INFINITI M35H PREVIEW DRIVE
Vehicle type: Large Luxury Sedan (hybrid)
Price: TBA – launching in August
Power: 225kW petrol engine | 50kW electric motor
Combined system output: 268kW
Torque: 350Nm petrol engine | 270Nm electric motor
Fuel Consumption: 6.9l/100km (NEDC combined)
The Infiniti brand may not be relaunching onto the Australian market until August, but earlier this week TMR was given a sneak peak (and drive) of the M and FX ranges on the roads surrounding Queenstown, New Zealand.
Representing the M model range at the event was the M35h petrol-electric hybrid saloon. This is the flagship drivetrain option, sitting above the 3.7 litre V6 petrol M37 and 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 M30d versions.
The M35h models we drove were UK-spec cars with instruments displaying miles-per-hour and minor ADR-specific detail differences to the eventual Australian models.
Despite Infiniti’s intention not to emulate traditional premium brands, comparisons with the similarly-sized and specced E-Class, 5 Series, A6 and GS will be hard to avoid.
In the case of the hybrid M35h, it would appear to go head-to-head with Lexus’ GS450h petrol-electric hybrid, and likely to rival BMW’s upcoming ActiveHybrid 5-Series.
The M35h’s interior design-aesthetic distances it from other luxury brands, and nor does it compare to any other current Nissan product available in Australia.
Its swooping interior lines combine with impressive quality, with a great variety of materials, textures and colours on most surfaces.
Also impressive is the three-dimensional centre stack, which brings the HVAC controls to the driver’s hands and eyes.
The faux wood applied to the test vehicles featured a unique tonal colour treatment faintly reminiscent of sunburst classic guitar designs.
Space is plentiful front and rear, as is headroom for rear seat occupants.
Due to the packaging of the lithium-ion hybrid battery cells, the cargo area is quite short, but there’s good depth - enough for at least two sets of golf clubs as depicted by the advisory decal in the boot area.
Specification-wise, Infiniti was keen to assert that the models present were suggestive rather than indicative of Australian production models.
Beyond a full complement of modern luxury features and technologies, the tested M35h’s featured some ‘surprise and delight’ features like servo-assisted seatbelt reels and the ‘Forest Air’ element of the climate control system, which emits a subtle perfume and circulates air mimicking a natural breeze.
On The Road
The M35h’s headline act in terms of road performance is definitely its Guinness World Record acceleration figure (for a hybrid passenger car), having clocked 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds during UK testing - 0.4 seconds faster than the Lexus GS 450h.
This may surprise anyone who has spent time at the wheel of a GS450h - as the M35h doesn’t quite deliver the shove in the back that the GS450h driveline does from rest.
The M35h’s electric motor delivers maximum torque from 1770rpm (electric motors generally produce maximum torque from zero rpm). Infiniti however has deliberately moderated torque output from rest.
The M35h features three dial-actuated drive modes, Sport, Normal, and Eco, which vary the aggressiveness of the throttle response, and therefore energy response.
One novel feature of Eco mode is the feedback it provides through the accelerator pedal; it gives a metaphoric slap on the wrist - or foot, in this case - if the system judges your throttle input as excessive.
The Infiniti hybrid system uses two automated clutches along the driveline to permit the engagement and disengagement of the petrol or electric motors. This differs from the Lexus GS450h’s planetary gear arrangement.
Beyond blistering acceleration - it is untroubled by hills and effortless when overtaking - the M35h impressed as a luxury saloon.
The ride is very refined and comfortable with good noise insulation from the coarse chip alpine roads on the drive loop.
The feel from the electro-hydraulic steering is less than perfect. Although on-road feel is a step-up from Lexus, it distinctly trails BMW.
First Drive Verdict
At this stage, we don’t have a verdict to give. TMR will bring you a more detailed and definitive appraisal of the entire Infiniti M range after the brand’s August launch - and on local roads.
However, the M35h is impressive on a number of levels: it’s beautifully finished, comfortable, with muscular appealing lines and brisk on-road performance.
If the Australian pricing is right, the brand will send a tremor through the luxury segment.
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