The Truth About Cars » Infiniti M35h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:02:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Infiniti M35h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Comparison: Infiniti M35h vs. Lexus GS450h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/capsule-comparison-infiniti-m35h-vs-lexus-gs450h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/capsule-comparison-infiniti-m35h-vs-lexus-gs450h/#comments Mon, 20 Jan 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=702946 GS450h_01

Both Infiniti and Lexus know how to ruin a car. The Lexus GS 450h and the Infiniti M Hybrid are what results from taking a fundamentally good car and adding a bustle full of batteries. It’s more galling now because of what’s happened to these two. For years, both the M and the GS were mildly interesting also-rans that couldn’t compete with the established segment leaders on any measure but price/value. But now, you’ve got an Eastern Jaguar and a crisp Arleigh-Burke class sedan that are mounting a more credible challenge against the benchmark Germans. The M and GS have learned how to control dynamics to deliver the Patris, fillii et Spiritius Sancti of performance, handling and luxury. Hybrid versions of these cars seriously blunt the excellence, and it’s a damn shame.

First, holy crap are they expensive! Cars that cost like a Cayenne and don’t deliver on their promise of increased performance are offensive. For all that extra blood and treasure, you get a GS 450h and an M Hybrid that are as satisfying as non-fat bacon. The very thing Lexus and Infiniti charge a premium for is what totally mars the driving experience.

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The M35 Hybrid is an example of Infiniti aping more than just Jaguar’s styling. This sedan that’s all swoops and haunches comes in at a Coventry-worthy $54,750 base price. The Malbec Black M35 Hybrid I drove a few months back was certainly good looking. The wine-inspired color looks black in most conditions but blooms a subtle deep purple in bright sunlight. It’s pretty, and Infiniti does great interiors, especially this car with its Deluxe Touring Package upgrades. There was buttery leather all over the place, and the light-colored Stone upholstery contrasted handsomely with the dark exterior. Glossy wood accents and organic forms round out the cabin in the Infiniti, all to beautiful, expensive-feeling effect. That’s good, because who wants to spend the $67,000 for the M Hybrid I tried and get a cheaped-out interior?

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To get from the $55K base price to $67,000 takes just three steps. The Stone interior with White Ash silver-powdered wood trim requires the addition of the $4,200 Premium Package and its Deluxe Touring Package cohort, a $3,900 sidekick. That $8,100 spiff buys you navigation, Bose audio, heated steering wheel, climate-controlled seats, and rear sonar in the Premium Package. The Deluxe Touring Package side of the packing sheet is how you get the silvered wood and deeper-dyed semi-aniline leather, more soft-touch materials, stitched meter hood and suede-like headliner. Wonder what it would take to get an actual suede ceiling. You get surround sound too, silly in an automotive interior, especially for content that’s largely *not* surround-encoded, but whatever. None of this has anything to do with the enthusiast’s definition of touring, deluxe or otherwise.

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The final push to $67,000 for the M Hybrid came courtesy of the $3,050 Technology Package, chock-full of crap to annoy you if you’re accustomed to the act of actively driving. That’s three grand better spent on driving courses. Or, if you like paying more to be aggravated, that sum buys a lot of current pop music that you can listen to on the horribly-phasey surround sound rig (it sounds fine in stereo mode.)

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The Lexus GS 450h may not have the outward expressiveness or interior decorator flair of the M Hybrid, but it’s no ugly duckling. Attractive in a more conservative way, the GS has straighter lines in its styling and that polarizing Spindle Grille up front. The interior of the GS 450h follows the same pattern. Well-assembled, high-quality, an overall solid effort that doesn’t try to break new artistic ground.

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Looking at the GS and M Hybrids next to each other, you might get distracted by the glitz of the Infiniti and think it costs more, but the GS 450h was the pricing heavyweight in this matchup. What I drove was $70,252 worth of disappointing cha-ching. In general, I’m not as over the moon for the GS model line as I am for the excellent new IS that slots in below it, but part of the mission of this model was to reinvigorate the Lexus/Toyota lineup with more passion and enthusiast-pleasing dynamics. It succeeds on those points except as a hybrid.

