, its competition is no better.
Likes / Dislikes
Great acceleration, impressive fuel economy and an “individual design”. There’s almost no noise inside the cabin even at speeds over 150 km/h and it doesn’t make you feel tired after a long trip.
The transmission and hybrid system is great, it is almost instant and when the petrol kicks in, it does in a very delicate way if you don’t push the pedal too hard – with no vibrations at all. At the same time, if you push hard the acceleration you don’t need any music – the engine has a great sound.
The ride is very comfy for all passengers. There’s a lot of space for back passengers and the innovative Forest Air System that emulates the air of the natural environment is great. Also it comes with one of the best navigation systems we’ve ever seen; it’s almost impossible to miss the correct direction.
Of course there are some drawbacks. There is no light in the central deposit compartment and the all-in-one control knob is positioned too high on the central console, so you can’t rest your arm while operating it. Other than this, like I said before you have to “learn” how to operate the steering and the brakes.
Overall if you are in the market for a big luxury sedan that is eco-friendly and has allot of power we encourage you to give it a try – you might be surprised how well this car goes.
|Technical details – 2013 Infiniti M 3.5h|