After announcing last fall that it would build bolster its new M Sedan line with a gasoline/electric variant, the eco-friendly 2012 Infiniti M35 Hybrid was formally revealed in Geneva along with its new 2011 conventional running mates. The first-ever hybrid offering from Nissan's luxury division will go on sale worldwide in the spring of next year. Based on new mechanical details that accompanied its debut, this latest variation on the M theme appears set to deliver a most engaging combination of luxury, performance and economy.
Save for badging, graphics and minor detail elements, the 2012 Infiniti M35 Hybrid is a visual clone of its conventional kin. The key to its character lies in Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid technology, a system that was first installed in the Infiniti Essence Concept Coupe that was displayed in Geneva last year. This dual-mode motivation, which Toru Saito, Corporate Vice President Infiniti calls "the core of the future Infiniti performance," is based around a bespoke front-engine/rear-drive configuration that matches on motor with two computer-controlled clutches. It's a system that will give the M35 Hybrid the kind of mpg and CO2 emission numbers found in far smaller and less capable cars.
While final output specs on the M35 Hybrid have not yet been released, its 3.5-liter V6 that made 303 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque in 2010 model year U.S. trim gets paired with lightweight, compact electric motor/generator that will turn out 68 horses and 199 lb.-ft. of twist and be energized by an equally compact and light high-efficiency laminated Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack that Infiniti says has twice the power capabilities of a conventional battery.
The first of its two electronically-controlled clutch assemblies sits between these two power providers, and can fully decouple the V6 from the rest of the system to maximize energy use when the M35 Hybird is in either pure EV or regenerative braking mode. A second computer-controlled clutch serves a similarly efficiency-optimizing purpose, and replaces the torque converter in the car's seven-speed automatic transmission. In addition to ensuring more linear power delivery and extremely quick gear changes, this modified version of Infiniti's current Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) gearbox also incorporates an automated throttle-blipping feature on downshifts. Although no figures were presented regarding car's range or maximum speed in pure EV mode, Infiniti says that in several months of real-world multi-regimen testing done here in American, the M35 Hybrid was able operate on electric-only power up to 50 percent of the time.