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As with the Infiniti, the Lexus GS 450h can push into territory that seems absurd, though I suspect there’d be less squawking if we were talking Roundels or Stars. The GS 450h starts at $59,600 promising V8-like thrust and fuel economy and emissions figures that look more like what you’d expect from a 2.0 liter. That’s two extremes of hyperbolic bullshit for the price of…both extremes. 338 total horsepower is not V8 level power anymore, and 2.0 liter engines do better than 34 mpg highway. A Corvette now comes close to that. The GS 450h is well-equipped out of the gate, with perforated leather seats, 10-way power adjustable with heating and ventilation for driver and front seat passenger, handsome matte-finish bamboo wood accents offering the Lexus counterpoint to Infiniti’s glossy wood, power window sunshades, a host of automatic features like rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, climate control, power tilt and telescopic steering column, and premium audio.

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A spreadsheet comparing the GS and M hybrids is going to have lots of tit-for-tat checkmarks. These are closely-matched cars. The options and packages side of the GS 450h is a bit more a-la-carte than the way Infiniti does things with high-content (and high cost) packages. The biggest optional extra on this GS 450h was the $5,255 Luxury Package, which added power-folding self-dimming exterior mirrors, a power moonroof, 19” wheels, roof rails, memory for the driver’s seat, mirror and steering wheel settings and LED headlights. Adding navigation to make full use of the 12.3” LCD costs $1,735, and the heads-up display (a feature I adore and want to be mandatory in all cars) is $900. Blind Spot Monitoring runs $700, and the power trunk will empty another $400 out of your wallet. Intuitive Park Assist piles on with its own $500 surcharge, too.

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Both of these cars feature a farcical knob to adjust driving dynamics. Oh, it has an effect – selecting the sport settings on either will sharpen responsiveness and twiddle damper settings with noticeable results. It’s just that these are both still turkeys when it comes to being performance sedans. Low rolling resistance tires, the weight of a bunch of extra hardware and weird powertrain handoffs between electric motor, gas engine, regeneration and friction braking and numbed-up steering completely ruins it. There is no fun to be had here.

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The GS undergoes a more dramatic shift when you call up the sportiest of sport modes. The steering, which is actually nicely weighted, gets appropriately heavier, but there’s still nothing tactile at all about it. What is tactile is the way the powertrain bumps and flails around between electric-only, gas and electric and gas-only propulsion. There’s good chassis discipline, though, even on the horrible tires that are probably the biggest contributor to the disappointment. The M Hybrid, with its more gruff engine note and even more pronounced sensations is worse, though it’s more willing to run farther and faster in EV mode. The M will sail along on the highway and readily kill the V6, something the GS is a lot more reluctant to do at 60-something MPH. Total M Hybrid power is a more robust 360 hp, too. Going hybrid with either of these cars is  an unsatisfyingly weird way to go about the business of being a premium sedan with some performance capability.

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Against the most refined hybrids in the business, Toyota/Lexus, the Infiniti almost feels like a prototype. That doesn’t mean the GS got off scot-free. Lexus has done its best to isolate the occupants from the mechanicals, but that’s hard to do when the car is supposed to have some extra enthusiast appeal, where a palpable connection to the hardware is considered a feature. In both cars there’s a noticeable shudder when the gas engine is fired, and it also creates a surge, however subtle, in acceleration. On several occasions, the Lexus became very confused about what to do during steady-state cruising and set up its own odd and annoying throttle oscillation. Engaging the somnambulant Eco mode quashed that one.

 

Let’s talk braking. Regenerative brakes are de rigeur for hybrids, and they’re awesome at capturing kinetic energy and putting it back into the battery. They’re even now pretty good at the transitional handoff to the friction brakes, but they’re not perfect. In both these cars, the low-traction tires and regenerative brakes conspire to deliver less braking than you think you’re getting, leading to a couple days of “oh crap!” hard stops before you acclimate. The systems also sometimes didn’t know when to hand off, and would vacillate between a stab at the hydraulic stoppers and a dollop of regen, otherwise known as stopping like your Uncle Morty in his ‘78 St Regis. Barf.

