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2012 Infiniti M35h Road Test Review

2012 Infiniti M35h Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

Until recently, the idea of driving a hybrid vehicle left only a few choices. Choose one and don't expect to be coddled, or forget the idea. That was before Infiniti decided "hybrid" shouldn't condemn someone to living primarily basic to be planet friendly. And before the 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid made its debut.

What a novel idea. Take a luxury car, add on all the bells and whistles, kick out the old internal combustion engine and replace it with your own advanced technology system to boost one's driving miles by hundreds between fill-ups without losing the punch of driving fun. And wait for the disenfranchised sporty luxury car buyers to discover it's there.

Infiniti was in an ideal position to sidestep the ruts of average and move to something special. Infiniti's parent Nissan already had the plug-in electric, four-door Leaf in the wings designed for popular consumption. Nissan probably didn't need the existing midsize Altima hybrid sedan, built on borrowed technology, that wasn't gaining widespread recognition anyway so was quietly dumped this year. And while some other hybrids have upscale adds including navigation systems, high tech audio with plugins, and leather trimming for style, they mostly weren't from luxury car providers aiming to break the brass ring barrier with enough visual flash, driving dash and pampering excess -- depending on options -- to make waves.

The M35h definitely is a hybrid contender, but it's doubtful it will ever eke the most energy out of a single drop of premium fuel. We don't see it as a hybrid that forces the driver to balance every tap on the accelerator against an electronic flow chart that raps one's knuckles for falling below an arbitrary best mileage bar.

Just looking at the M35h can set you in motion. The seriously low ground effect, bulbous nose and streamlined rear deck all scream sportscar, despite its four-door design. Inside a dual cockpit interior wraps across the dash, separated by a loaded, high tech console. Only a small, classic analog clock seems in contrast to the fresh, contemporary feel.

On the road, the M35h can ride silently, electrically, to about 50 mph. To preserve pedestrians -- a rare species in some areas -- it emits a soft hum to caution an auto is there, rather like a deer horn on some forest-bound vehicles.
  
The foundation of the rear-drive, 27/32/29 EPA rated M35h demands respect and driving anticipation. The 3.5-liter, 302-HP engine mated to a 67-HP electric motor isn't your normal hybrid power plateau. The seven-speed automatic has a hybrid rarity - manual shift mode.

Plan on $53,700 base for the privilege of buying in. But a healthy wallet can add much more for those who can't resist upmarket packages. Dream shop adds? Try tri-split 18-inch wheels, auto leveling headlamps, heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, Bose 16-speaker surround sound, fresh air purifier, intelligent cruise control with distance control assist, blind spot warning and intervention, intelligent brake assist, three-day weather forecasting  and (gasp) many more distinctly non-hybrid toys. You might call that playtime for a price.

For more information on the Infiniti M35h, click here.

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