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.