Let’s be clear, I am a fan of hybrids. There are some vehicles like the Prius C, that I get a tremendous kick out of. That little hatchback, with its battery supply of automotive TPN, is a great time. It gets stellar mileage, it’s even entertaining to drive. The GS 450h and M 35 hybrid, do return improved mileage over their gas only counterparts, but the difference isn’t that large. The Lexus returned me about 29 miles per gallon average over 600 miles. That’s pretty good for a vehicle its size, and it’s right on the 29 mpg city number, but my driving was 60 percent highway, and so should have been closer to the 34 mpg highway number. The Infiniti M Hybrid is supposed to return 27/32, and I saw about 28.5 mpg average, though the experience lagged even that of the excessively-compromised Lexus.

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So let’s address the inevitable “you’re missing the point, these are hybrids! They’re boulevardiers!” If that were true, would Infiniti be marketing the M Hybrid as the “fastest accelerating full hybrid on the planet?” Would Lexus be trying to make hay out of the GS 450h’s 5.6 second 0-60 time? Would there be a “Sport” mode in each of these? No, the point both Lexus and Infiniti are trying to make is that you can have your cake and eat it, too. That’s just not true. You’re right, though, these cars are boulevardiers. Good ones. There’s plenty of trunk space in each, the interiors are sumptuous, both cars look good in their own way. The overheated marketing must help them move iron by giving people who will never clip an apex a bunch of facts and figures to rattle off. Kinda like GTO in Two Lane Blacktop, without the GTO.

This can’t come down to a draw, there has to be a winner, and I think first place goes to the Infiniti M Hybrid. There is no official scoring, just an informed opinion and time behind the wheel. The Infiniti is more powerful, it’s more expressively styled, and it’s less expensive. Another plus is the Infiniti has easier to use tech. The Lexus does have more features and capabilities with its infotainment and driver-assistance features, but they’re not as easy to use. That opens the door for the years-older Infiniti system to better the much newer Lexus software and control. The Lexus system may be new, but it immediately feels dated and is more cumbersome to use. It will, however, read text messages to you, and when your friends find out, they’ll send you all sorts of amusingly vile phrases for Lexus-voice-lady to read.

The outcome would be different if we were talking gas-only, as there’s a better chassis and platform underpinning the Lexus GS. Since neither of these cars can come anywhere close to using their underlying potential, it comes down to which is less annoying to drive. That goes to the Infiniti M Hybrid. The fact that you can widen the price gulf further in the Infiniti’s favor by leaving off the Technology Package (again, it’s filled with stuff I immediately disabled and left disabled for my entire time with the car) makes it pull away from the GS even more.

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The biggest takeaway from this comparison test for me is the fact that the next generation of both these cars will probably be really fantastic. I’m looking forward to the day these things go down the road seamlessly. Or, if you don’t want to wait for hybrids to get that good, get a Tesla now and be extra-smug.

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Infiniti Getting Into The Long-Wheelbase Game http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/infiniti-getting-into-the-long-wheelbase-game/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/infiniti-getting-into-the-long-wheelbase-game/#comments Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:51:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441653

Chinese customers will be able to help themselves to not one but two long-wheelbase Infiniti M sedans., just in case up-and-coming plutocrats don’t want an Audi A6L.

At 5.9 inches longer than the standard car, customers will be able to choose from the Infiniti M25L (with the 2.5L 232 horsepower V6) or the M35hL with 360 horsepower. Both cars will have reclining rear seats, sunshades and an entertainment system, as well as auto-closing rear doors and trunk. Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop the incessant beeping of the M’s electronic nannies.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Infiniti M35hL. Photo courtesy Infiniti. Infiniti M35hL. Photo courtesy Infiniti. Infiniti M35hL. Photo courtesy Infiniti.

 

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Review: 2012 Infiniti M35h Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/2012-infiniti-m35h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/2012-infiniti-m35h/#comments Sun, 05 Feb 2012 18:36:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429420

Most luxury sedans try to do everything fairly well, while taking no risks that might turn off a potential buyer. The typical end result: a car with few memorable characteristics, good or bad. Despite a “have your cake and eat it too” powertrain, the Infiniti M35h is not such a car. You might not like everything about it. But you will remember it.

