By Samuel Ee
The Infiniti M35h may have a sophisticated petrol-electric hybrid system but the most striking feature of this large saloon has to be its sensuous styling. This curvaceous model with its long hood and sculpted flanks comes from the luxury division of Nissan and, like the rest of the Infiniti range, is aimed primarily at the American market. It is not your typical Japanese sedan and the M Hybrid is not your typical hybrid.
With its 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine boosted by an electric motor for a combined system output of 360bhp, this is a performance hybrid. The torque available is interesting - 350Nm from the naturally aspirated petrol unit and 270Nm from the motor.
The hybrid system drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission, which has dropped the usual energy-sapping torque converter for an electronically controlled wet clutch to improve response and fuel consumption.
For further efficiency, another clutch - a dry one - is found between the V6 and the motor to disengage the former from the latter when the M35h is in electric drive and power generation modes.
All these result in some impressive numbers - zero to 100kmh is accomplished in a very brisk 5.5 seconds, while still being able to cover 7.0km per litre under the combined cycle. Plus the powerful lithium-ion battery pack gives the M35h the ability to cruise at a speed of up to 100kmh on electric power alone, or as much as two km at a slower pace.
The spacious cabin is equally impressive. The M Hybrid comes loaded with a mind-boggling range of features.
The white ash wood trim has a "silver powder" finish and the two-tone appearance is not only attractive but distinctive. The sound system is equally high-end with 16 speakers from Bose, including two each in the front seats, along with active noise control to ensure nothing dilutes listening pleasure.
But the standout equipment has to be the climate control, incorporating the Forest Air System to re-create gentle breezes and a choice of two arboreal scents. The aromas are subtle and together with the Plasmacluster air-purifying ioniser, the interior immediately smells clean and fresh.
All this should make the cabin a relaxing place to be if not for the busy centre console - there are more buttons than in Mitt Romney's campaign headquarters. They are festooned on three tiers, with more on the steering wheel.
As for the drive itself, the M Hybrid is let down by dull steering. As a result, all that torque does not make the big M feel more fun to drive.
|Price: $279,000 (with COE)
Engine: 3,498cc V6 hybrid
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic transmission
Max engine power: 302bhp @ 6,800rpm
Max engine torque: 350Nm @ 5,500rpm
Max motor power: 67bhp @ 1,770-2,000rpm
Max motor torque: 270Nm @ 1,770-2,000rpm
Combined power: 360bhp
0-100kmh: 5.5 secs
Top speed: 250kmh
CO2 emissions: 162g/km
Distributor: Wearnes Automotive
Tel: 6378 2623
At 1,830kg, the Infiniti would seem more ponderous if not for its splendid seven-speed gearbox.
Change gears manually using the lever and it downshifts instantly - even at high engine speeds.
There is no question that the Infiniti M35h is a luxuriously appointed hybrid with green credentials. Infiniti describes the car as having V8 power with four-cylinder fuel economy. That may not be exactly accurate but it certainly comes close.
This article was first published in The Business Times.