Infiniti M Hybrid, 2012: World’s fastest full hybrid combines performance, economy

James Raia

According to Infiniti, the 2012 M Hybrid luxury sedan features the performance of a V8 engine with the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder.

If this sounds too good to be true, consider the numbers: Infiniti claims 0 to 60 in well under six seconds, and up to 32 mpg. Could the M Hybrid be the automotive equivalent of having your cake and eating it, too?

The M Hybrid, or M35h, utilizes Infiniti’s new Direct Response Hybrid system, the first hybrid system developed fully in-house by Nissan/Infiniti. The system combines a 302 hp 3.5-liter V6 engine, a 7-speed automatic transmission, and a 50 kW electric motor powered by a lithium ion battery. Total output is a notable 360 hp engine with peak engine torque of 258 lb-ft.

2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid

Luckily, real world performance is as impressive as the numbers suggest. Stand on the throttle and the car launches forward with surprising haste, aided significantly by the electric motor’s 199 lb.-ft. of torque.

To prove the point, Infiniti managed to get the folks at Guinness World Records to certify the 2012 M Hybrid as the world’s fastest full-hybrid car, based on a 13.9 second quarter-mile run.

The M35h even features a sport mode, which alters throttle response and shift points to facilitate more aggressive driving. There are also paddle shifters, should you want to make the gear changes yourself.

Fine Vision electroluminescent gaugesInfiniti Drive Mode - standard, sport, snow, or eco mode

Perhaps the main performance limitation is the handling, which is on the softer side, especially compared to true sports sedans. Like other hybrids, the M35h carries some extra weight, which combined with modestly sized all-season tires means you can’t get too crazy in the corners.

If all this performance talk is making you doubt the efficiency claim, just slow down to more sane speeds, put it in Eco mode, and watch as the MPGs climb to compact car territory. The EPA rates the M hybrid at 27/32 mpg (city/highway), and these aren’t the kind of inflated figures you’ll never achieve in the real world.

A brief road trip down the coast to scenic Monterey, CA showed that 32 mpg is very doable. Just set the cruise control to around 70 mph and you’ll be getting the same mileage as the owner of a  4-cylinder Honda Accord.

2012 Infiniti M35H interior

And unlike your average midsize sedan, the M Hybrid features the kind of luxurious, well-appointed interior that we’ve come to expect from Infiniti. Leather seating, dual zone climate control, UV-reducing solar glass, Japanese Ash wood trim, and a host of other luxury features come standard.

Our loaded test car also featured the premium, deluxe touring, and technology packages, which adds over $10k worth of additional luxury and safety goodies. Touch-screen Navigation, climate-controlled front seats, Bose Studio Surround sound, Intelligent Cruise Control – its all here. Anyone who thinks buying a hybrid means making sacrifices definitely needs to drive one of these.

The M Hybrid starts at $53,700, which makes it competitive with most other mid-sized luxury sedans, hybrid or not. Since there are no major performance sacrifices and serious efficiency gains, this could be among the most guilt-free cars available.

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Article Last Updated: November 19, 2013.

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