Driven: Infiniti M35h GT Premium
CO2 emissions count for a lot in Europe, so regardless of any positives the M35h could offer, its former 162g/km output gave newcomers Infiniti an uphill struggle in on a market dominated by the German premium brands and established hybrid player Lexus.
Infiniti says the drop to 159g/km involved tweaking the car’s electric motor settings, allowing it to turn off its petrol engine more frequently when cold. That barely perceptible change has resulted in some substantial tax savings, almost doubling the car’s write-down allowance to 18% and slotting it into a lower Benefit in Kind banding. Enough to at least get it noticed, when the range’s only diesel emits 199g/km CO2.
The car itself takes care of the rest. Rather than pitch for the low carbon end of the market, Infiniti is out to offer the best of both worlds. So the M35h uses a 3.5-litre V6 engine and electric motor to churn out 359bhp, reaching 62mph in 5.5 seconds and setting a world record for the fastest quarter mile sprint in a production hybrid.
But this isn’t all about brute force. The M35h makes frequent use of its electric motor at low loads, which means plenty of motorway and town trips can be covered largely on electricity, or with the engine running at just above idle. Our test car managed a third of its weekly mileage with the engine turned off.
When you need extra power it’s there in spades, and accompanied by a flat, hard roar from the V6 engine. It feels heavy when cornering but economy and performance are available here, provided you don’t expect both at once.
The styling is a harder sell. Its bulging bodywork isn’t the prettiest in this class, but it’s got masses of presence and the view of the road ahead is enjoyed over an appealing and Porsche-like curved bonnet. Build quality inside is impeccable, with plentiful soft, smooth leather, loads of equipment, comfortable seats and sublime high speed refinement.
So perhaps it’s best not to think this as a low-carbon luxury car, but rather as a high performance executive saloon with the thirst of a low-powered petrol model. With that small drop in emissions now on its side, it should be able to get buyers to notice.
Infiniti has its work cut out establishing itself against the best of the premium sector, but the M35h’s ability to offer high luxury and performance without high cost will please those prepared to think outside the norm. For an even lower P11D price, there’s also a £3,970 cheaper GT version.
Type: Petrol-electric hybrid
Electric range: 1.2 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 159g/km
Charging port: N/A