Almost everything. Not only is this our first chance to drive Infiniti’s new M-line BMW 5-Series and Audi A6 rival, but also the brand’s first hybrid production car. While parent company Nissan has sold hybrid cars in the US using technology licensed from Toyota, the M35h is the first car within the group to use a new system developed in-house.
What’s it like?
Although our test drive was short and on a track it gave an opportunity to gauge how the M range will stack up against its European competitors for interior packaging and refinement. First to arrive in the UK is the petrol M37, with the diesel M30d arriving in the autumn. The range topping Hybrid model won’t arrive before 2011.
The M marks a continued upward trend in the quality of Infiniti interiors, with most materials sufficiently upmarket. A new BMW 5-series is more consistent in its quality, but, in my opinion at least, the M has a more interesting shaped and well-equipped cabin. The driving position, despite the wide transmission tunnel, is good. Although the rear cabin offers decent legroom, it is worth noting that at 4945mm the M35h is longer than the equivalent BMW or Mercedes.
Compared to Lexus’s GS450h, Infiniti’s hybrid system is technically more simple however this does mean that it weighs less and is more economical to produce.
Still it is possible to pull away on electric power alone, and in theory the M35h can be driven on its electric motor up to speeds of 60mph. However in practice this is unlikely given the 1.3Kw capacity of the lithium-ion batteries and the fact that much more than 20 per cent throttle has the petrol cutting in.
While the transition is perceptible, it is well managed, and because the M35h uses a conventional automatic gearbox, albeit one with a clutch rather than torque converter, it is spared the CVT whine normally associated with hybrid drive. Instead under hard acceleration you get the rather pleasant sound of Nissan/Infiniti’s 3.5-litre V6, except with slightly more performance that you’d normally except.
Although Infiniti are yet to release official performance and consumption figures, it has confirmed that the M35h will outperform the petrol for acceleration and the diesel for fuel consumption. Which means a 0-60mph time close to six seconds, over 34.0mpg and a sub 200g/km Co2 figure.
With such performance it is perhaps surprising that the M35h will only be available in Infiniti’s comfort orientated GT specification, with a maximum wheel size of 18in.
And if there was a disappointment in our brief test it was that the M35h lacked a little of the dynamism we have come to expect from Infiniti. There is still a discernable rear-drive bias, but the M feels heavier and less agile. Perhaps a consequence of the extra 120kg the hybrid system adds. However Infiniti Europe may yet tune the suspension before it goes on sale here.
Should I buy one?
Prices are yet to be announced, but the M35h will certainly be the most expensive model in the M range (that is unless Infinti choose to import the 414bhp V8 M56). Which means a price in excess of £40,000.
Whether it’s worth that much will have to wait until we can put its ‘jack-of-all-trades’ claims to the test, but so far it looks promising.