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2013 Infiniti M35h: The prestige hybrid

by: NISSAN MOTORS - The 2013 Infiniti 35h is the hybrid for style-conscious consumers.There’s something very satisfying about driving a luxury sport sedan that gets around 30 miles per gallon.

But it’s a little frustrating when the performance is diminished to achieve that mileage.

Fortunately, the hybrid version of the 2013 Infiniti M35 has a solution — a knob on the console that allows the driver to switch the performance mode from Eco to Normal to Sport.

The M35h — as its formally called — gets its best mileage in the Eco mode. But like all other cars with Eco modes, the mileage is boosted by reducing the throttle response.

Switched to the Sport mode, however, all 360 horsepower generated by the 3.5-liter V6 and electric motor is instantly available. As a result, the M35h drives then more like a convention gasoline-powered sport sedan. The mileage doesn’t drop all that much, either.

And, of course, Normal is a happy compromise between the Eco and Sport modes.

Strangely, there's also a Snow mode. That's strange because the M35h is rear-wheel-drive, not all-wheel-drive. The Snow mode reduces the shifts between electric and gasoline power to minimize slips in frosty weather.

Regardless of the setting, the 2013 M35h pampers its occupants with luxury appointments, including heated and cooled from leather seats, rich wood trim, dual zone climate controls, and connectivity for all personal entertainment devices.

The M35h is part of Infiniti’s midsize M line, which uses different numbers to designate different models. There is no non-hybrid M35. Instead, the base gasoline model is the M37, which designates its 3.7-liter V6. The M37x adds all-wheel-drive. The M56 comes with a 5.6-liter V8 engine. And, of course, the M56x adds all-wheel-drive.

Comparing power figures, the M35h tops the M37, which produces 330 horsepower. It trails the V8, of course, which is rated at 420 horsepower.

The M35h substantially tops all of the other models in mileage, however. It is EPA rated at 27 mpg city, 32 high and 29 average. That compares to the M37 at 18/26/21 and the M56 at 16/24/19. The all-wheel-drive versions average about one mile less.

Stylingwise, the M35h does not scream hybrid. It looks like the rest of the M line, which is too says, swoopy and sophisticated. Ours was pearly white, not “I’m saving the world” green. The twin exhaust tips suggested power, not economy.

Nor did the interior stress the hybrid drivetrain. It was as refined as all Infiniti's, meaning the design was subdued and the materials were first class. The dash did not grow leaves was I drove down the street. Although I could pull up a graphic display of the power shifting between the electric motor and gasoline engine, I could also replace it with something else.

One fun trick was seeing how far and fast the M35h will go on elcetric power only. In Eco mode, we repeatedly got our test car up to 40 miles per hour before the gas engine kicked in. Although that worked best on flat terrain, it was possible to drive many blocks in stop and go traffic just on electric power. Although all hybrids will go some distances on electric power alone, we don’t remember any other going quite as far or fast.

The M35h has one drawback common to all hybrids, however -- the occasionally squishy feel of its regenerative brakes. Although they capture otherwise wasted energy to recharge the electric motor's batteries, regenerative brakes can feel less precise than normal brakes. Ours locked up once during an emergency stop caused by another driver. Although we stopped OK, the effect was a little unsettling.

Despite its stong points, there is some question how many people will actually buy the M35h. Our fully loaded test model topped $66,000, which is more than the base M56x. Of course, that included three option packages totaling more than $11,000.

But even the base M35h starts at over $54,000 ,compared to more than $48,000 for the M37 and under $51,000 for the M37x.

But if mileage is as much a priority for you as fun and comfort, by all means, give the 2013 M35h a whirl.

Facts and figures

• Model tested: 2013 M35h

• Manufacturer: Infiniti.

• Class: Midsize luxury sport sedan.

• Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive.

• Styles: Four-door car

• Engines: 3.5-liter hybrid V6 (360 hp).

• Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift mode.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 27/32/29.

• Price: Beginning at approximately $54,750 ($66,245 as tested).