First Drive: 2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid US Spec

Fuel prices are on the rise again, and so maybe you're thinking it's time to downsize your mid-size performance-luxury car. Perhaps something like a Honda Fit. Since you like to make a statement, you're also looking at the Nissan Cube. The turbocharged Nissan Juke has a bunch more power, so maybe that teensy compact crossover is on the shopping list, too.

Ugh, but downgrading to an entry-level car is just so difficult. Perhaps the Mini Cooper is the way to go-or even better, the John Cooper Works version. It has performance, fuel economy, and a premium sticker. And, like all of the other cars listed, it gets around 30 mpg in the EPA combined testing.

Or you could just buy the new 2012 Infiniti M35h and not downgrade anything. You'll save just as much fuel. That's right, at an EPA-estimated 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway (29 mpg combined), the Infiniti M35h does just as well as the Honda Fit (30 mpg), the Nissan Cube (28 mpg), the Nissan Juke (29 mpg), and the JCW Mini Cooper (28 mpg.)

The Infiniti M35h also has lots of things those little cars don't: 360 horsepower, for one. A big, roomy back seat, for another. One of the prettiest and most elegant interiors in the business, for a third. But let's get back to those 360 horses.

The M35's gasoline engine is a 3.5-liter VQ-series V-6 producing 302 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. For greater efficiency, it runs on the Atkinson cycle, and it does without the VVEL infinitely variable valve-lift system on the M sedan's other engines. It's backed up by a 50-kW (67-hp) electric motor that produces 199 lb-ft of torque.

Sandwiched between the engine and the seven-speed automatic transmission, the motor eliminates the need for a torque converter. It's powered by a 345-volt, 96-cell battery pack. Using lithium-ion instead of nickel-metal hydride batteries, the 1.4-kWh battery pack weighs only 99 lb.

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Pretty good, Nissan, but give us AWD, a folding rear seat, and a bigger trunk. And why not use a CVT?
You know , I believe those mileage claims when I actually see someone get them in the real world. Typically (e.g. Lexus 450h etc) these hybrids never get even close to the numbers claimed unless you are pottering around town like an old lady.

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