Infiniti M Hybrid (M35h) Review and Road Test

By Jonathan Spira on 9 December 2011
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Hybrids are boring, lackluster automobiles that simply cannot deliver great performance and fuel economy – at least that’s the typical perception your average new car buyer might have.  Enter Infiniti with the M Hybrid, a car that sets out to challenge these outdated notions and deliver performance befitting a sporty luxury sedan.

Start with curvaceous Infiniti M and add what the automaker calls the Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid system, a one-motor, two-clutch parallel hybrid system, and you have a luxury car that delivers 360 hp and 32 miles per gallon (7.35 l/100 km) on the highway and 27 mpg (8.71 l/100 km) in city driving.

POWERPLANT

The Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid System, which made its debut in the Infiniti Essence concept car, a two-door coupe that was shown in 2009, starts with a Lithium-ion battery and 50 kW electric motor mated to the car’s seven-speed automatic transmission which powers the rear wheels.  Paired with the time-tested 3.5-liter V-6 engine that develops 302 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque, you end up with a total of 360 hp and 457 pound feet of torque – not bad for a hybrid!

The Direct Response Hybrid System is different than most hybrids because Infiniti uses Lithium-ion batteries, not Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries.  The Lithium-ion batteries have twice the energy density and are quick to alternate between charging and discharging.  In addition, the Direct Response Hybrid System directly delivers the power to the rear wheels through the transmission.

Keep in mind that most hybrids use two electric motors, one to provide propulsion and the other to recharge the battery during braking. The second motor, like an extra and unnecessary appendage adds complexity and weight to the hybrid-drive system and takes away from the normal feel you get when braking because the second motor works to charge the battery when you brake.

In addition to better braking feel, the new design promises to make for a smoother transition between all-electric power, all-gasoline power, and hybrid power.

Beyond this, two additional systems, Hybrid Electric Power Steering and Electric Driven Intelligent Brake regenerative braking, conserve power and contribute to the improved fuel economy.

Of course, when the car is running in electric-only mode, the engine is silent. One of the most interesting aspects of the M Hybrid is the Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians (VSP) system, its audible pedestrian warning system.  VSP uses a variety of different sounds to alert pedestrians and others of the car’s movement and presence.  It sends out a sine-wave sound as soon as the car begins to move, cutting back on the sound at 15 mph (24 km/h) and shutting off completely at 20 mph (32 km/h).

Click here to continue to Page 2 – Driving the Infiniti M Hybrid and M Hybrid Interior

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