To begin with, the Infiniti doesn’t look like any of the others. Though the current automotive fashion favors sheer surfaces, straight lines and sharp creases, the M’s big body contains the fullest curves this side of a plus-sized lingerie catalog. Think Jaguar with more brawn and less grace, as if to prove that organic forms don’t have to be feminine. The tall fenders require 20s to properly fill them; unfortunately the factory dubs are only available on conventionally-powered rear-wheel-drive variants. The h gets 18s.

The equally curvaceous interior recaptures the traditional charm that Jaguar abandoned with the XF in a bid to reinvent itself for the new century. Audi might offer stylish interiors, but they’re never this warm and intimate. The $3,900 Deluxe Touring Package’s silver-rubbed white ash trim tastefully dazzles. The brightwork flowing along the door panels and center console is a joy to gaze upon and trace with a fingertip. Another artful touch: the DTP’s diagonally-quilted semi-aniline leather upholstery. Materials are about as good as they get at this price level. And, despite the clear attention to form, function hasn’t been neglected. The center stack’s controls are very close at hand and logically arranged. The large, cushy seats feel as good as they look. Even compared to those in other luxury sedans, the M35h’s cabin is a very pleasant place to spend time. (Of my 50+ press cars, this one has been my wife’s clear favorite.)

The Infiniti M’s driving position is much different than you’ll find elsewhere. As in the related FX crossover, from the driver’s seat you clearly sense that you’re piloting a massive vehicle, yet not an expansive one. Those curvy interior panels detract from roominess up front. Also, the M’s body is considerably narrower above the beltline than below it. The relatively upright A-pillars touch down far inboard. As in the Jaguar XJ, but to an even greater degree, the view forward has overtones of vintage GT. The rear seat is less of an acquired taste, with plenty of room, a comfortably positioned cushion, and an open view forward. The trunk—well, the lithium-ion battery pack reduces its cubes from a competitive 14.9 to a compact 11.3.

The M35h’s hybrid powertrain combines a 3.5-liter V6 with a strong electric motor for a total of 360 peak horsepower, roughly splitting the difference between the M37’s V6 and the M56’s V8. But this isn’t the whole story: at lower rpm the hybrid’s performance is much closer to that of the 417 pound-feet V8, thanks to the electric motor’s 199 pound-feet of torque (on top of the gas engine’s 258). Despite the 280 pounds added by the hybrid bits, the M35h’s 4,129-pound curb weight is barely over that of a BMW 535i. Reasonable curb weight + scads of torque = strong acceleration. Rotate the console-mounted dial to “power” and the throttle can be overly aggressive, easily overpowering the rear tires. (Avoid this setting when the road is wet. For snow there’s “Snow.”) Even in “Eco” the M35h is a far cry from a Prius, you just have to push the throttle closer to the floor to blur the scenery. “Normal” strikes a good balance.

Helpful readouts include throttle efficiency and battery charge level. But, as in most hybrids, there’s no indication the division of braking between the motor/generator and the conventional brakes, so it’s unclear how to modulate the left pedal for optimal efficiency. An odd (if common) omission as the key benefit of a hybrid is its ability to recoup energy otherwise burned off by the brake rotors.

Based on the seat of the pants, the gas engine, seven-speed automatic transmission, and the electric motor (that takes the place of a torque converter between them) usually work together seamlessly. A notable exception: a hesitation in Eco and (to a lesser extent) Normal modes when you initially put in an order for a decidedly un-eco rate of acceleration, as if the powertrain computer can’t decide what to do. Want to get across the road before those approaching cars arrive? Sit tight, the desired thrust is on its way. The wait can only seem interminable. A second transmission issue: slow reactions to manual inputs. In manual mode anywhere near WOT you’d best request a shift 1,000 rpm short of the redline. Otherwise, “hello rev limiter!”

The ears have a different take the powertrain’s seams. The VQ-Series V6 is more polished than in other applications, but still far from hushed. At half-throttle and up it roars in a very un-hybrid-like manner. This would be okay, perhaps even welcome, except the noise comes and goes. The electric motor is capable of solely powering the vehicle up to 60 miles-per-hour, and frequently does so. The gas engine was off for the entire length of a two-mile 30-mph road. Very peaceful, this ability to glide along in near silence. But at near-highway speeds the engine often cycles several times a minute. So you’ll have a muted VQ rumble, then silence, then the rumble again, over and over. If the engine is going to cycle so frequently, it needs to be much quieter. Other noise levels are low. Aside from some occasional jiggles the ride is that of a luxury sedan, with a sense of solidity and level of encapsulation you won’t find in a mere Nissan.

