First Drive: 2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid US Spec

TRUNK SPACE
Thanks to the battery, the M35h's trunk space decreases from 14.9 to 11.3 cu ft. With no folding rear seats and a trunk smaller than a Nissan Versa's, the M35h's cargo room leaves a little to be desired. Then again, its competition is no better.

THE COMPETITION
Pricing hasn't been announced -- or even finalized -- yet, but you can safely expect the M35h to slot between the M37 ($47,925) and the M56 ($59,325). We're hoping the pricing comes closer to the M37, as the M56's pricing isn't, in our opinion, a bargain.

Then again, the M35h's only real competitor in the marketplace is the $58,925 Lexus GS450h. The Lexus quotes a similar total system output of 340 hp, but with EPA ratings of 22 city, 25 highway (23 combined), it gets clobbered by the new Infiniti. And its trunk is even smaller. And the Infiniti is vastly more fun to drive.

The fast, frugal, and fabulous diesel-powered BMW 335d is a full size smaller and starts at $45,025, and it can't even match the M35h's 29-mpg EPA combined rating. (The BMW achieves 23 city and 36 highway for 27 mpg combined.) Our experience with the 335d has resulted in highway fuel economy slightly better than the EPA rating, so on the open road, BMW's diesel will consume less fuel. In more typical mixed driving, though, the larger Infiniti M takes the lead.

BUH-BYE V-8?
Nothing against the M56's lusty V-8, but the M35h renders that car irrelevant for most buyers. The electric motor's torque provides better grunt than the V-8, which is too soft in the low end of its rev range. Sure, the V-8 will probably win at the quarter-mile track, but using 35% less fuel in EPA testing, we think the M35h is the real winner. For all but the hardest-core luxury sport sedan buyers, anyway.

When we drove a prototype M35h last year, Infiniti promised that its first hybrid would provide the fuel economy of an economy car with a 1.8-liter engine. The M35h does that. What Infiniti failed to tell us, however, was that its system wouldn't ruin the behind-the-wheel experience. And it doesn't. That's even more impressive than its fuel economy.

Transpower
Pretty good, Nissan, but give us AWD, a folding rear seat, and a bigger trunk. And why not use a CVT?
loopless
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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