From the outside, the only indication that this M is a hybrid is from its badges. There are no extra aero aids (although underbody cladding and higher tire pressure reduce the coefficient of drag from 0.27 to 0.26), there are no goofy spoilers, and the tires are the same wide Michelin Primacy MXM4s from the M37 -- no skinny, rock-hard, handling-averse low-rolling-resistance tires.
There's not much of a visual difference from behind the wheel, either. It's the same gorgeous cabin that's draped in leather and wood. A charge/assist meter has appeared in the instrument cluster where the coolant temperature gauge once was, and there are some additional lights and displays -- but you won't see an LCD panel with a tree growing leaves while you pretend you're saving the planet in your hybrid.
The driving experience, too, is largely unchanged, except for the subtleties. First, the M35h is fast -- very fast. To our backsides, it's even quicker than the 330-hp M37 (which makes sense, given its slightly more favorable power-to-weight ratio) despite using the considerably longer final-drive ratio from the V-8-powered M56. Speaking of the 420-hp M56: thanks to the electric motor's massive torque, the M35h squirts off the line more quickly than it does. We suspect that, in an all-out drag race, the V-8 would eventually pull ahead, but the hybrid M feels just as powerful around town.
As usual, Nissan's VQ isn't the smoothest V-6, but the engine's grit is largely filtered out in the M and is more sonorous than the 3.7-liter variant in the M37. Its mechanical engine noise is well matched to that sweet VQ exhaust song that still makes pedestrians turn around and look.
MORE WEIGHT IN THE RIGHT SPOT
The heavy hybrid componentry leaves the 4129-lb M35h weighing 270 lb more than the M37 -- and 100 lb more even than the M56. The location of the mass, however, works wonders on the M's weight distribution: the M37 carries 54% of its mass on the front axle; the M56 wears 56% up front. The hybrid, by comparison, is far better balanced at 51% front, 49% rear.