Infiniti began selling cars in America two dozen years ago with a pair of initial offerings, the Q45 and the M30. As the luxury division of Nissan of Japan, they brought out the Infiniti line pretty much in response to Honda and Toyota’s introduction of their Acura and Lexus nameplates. Infiniti chose to use a handcrafted approach to their manufacturing process, as opposed to Acura and Lexus, both of which chose more automation.
Thirty or forty years ago, the term “Japanese luxury car” was considered an oxymoron; their products having gained a foothold in this country as a result of the fuel crises (1973 and 1977). But when the Detroit Auto Show went to a global affair in 1989, Infiniti exploded on the scene, along with Lexus, with new luxury offerings to join Acura; thus, it was “on”. Today these manufacturers and their models are part of the American auto lexicon and they have muscled in on the territory of Cadillac, Lincoln, and the German luxury cars.
I have tested several Infinitis, and this past week another was brought by for evaluation – the M35h hybrid sedan. The M’s are the top of the line sedans for this company, and this car is in its second year of production. Its M.S.R.P. was $66,245, including freight. That price included several options – technology package ($3,050), deluxe touring package ($3,900), and premium package ($4,200). Thus, the car had adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure warning, and adaptive lighting up front. The interior was sumptuous, and included a suede headliner, semi-aniline leather trim, Japanese white ash wood trim, Bose 16-speaker surround sound stereo with satellite radio, electric tilt/telescope, navigation system, backup camera, moon roof, power rear sunshade, and air conditioned seats/steering wheel. The stone (off-white) interior was striking with “Infiniti” stitching in the front buckets and soft double-stitched speedometer/tach hood.
The M35h is a high performance hybrid, with 369 total horsepower – at the heart of the power train is a 3.5 liter V-6 with 258 lb. ft. of torque. It’s rear-wheel drive, the preferred architecture for a luxury performance car in this category. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic (like Infiniti’s V-8 has) with manual shift mode. The driver selects from four driving modes with a console-mounted button – sport, standard, eco (omy), and snow. The eco mode maximizes fuel economy, and this car’s ratings are an impressive 27 city and 32 highway. I observed 27 mpg during the time spent with the M35h. Reportedly the Infiniti can operate up to 50% of the time in electric mode (battery charge permitting). The trunk, of course, suffers a little with the battery on board, providing 11 cubic feet of luggage space. It is covered with an electric cinch-down lid.
The M35h styling features chrome door handles, exhaust tips, and double-arched massive grill. The paint was “Moonlight” white metallic, and actually looked best in sunlight. The 18” alloy ten-spoke bright wheels were surrounded with 245/50R18 all-season radials.
Despite all of the aforementioned driving-assist options on the Infiniti, I actually had to do some driving myself, and it indeed was a pleasure. This reviewer would love to own such a vehicle, and it comes with my recommendation.