And fuel economy? For one nine-mile trip where the gas engine was off much of the way the trip computer reported an astounding 39.7 miles-per-gallon. Then 24 on the return trip, despite an equally light right foot. The difference: whether the battery pack was giving or taking. Over longer trips that evened out this variable the car came close to the EPA numbers: 27 in the burbs, 32 on the highway, a significant bump over the M37’s 18/26 and impressive for a performance-oriented luxury sedan. Even a heavy foot sinks the numbers only into the low 20s. Apparently the VQ isn’t incorrigibly thirsty. Infiniti is about to lose its bragging rights, though: the 338-horsepower 2013 Lexus GS 450h ekes out 29/34.

Then there’s the chassis. The M’s moves are as old school as its aesthetics. Charming in some ways, much less so in others, and impairing confidence when it’s most needed. The steering is quick but light and distant. The car’s handling feels sporty, but not tied down or precise. One plus: the battery pack shifts the weight-distribution from 54/46 to 51/49, reducing understeer. But copious body roll in hard turns and a general sense of heft (above and beyond the car’s actual mass) suggest a closer relationship to the FX crossover than the G compact sedan. Worse, body motions aren’t well-controlled, especially out back where the rear end often lags a half-step behind the front. And all this is before adding the throttle to the equation. Like other rear-wheel-drive offshoots of the corporate FM platform, the M35h is prone to snap oversteer. Crack open the throttle with the steering wheel turned even a few degrees and the rear end will step out, even way out, nothing progressive about it. Combine dramatic oversteer with quick steering and subpar body control and you’ve got your hands full. Keep a cool head, don’t overcorrect (very easy to do here), and the rear wheels will again fall in step behind the front ones. The process is just far less intuitive and controllable than it could and should be. Leaving the stability control fully engaged helps, but in a heavy-handed way. Like those in its sibs, the M35h’s system cuts in early and hard. Better systems employ far more finesse, letting you believe you’re a better driver than you actually are. Yet, despite these dynamic faults, perhaps even due to some of them, the M35h is fun to drive. It might lack for talent, but it’s oh so willing.

The M35h starts $6,000 north of the M37, at $54,595. The must-have fancy wood and upgraded leather (plus the nav and 5.1 Bose audio that attend them) bump the tally to $61,945. Fuel savings might earn back the hybrid premium over the course of a decade, sooner if you drive many stop-and-go miles or gas prices shoot up. But also recall that the hybrid accelerates more like the M56, and the V8-powered car costs about $2,000 more. Some people are concerned about the potential long-term costs of hybrids. There’s more stuff that might potentially require replacement, including that lithium-ion battery back. Though it’s far too soon to tell in this specific case, the lower tech NiMH battery pack in the Toyota Prius rarely requires replacement even well north of 100,000 miles, based on TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. If Nissan’s system is nearly as solid (far too soon to tell) its longevity won’t be an issue. The rest of the car? about average so far.

The Infiniti M35h has its shortcomings, especially when called upon to hustle through some tight curves. But the car’s unique combination of strong acceleration, 27/32 fuel economy, distinctive exterior, and beautiful cosseting interior has a certain charm. Want technical perfection? Then get something German. But if you’d prefer a luxury sedan that ignores conventions, that combines myriad noteworthy strengths and weaknesses into a whole that shouldn’t work—a luxurious retro-flavored hybrid where oversteer is a concern—yet somehow does, then take the M35h for a spin. Unlike with the typical hybrid or even far too many performance luxury sedans, there’s never a dull moment where the car seems to be doing all the work and you’re just along for the ride.

Infiniti provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

M35h engine, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h fancy wood, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h front quarter high, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h front quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h front, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h instrument panel, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h instruments, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h interior, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h rear quarter 2, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h rear quarter high, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h rear quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h rear seat, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h side, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h trunk, picture courtesy Michael Karesh M35h view forward, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ]]>
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