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Infiniti M35h GT Premium

Click to view picture gallery“Claimed to be the worlds fastest-
  accelerating hybrid saloon, Infiniti
s
  M35h does 155mph and runs the
  0-62mph sprint in just 5.5 seconds...


INFINITI IS THE PREMIUM BRAND from Nissan rather like Lexus is the premium brand from Toyota. But unlike Lexus, Infiniti does not aim to be a volume brand and sells only in 34 markets around the World with the USA being its most successful. Infiniti's current range of high-performance models includes saloons, coupés, convertibles, SUVs and crossovers.

Infiniti models are sold and serviced through a dedicated network of Infiniti Centres focusing on individual service to the customer. In the UK there are more counties than dealers —
Reading, London Piccadilly, Stockport, Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham and Hull. With a £46K price tag, customers are most likely to be business executives and highly-paid professional footballers and sports stars.

And you'll be lucky if you spot one on the road because just 374 Infinitis were sold in the first nine months of this year. For the record, 382 Infinitis were sold in the UK in the whole of 2011, so the brand is growing
although it remains very much a niche performer. However, expect to hear, and see, more because Infiniti have recently upped their PR with sponsorship of the Red Bull/Renault F1 team.

“All M saloons have
a top speed limited to
155mph but the
petrol-hybrid is much
the fastest for
zero to 62mph
acceleration — just 5.5 seconds
...”
Infiniti has also recently introduced a business-user version of their best-selling M four-door executive saloon into the UK; the new M35h Hybrid Business Edition is based on the M35h GT, and priced at £42,020.

Given the kind of customer the brand attracts, the £399 per month finance deal and 22% Benefit-in-Kind company car tax will be appealing.

Others will find the 'world's fastest accelerating hybrid saloon' tag something to brag about in 'mine's faster than yours' conversations.

My £45,990 test Infiniti was the M35h GT Premium that's a competitor to the likes of the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6, Jaguar XF and Lexus GS/IS models.

The Infiniti M range offers three engine choices: 315bhp 3.7-litre petrol V6; 359bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol-hybrid; and the best-selling 235bhp 3.0-litre diesel V6. All come with an automatic transmission as standard. Depending on the engine chosen, there's the choice of GT, GT Premium, S and S Premium levels of spec.

With the M35h petrol-hybrid costing just £1,840 more than its diesel-powered GT Premium counterpart, it makes quite a lot of tax and fuel cost sense to go the petrol-hybrid route. Thanks to the low CO2 emissions of 159g/km (against 199g/km for the diesel), company car tax is a very reasonable 22% for the high performing hybrid executive saloon. Road tax for the hybrid is £170 a year compared to the diesel's £460 first year rate (but which reduces to £250 for the second year onwards).

The petrol-hybrid officially returns 40.9mpg in the Combined Cycle; the diesel 37.7mpg —
and both are much better in terms of running costs than the 27.7mpg petrol.

All M saloons have a top speed limited to 155mph but the petrol-hybrid is much the fastest for zero to 62mph acceleration at just 5.5 seconds; the diesel takes 7.5, the petrol 6.2.

All M four-door saloons are roomy and have a very high level of equipment as standard no matter what spec is chosen. All are beautifully built. And they all have the same long bonnet, pronounced front wings, wide front track, coupe side profile and wide shoulder rear wheelarches with sculptured side sills linking the body shape together.

“All M four-door saloons
are roomy and have a
very high level of
equipment as standard
no matter what spec
is chosen.
And all are beautifully
built
...”
It's an imposing executive saloon, its styling projecting a strong sports image. On the downside, the hybrid's lithium-ion battery pack, positioned behind the rear seatbacks, eats into the boot space — giving you 350 rather than the non-hybrid version's 500 litres for luggage. Beneath the load floor, thankfully, there's a space-saver spare wheel and not an inflation kit.

The specification for GT models includes a seven-speed automatic transmission with Normal, Sport, ECO and Snow modes. Hybrid versions also have an 'approaching vehicle' sound warning system for pedestrians!

Kit includes premium leather upholstery, heated and ventilated climate-controlled powered front seats, heated steering wheel, Bi-Xenon adaptive front lighting with cornering headlights, cruise control, 18-inch alloys, AirCon and power windows and mirrors.

The GT Premium model adds blind spot warning, forward collision warning, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning, 'Forest Air' climate control, 30GB navigation system and a superb 16-speaker Bose surround sound system.

The M35h impressed me by its eerie interior quietness —
down to its silky smooth 302bhp V6 petrol engine and the silent 67bhp electric motor which is embedded within the transmission. As well as powering the car when needed, the electric motor acts as a generator and starter motor and it recovers energy normally lost during deceleration and braking. This system also does away with the need for a torque converter as used in many conventional automatic transmissions.

Gear shifts were generally seamless and the move from petrol-only drive to petrol-electric to electric-only was not noticeable. Only the rev-counter needle dropping to zero and the tiny EV light coming on indicated that electric power-only was in operation.

Just as surprising,
and impressive, was how often the M35h could automatically switch to using just electric motor power and at speeds up to 60mph. When the car was under light cruising mode, even on a motorway, seeing the EV light on with no petrol being used was financially comforting.

Most of the time I used the ECO mode setting which, given our congested roads, really isn't a hardship. With the usual A/B road traffic all moving at speeds around 50mph, you really do not need dynamic performance.

“Cruising at high
motorway speeds in the
ECO mode, 2,000rpm
maintains 80mph.
Overall the fuel economy
covering motorways,
A/B country roads and
the usual stop/start town
traffic was 33.4mpg
...”
And cruising at high motorway speeds in the ECO mode, 2,000rpm maintains 80mph. Overall the fuel economy covering motorways, A/B country roads and the usual stop/start town traffic resulted in 33.4mpg — not the 40.9mpg official figure, but still impressive for a high-performance petrol-electric hybrid executive saloon.

The ride comfort was generally pleasing and much better than BMW/Audi 'sports' spec competitors, although the rear-wheel drive Infiniti's handling was less direct and the responses not as sharp.

That said, switching from ECO to Normal brought the car to life; and from Normal to Sport really lit the fuse —
the acceleration is stunning and faster than a BMW 535i M-Sport saloon. I'm not sure if any other executive saloon sheds its ECO mode to 'sports' performance so quickly and so easily.

Reasons to drive one: Very clever and efficient compact petrol-electric hybrid propulsion system, financially advantageous tax savings for a petrol-powered executive car, high performance, smooth, quiet, comfortable, and high equipment levels.

Against: Foot-operated parking brake, small number of service centres, battery pack limits boot space.

In terms of technology I would rate the Infiniti M35h as 'very interesting'; the way the electric motor is positioned within the transmission is clever, and it works really well —
and there's no bulky electric motor taking up more space in the engine compartment or in the boot.

If only battery manufacturers could reduce the size and weight of the battery packs then this form of hybrid electric boost power would be an even larger step forward. However the Infiniti hybrid system is in itself a significant step towards hybrid technology becoming an intricate component in all drivetrains no matter what the car is, just like it has in F1 racing. —
David Miles

Infiniti M35h GT Premium | £45,990
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 33.4mpg
Power: 302+67bhp | Torque: 258+199lb ft | CO2 159g/km