With the Infiniti car remote in hand, I opened the door of and slid into the drivers seat, breathing deep the leather fragrance of the cream-colored seats that, with three kids and a husband, is a remote dream for me. I put the key fob back in my purse, my foot on the brake and pressed the ignition button. The engine in the M35 Hybrid is so soft it purrs; it was hard to tell that it was even on. I grasped the gear shift and slowly moved it from park to drive…and that’s the slowest I’d move for some time: This car was made to go fast. I say a little prayer that I don’t get pulled over for speeding because this sweet little sedan literally hums along as I go from zero to 60 in a few short seconds. All while it saves gas. Oh, yeah.
I was recently given the chance to drive the Infiniti M35 Hybrid, a mid-sized luxury sedan, for a trip to Wisconsin. The model I drove had all the creature comforts you’d expect (or want) in a luxury car, from those luscious cream-colored seats (the official color is called stone), to Japanese ash wood trim, a Bose stereo and a power-sliding tinted glass moonroof.
It’s Hard Not to Be Jealous of a Car That’s Smarter Than You
Then, it had smarts under the hood: A V6 engine—big for a hybrid? Might it cancel out all the fuel savings?—and an electric motor (which improves fuel efficiency) . Also, it came equipped with all-season tires (which you need in Chicago).
But the real luxury in the M35 was the in-car technology. In a hybrid, driver feedback is key: when you see how your driving patterns help (or hurt) your mileage, you can also help out the environment and your wallet. The hybrid power/charge meter on the dashboard provides that key information.
In the driver’s seat, everything was at my fingertips. If I wanted to open the moonroof, a simple button made it happen. Change the station on the Bose Digital 16 speaker belting out songs from SiriusXM? Easy. Enjoy being in the car without my kids bugging me? The M35 Hybrid made it all the sweeter.
In Car Technology: WHAT Is That Beeping Noise???
The M35 has a Lane Departure Warning and Prevention system—a very smart new technology designed to keep you safe on the road. I only figured this out after I spent two days listening to those incessant beeps without knowing why they were beeping at me. It was only after my passenger kept hearing it, too, that we looked at the manual and found that the warning signal (and sound) is meant to help drivers stay in their respective lanes (and not veer off). Once the signal goes on and you hear the noise, a gentle brake is applied on the two wheels of the side you’re veering off to in order to help the driver return the car to the appropriate lane. If the driver responds, the brake control gradually stops.
I didn’t get the warning notice when I was driving in the city but it went on when I was on the expressway. What I learned was that it’s turned off at lower speeds (typical city driving conditions) but turns on when the car is operating at speeds greater than 45 mph.
Do You Know The Way to … Baraboo?
The sporty black M35 was fun to drive from Chicago to Wisconsin Dells, about a 3 hour drive, where I attended a meeting at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. And Baraboo is right where you might think it is: way out in the country. I didn’t know exactly where I was going, so I set up the GPS with the address; with clear skies and a lot of trust in the GPS, off I went. More than a few times the GPS would direct me down streets with “Unknown Street Names” but it directed me to my destination, flawlessly.
Testing the Hybrid’s Speed Ability (and Luckily, No Ticket Was Issued)
But to really test out the M35 Hybrid, the country roads of Wisconsin wouldn’t do it. So I took advantage of time on the expressway to floor it. The M35 Hybrid didn’t flinch. The gas engine mastered the command, getting up to top speed almost instantly. From one lane to another, the car glided seamlessly as if sailing on water.
The whole ride (except that darn lane departure warning) was like riding on a cloud. But I had to temper my excitement: I knew if I continued testing the car’s speed capability, I’d end up with a speeding ticket.
The Looks of a Diva, But Not the Gas Mileage
As hybrids go, the M35 wins in the beauty category, but doesn’t score as high in fuel efficiency: its EPA rating is 27MPG on city streets and 32MPG on the highway, lower than some other similar-sized hybrid sedans. Still, for a luxury car—and one that is as fast as this one is—that’s not bad.
The model I drove was an automatic, and in fact, the majority of hybrids are automatic. While I like my luxury and fast cars to have a stick shift so I can feel like I’m part of the power behind the car, and also, to get better gas mileage, the trade off for the hybrid engine is an automatic transmission, which cycles through about a gazillion gears so that it’s constantly at the optimal engine speed to get the most out of your fuel.
Also, I was surprised at how small the trunk space felt. Through some research I learned that the hybrid battery compromised some of the trunk, so keep that in mind. It’s not a small trunk, it just felt smaller than normal to me.
What We Loved
- Luxurious and roomy interior
- NSFK creamy leather upholstery (NSFK: Not safe for kids–the interior might not be safe, that is!)
- Quiet, peaceful ride
- Standard keyless entry/push-button start
- In-car tech center includes Zagat Survey restaurant reviews (the foodie in me loved this feature!)
- GPS that knows the way to Baraboo
- Well thought out and easy to understand navigation system
- 27/32MPG and a $2,000 savings in fuel costs over 5 years versus the non-hybrid option
- Bose stereo
- SiriusXM radio
What You Need To Know
- Great performance means reduced gas mileage —not bad, but not great
- Smallish trunk space
- MSRP of $54,200; jus over $66,000 for the model I drove
Disclosure: Infiniti provided the M35 for my test drive; opinions expressed are all my own.