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2013 Infiniti M35h Rocky Mounrtain Review By Dan Poler

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2013 Infiniti M35h

By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

2013 Infiniti M35h

First introduced in 2012 and carried over unchanged for 2013, in the M35h Infiniti has managed to combine uncompromising performance with a host of smart fuel-conserving technologies, a unique combination in the luxury sedan segment. We recently had the opportunity to spend a week with the M35h, and here’s what we found.

On the outside, the M35h looks essentially the same as a gas-only M, wearing only distinctive “HYBRID” badging forward of the front doors. Infiniti’s tasteful corporate shape and brand was applied to the M in a 2011 redesign, and we see gentle roundings and curves everywhere we look.

Inside the cabin, we find nothing but great attention to detail. The Japanese white ash wood trim has a beautiful grain, and care has been taken to ensure that the grain matches direction where pieces meet. Materials everywhere are super-soft to the touch, including the color-matched headliner and the semi-aniline leather of the seats and tastefully applied to the door panels.

Unlike many recent luxury brands which have chosen to move to touchscreen or dial-based control systems for navigation, phone, and radio, the Infiniti model still depends mostly on physical buttons. We find that we prefer this setup – while the result of this choice is a button-heavy dashboard, controls are generally logical and easy to control without taking attention from driving. There are a couple of curious choices in control placement – why is the steering wheel heater toggle closer to the driver’s knee than it is to the steering wheel? – but these minor inconveniences are easy to adapt to.

Another nice touch is Infiniti’s Forest Air system, which adds humidity and odor control to the climate control setup, as well as providing for gentle modulation of airflow to make heat and A/C feel more natural and less industrial.

Being a hybrid, the batteries have to go somewhere – Infiniti has placed them essentially at the back of the trunk, under the rear window. This spot is a logical choice as it certainly helps with weight distribution, although at the expense of trunk space – the M35h has a tiny trunk for a car of this class, just 11.3 cubic feet, and the rear seats do not fold down.

Driving the M35h is a thrill – remember, of course, that this is the car that is marketed as besting a Porsche Panamera Hybrid to 100mph and in the quarter mile. Power from the electric motor and the V6 are smooth; as with many hybrids there is a momentary hesitation when you put your foot down as the gas engine engages, but it’s minor and something easily adapted to – consider it akin to minor turbo lag. Once the M35h is going, though, it feels like a car much smaller than it actually is, handling like a proper sports car. We did notice a tendency for oversteer, not surprising given the amount of power headed to the rear wheels.

Overall, we were able to achieve about 29 MPG in our time with the M35h. A few weeks ago we reviewed an Infiniti G37 xS Coupe – smaller car, but powered by the 330hp 3.7-liter V6 that also makes an appearance in the M37 – we achieved 22 MPG during our time with the gas-only G37, so clearly the hybrid powertrain is doing what it should. Our test model included the Technology Package, which in turn includes Infiniti’s Eco Pedal option. When the car is placed in “Eco” mode, the Eco Pedal setup will cause the accelerator pedal to push back at the driver when, in the car’s estimation, the driver is not driving economically. It’s a neat feature, but we found driving with the Eco Pedal to be tiring and frustrating – in the hopes of improving fuel economy, Eco Pedal is of course tuned conservatively, and far too much so to deal with the steep grades of roads in the Mountain West. We found ourselves fighting the Eco Pedal far more than we were working with it.

Unlike many manufacturers that place a steep premium on their hybrid vehicles, the M35h is priced between the M37 and V8-powered M56 and at a base trim price of $54,650 represents an excellent value. If you’re looking for performance with conscience, the M35h is deserving of your consideration.

2013 Infiniti M35h

Base Price:  $48,600.00
Price as Tested:  $66,245.00
Engine Type and Size:  Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid; 3.5L V6 + Electric
Horsepower:  360 (net)
Torque (lb-ft):  258 (V6 engine); 199 (electric)
Transmission:  7-speed automatic with manual shift mode
Wheelbase / Length (in):  114.2 / 194.7
Curb Weight:  4,136 lb.
Pounds per HP:  11.5
Fuel Capacity (gal):  17.8
Fuel Requirement:  Premium Unleaded
Tires: Michelin Primacy MXM4;  P245/50VR18
Brakes:  Ventilated Disc 
Suspension, front/rear:  Double wishbone / Multi-link
Ground clearance (in):  6
Drivetrain:  Rear-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG 
city / highway / observed: 27 / 32 / 29
Base Trim Price:  $54,650.00

Options and Charges

Technology Package: $3,050.00 (Blind spot warning and Blind spot intervention, Lane departure warning and Lane departure prevention, Intelligent cruise control, Distance control assist, Intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning, front pre-crash seatbelts, active trace control, eco pedal)

Deluxe Touring Package: $3,900.00 (Japanese white ash wood trim with genuine silver powder accents, Semi-aniline leather appointed seating, Bose digital 5.1-channel 16 speaker premium audio system, Forest air system, Suede-like headliner, Soft double-stitched meter hood, Power rear sunshade)
Premium Package: $4,200.00 (Infiniti hard drive navigation system, 8-inch WVGA color touch-screen display, Infiniti voice recognition, NavTraffic and NavWeather, Zagat Survey restaurant reviews, Infiniti Connection, Rear sonar system, Climate controlled front seats, Heated steering wheel)

Delivery: $895.00

Price as tested: $66,245.00