It even looks fast while standing still.

2013 Infiniti M Hybrid Review

The middle-management drift missile for those who never quite grew up.

By: Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: July 21st, 2013

Infiniti's M35h is fun. Plain and simple. Whether or not you get into the car and start configuring the seemingly endless number of settings, if you just get in and press the start button, you're bound to have a good time. And, to make matters even better, it's a hybrid. A hybrid, fun? It sounds counterintuitive, but bear with me while I explain.

Not only is Infiniti's M35h powered by a V-6 putting down respectable numbers, but the drivetrain also contains an electric motor that throws an extra 200 lb-ft of torque into the mix. Considering that the stock Michelin all-season tires aren't very grippy, if you disable the traction control, you're helming a piece of military ordnance capable of roastin' the rears at every single stop sign. Instant torque from the get-go is one of the greatest benefits that electric motors can provide, at least in terms of driving excitement.

And driving excitement is not in short supply with the Infiniti M Hybrid. Unlike many other hybrids, the Infiniti retains a hydraulic component to its power steering, which allows for a steering wheel that provides proper feedback to the driver, rather than a typical all-electric system, which feels more like a video game peripheral than anything else. Coupled with a decently-bolstered front seat, this lets the driver unleash their inner hoon at any point.

Of course, luxury is still Infiniti's top priority, and it's very apparent in our well-equipped tester. The seats are soft without being spongy, and everything you can touch in the cabin feels premium - there isn't a rental-spec piece of crappy plastic to be found. The infotainment system is easy to use and not terribly distracting. All in all, whether it's the hour-long trip to work or a weeklong road trip across the country, this car will do it with all the poise and grace of a debutante ball, minus the stuffy elitism. It is still a Nissan, after all.

If you're a car buyer that appreciates toys, bells, and whistles, then you've just found another arena in which this car fails to disappoint. Add the $3,050 Technology Package, and your car becomes a rolling DARPA experiment, covering the M with more sensors than those guys on treadmills in Gatorade commercials. There's also a drive mode selector, which lets you choose between four different transmission and throttle-map settings - snow, eco, normal, and sport.

That said, if the drive selector really does affect the transmission's shifting points, somebody should really tell that to the transmission. If anything, it only holds a gear longer; in all modes, the transmission seems very reluctant to shift with any amount of haste, and moving into sequential mode doesn't help.

You can also feel clunks as the transmission downshifts during deceleration, which suspends the luxury notion, if only briefly. There's also one other part of the car that can do this, and that's the brakes. The M Hybrid's regenerative brake system, much like that one uncle that's had too much to drink at the family Christmas party, can get a little grabby. But, aside from making smooth deceleration difficult, the brakes do work, and they work well.

All in all, the great parts about this car outshine the bad ones, which are really trifles, at most. It feels like a $55K car, it moves like a $55K car, and you can tell everybody you're doing your part to save the environment. Although they probably won't believe you if you say that in the midst of a 50-foot burnout.

  • Interior

    Nothing short of luxurious. Everything looks and feels smooth, soft, and expensive. The steering wheel has the right amount of meat on it, and the shifter is comfortable to use in sequential mode. The seat-cooling feature is the best one I've tested thus far. There are plenty of redundant buttons and knobs to help mitigate on-road distraction.

  • Exterior

    Smooth curves on the body exude the essence of speed, and contribute to a low drag coefficient, as well; it looks far less chunky than previous iterations of the M. Our tester's color, Malbec Black, reminds me of BMW's stunning Carbon Black paint, except the underlying color is purple rather than blue. And there's just enough chrome on the exterior without going overboard; it's a subtle kind of classy.

  • On the Road

    Aside from the aforementioned transmission trifles, it drives exactly as you'd expect a luxury car to. It's smooth, but not so smooth that it completely disconnects you from the road, so you can still tell what's happening. Thank goodness Infiniti retained a partially-hydraulic steering system. Infiniti's gas-mileage estimates aren't easy to achieve, if only because you're too busy having fun smashing the gas pedal against the firewall. The transitions to and from pure-electric mode are nearly seamless.

  • Final Thoughts

    It's hard to believe that a car with this gas mileage can be this fun to drive. You can move from executive subtlety to teenage drift extravagance without having to get into a different car. It's a little on the costly side, and the options only serve to push that price higher, but you get a whole lot of bang for that buck.

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: 3.5-liter V-6

    Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

    Net Power Output: 360 horsepower, 457 lb-ft torque

    Fuel Economy: 27 city / 32 highway

    Base Price: $54,200

    As Tested: $66,245 (incl. $895 destination charge)

    Optional Features: Technology Package (blind spot assistance, lane departure assistance, distance control assistance), Deluxe Touring Package (16-speaker Bose sound system, suede headliner, genuine wood trim), Premium Package (8-inch center touchscreen with navigation, rear sonar, climate-controlled front seats)

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