The “H” Stands for Hot | The 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid

February 2012 View more

Photos courtesy of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Hybrid vehicles have certainly been with us long enough to have lost their novelty. They also have lost their single-minded focus on fuel economy. So given the wide range of cars (and SUVs) that carry a badge with an “H” or a little green leaf, it’s clear that buyers who would never before have chosen a hybrid might now find one to their liking.

NMAG0212_For_The_Road_3On one end of the spectrum are hybrid cars (we’re looking at you, Prius) that awake from automotive slumber every morning with the sole aim of delivering as many miles per gallon as possible. These are cars whose owners accept so-so driving performance as a necessary and virtuous trade-off for frugal fill-ups.

On the other end of the spectrum are hybrid cars that count on their electric motors to deliver performance above their cylinder count. You might, for example, get 12-cylinder excitement with the fuel consumption of eight, or eight-cylinder performance with the fuel economy of a typical six (or four) cylinder engine.

Take a look at the picture above, and you can have two guesses as to which side of that gulf has a reserved parking space for the 2012 Infiniti M35h.

This is Infiniti’s first hybrid, and it hews closely to Infiniti’s standard template: Gorgeous lines, uniquely luxurious interior, and high performance.

Two clues to the M35h’s sporting intentions are invisible to the casual observer. The first is its rear-wheel-drive powertrain. The second is its standard all-season performance tires—just like on a typical gas-powered Infiniti M sedan (and exactly the opposite of the low-resistance, lower-traction rubber you’ll find on a “typical” hybrid). The M35h needs that grip, too, because in “sport” mode it delivers the type of “where’s-that-grab-bar?” performance that Infiniti drivers tend to favor.

Maybe now is a good time to mention that Guinness World Records certified the M35h as the fastest-accelerating “full hybrid” car. (Honest. You can look it up.)

With 360 horsepower—302 of which flow from the 3.5-liter V6 gas engine—the M35h has potent propulsion potential. Track tests have pegged the 0-to-60 sprint at about 5.5 seconds, or just a few clicks behind the V8-powered Infiniti M sedan. That’s plenty quick.

But wait: 0-to-30 runs have been clocked at just over two seconds, meaning that a lot of the M35h’s speed hits right away. In a straight line, that type of acceleration is as exhilarating a sensation in a hybrid as it is in any vehicle. The M35h’s accelerator is a somewhat difficult to modulate, though, so turning a corner to merge onto a busy road can be a bit unnerving. Consider dropping down into “normal” mode to quell the power just a bit.

So Infiniti clearly delivers on its assertion that the M35h delivers V8 power. But what about the four-cylinder fuel economy? Well, the “h” may stand for honest: The EPA estimates that the M35h will reward you with 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway. That’s impressive in its own right, and especially so given that the M35h bests the V6-powered M37 model in both performance and fuel economy (18 city, 26 highway).

Pricing for the 2012 Infiniti M35h starts at $53,700, which compares favorably to the V8-powered M56 model’s $59,100 sticker. There is just one trim level for the M35h, but the extensive option list ensures that buyers can make it their own. Beware a surprise at checkout, however: If you want the $3,000 technology package, you have to commit to the premium package ($3,350) and the deluxe touring package ($3,800)—so your price tag will actually be more than $10,000 higher.