Infiniti fits the M35h with an electrohydraulic power-steering unit, essential for times when the engine shuts down. At speed, it is difficult to tell that it is not a conventional hydraulic power-steering unit, attesting to Infiniti's tuning job. But it is also not exceedingly sharp, showing the kind of understeer present on average cars. Again, the M35h is more luxury than sport.
Almost drives itself
The climate control system in the M35h is also unaffected by engine shutdown, so it must rely on electric components. Climate control offers Infiniti's Forest Air feature, which causes air flow from the vents to fluctuate, the idea being to simulate a natural breeze. It is a subtle effect, and can be turned off with a button on the dashboard.
The car delivered to CNET came with the Technology package, bundling Infiniti's innovative driver assistance features. This package includes typical technologies, such as blind-spot detection and adaptive cruise control, as well as the more far-reaching Distance Control Assist.
This latter technology, turned off by default, hits the brakes, bringing the car to a stop when it approaches stopped traffic. You can actually rely on it to do your braking for you. The only drawback in city traffic is that it stops about a car length behind other cars. It also only holds the brakes down for a brief time, letting the car creep forward after the initial stop.
Blind-spot detection activates lights in the A pillars when other cars are in the lanes next to the M35h, and causes those lights to blink if the turn signal activates. Adaptive cruise control works like competitive systems, slowing the car down from its set speed to match the pace of slower traffic ahead. It has three following distances and can bring the M35h to a full stop if traffic ahead stops.
Add to these features Infiniti's lane departure warning and prevention technologies, and the M35h can almost drive itself.
Cabin tech in the M35h doesn't take the same leap forward as the power train. Instead, the car comes with the same navigation system Infiniti has used for some time. With maps stored on a hard drive, the system works quickly, and even shows some 3D building renderings, but the look of the maps is a little sloppy, far from the sophisticated offerings of BMW and Audi.
For its latest M sedan, Infiniti did, however, make the interface controller a little nicer. Instead of the knob crowned by directional buttons of previous years, Infiniti has gone to a combo joystick dial, which has a look in keeping with the car's luxury mission. And it still offers the same excellent interface from previous models, making it easy to choose items from a list or navigate an onscreen keyboard.
The stereo system comes from Bose, and has 16 speakers, including four small speakers in the shoulders of the front seats. This system is very well balanced, producing a strong, solid sound. It can deliver striking bass or delicate treble notes equally well. It really stood out for vocals, conveying rich tones.
Audio sources are complete, with everything from Bluetooth streaming to the onboard hard drive to Satellite Radio. Selecting music from a connected iPod was easy through the cabin tech interface, which showed good responsiveness. However, with a USB drive plugged into the system, it did not want to look into folders, seeming to want all the music files in the root directory.
The car's satellite radio has a new feature called Favorite artists and songs. Program in a particular artist or track, and the car lets you know when any of the satellite radio stations starts playing it.
Infiniti's Bluetooth phone system has been a weak spot in its cars, not offering the same sort of automatic contact list download as the competition. That issue is addressed, although not entirely fixed, in the M35h. The phone system does not grab an entire contact list from a paired phone, but it does let you copy over contacts one at a time, which can be a tedious process. Once the contact is stored in the car, you can say the name of a person to have the voice command system initiate a call.
The 2012 Infiniti M35h scores high points for its hybrid power system, one of the best available. Its transmission and steering also rate high on the tech meter, but its suspension remains conventional.
As for design, Infiniti offers one of the best cabin tech interfaces around, attractive and very usable. Attractive exterior styling also works in the car's favor, setting it apart from more staid-looking sedans. The battery pack eats into the car's practicality, as it takes up considerable trunk space.
Cabin tech features are solid in the M35h, but here it falls short of luxury competitors. The stereo system is the most advanced feature, offering many audio sources and well-balanced sound. Navigation works well, but only integrates traffic and weather for external data sources. The phone system is the weakest feature of the M35h, as its ability to download a paired phone's contact list is limited.
|Model||2012 Infiniti M35h|
|Power train||3.5-liter V-6, seven-speed automatic transmission, 50-kilowatt lithium ion hybrid power system|
|EPA fuel economy||27 mpg city/32 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||24.6 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, Bluetooth audio streaming, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Bose 16-speaker surround sound system|
|Driver aids||Rearview camera, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, adaptive cruise control, distance control|
|Price as tested||$64,725|