The Truth About Cars » M37 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » M37 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/review-2012-infiniti-m35h-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/review-2012-infiniti-m35h-hybrid/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2011 18:15:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410589 Let’s face it, hybrids are boring. They are slow, complicated, come with hard tires and soft suspensions, sloppy handling, and they look weird. We’ve heard the story before: this hybrid is different. First Lexus gave us the GS and RX hybrids claiming V8 performance with V6 fuel economy, but the result was more like V6 […]

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Let’s face it, hybrids are boring. They are slow, complicated, come with hard tires and soft suspensions, sloppy handling, and they look weird. We’ve heard the story before: this hybrid is different. First Lexus gave us the GS and RX hybrids claiming V8 performance with V6 fuel economy, but the result was more like V6 performance with V6 economy, not really a great sales pitch. Still, hybrids sell well and with Infiniti marching towards mainstream luxury success they “need” a hybrid. Of course, with Infiniti aiming to be the “Japanese BMW”, performance is obviously a prime concern, so the claim from Infiniti that the M35h will deliver “V8 performance and four-cylinder economy” was expected. But is it another case of leather clad disappointment? Let’s find out.

Not too long ago Infiniti dropped off a new M56x at my doorstep, at that time I didn’t much care for the styling, commenting: “Every time I approached the car I felt as if an enormous box-fish was going to devour me.” While the Infiniti M still looks hungry to me, seeing more of them on the road has perhaps warmed me up to the design and I find the form more attractive than before. As we often point out on TTAC, style is terribly subjective and subject to our own personal leanings, so take my opinion with a grain of salt if you like the look. My informal lunch group’s opinions were mixed with some loving the flowing curves and some preferring sharp creases in their sheet metal alá Cadillac and Mercedes.

Inside the M35h (and much like the M56x) there is little to find fault with. But there is also little to identify this M as the hybrid that saves the world and your testosterone. The only change to the well put together cabin for hybrid duty is the charge/power gauge in the cluster replacing the engine temperature gauge found on other M models. The center stack, nav system and trim are all the same (with the hybrid specific software teaks of course) and there are no blue back-lit hybrid badges, EV mode buttons, or displays with growing leaves to be found. This is the sleeper hybrid if there ever was one.

The lack of hybrid bling does not mean the M35h lacks tech, quite the contrary. The M35h gets the same suite of standard and optional gadgets as the base M37, not a bad list to pull from. The 7-inch standard infotainment screen does everything but navigation, iPod and USB integration with Bluetooth speakerphone is standard as is the 6-speaker Infiniti auto system with a single in dash CD player and XM satellite radio. Opting for the $3,350 “premium package” gets you Infiniti’s easy to use navigation system with a high-resolution 8-inch display, Bose 5.1 channel surround sound system with speakers in the seat backs, voice controlled functions, heated steering wheel and cooled front thrones and active cabin nose canceling.

Should you desire the latest in driving nannies, Infiniti is happy to oblige with radar cruise control, collision warning and prevention, lane departure warning and prevention and an accelerator pedal that fights back. The accelerator pedal is perhaps the nanny that people will find the most fault with, especially if you are an aggressive driver. The feature can of course be turned off, but if dialed up to full-on German-au-pair, it will fight you hard, forcing the pedal back at you if you’re driving uneconomically or if it thinks you are getting too close to a car, or if it feels like it needs to stop the car NOW. While I dislike the thought of a car that drives for me, honestly at least half the drivers on the road need this pedal stat. Not that we condone distracted driving, but if you needed to, this car could help you accomplish the feat more safely.

The hybrid system is where the M35h departs from the regular M or the hither-to-normal hybrid. Until recently if you bought a hybrid in North America, you had one of three systems. Honda’s weak-sauce Integrated Motor Assist system just puts a motor between the engine and transmission and is essentially a start/stop system with some extra oomph. GM/BMW/Mercedes developed a crazy-expensive and crazy-complex 2-mode hybrid system which seems to be dying a slow death in the market [Ed: until CAFE rescued the investment]. And lastly we have the original true hybrid system, the Toyota/Ford system which uses a planetary gearbox to allow the engine, motor or both to drive the vehicle. Infiniti took a different approach to “hybridification” by removing the torque converter from a regular 7-speed automatic transmission and in its place stuffing a slim electric motor with two clutch packs (similar to the Hyundai/Kia hybrid system). These clutch packs are what make the Infiniti system innovative and different from the Honda IMA system.


Starting at the front of the car and working your way back, you first find a Nissan 3.5L V6 engine running on the Atkinson cycle (like most hybrids) putting out 302HP and 258lb-ft of twist. After the engine sits a dry clutch pack that allows the engine to start and run while decoupled from the electric motor. Next up we have a 360V AC motor that’s good for 67HP and 199lb-ft directly coupled to the Nissan 7-speed automatic transmission. Located inside the rear of the transmission is a wet clutch pack that allows the engine and motor to be connected with one another to charge the batteries with the vehicle stationary (it also slips to help make gear changes smoother). Decoupling the V6 reduces mechanical losses boosting the electric drive efficiency; this is an area where Honda’s system suffers. Behind the rear seats a 1.4kW lithium-ion battery, wedged where you’d put the 5th bag of golf clubs (Infiniti says a quartet of golfers can still be accommodated and they kindly print a diagram in the trunk to tell you how to manage it). And the final  change is a tall 2.6:1 final drive ratio allowing the V6 to spin leisurely on the freeway (1,600RPM at 60MPH).

Hybrid systems like Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive combine the motor and engine numbers in a way that is not simple addition (google is you must know why), however Infiniti’s system is easy to figure: the peak number is achieved where the HP and torque curves of the engine and motor meet, making the M35h good for a combined 360HP at 6,500RPM and approximately 410lb-ft at 5200RPM. Note: Our combined torque number is an estimate as Infniti does not officially list a combined rating; the “online” 457lb-ft numbers floating around are not accurate according to Infiniti because when the V6′s 258lb-ft peak does not align with the motor’s 199lb-ft peak.

The high torque of the electric motor from very low RPMs make the M35h far faster than the numbers on paper would imply, we easily recorded 5.2 second runs to 60MPH with our lowest taking only 5.03 seconds. The low 1.9 second sprint to 30MPH (the M56 takes 2.3) is perhaps the most telling number because by the time the spedo crested 100 the M35h had lost its lead on the V8 powered M56 clocking a 13.5 second ¼ mile at 103MPH (vs 13.4 at 106 for the V8). Part of the reason the performance is so good is the weight gain, at only 276lbs heavier than the M37, the M35h manages to be 99-lbs heavier than the M56 and slips in just below the AWD M56x on the scales. (The Lexus GS450h is only five pounds heavier.) Stoplight racers be warned however, that after a few 0-60 runs the battery and motor heat up enough that the control circuitry puts the kibosh on at least a portion of the electric assist and by the 6th back-to-back 0-60 run our times had risen to 6.2 seconds.

If you drive the M35h on a normal commute and not a track day, the EPA claims you’ll achieve 27MPG city, 32 highway and 29 combined. In our 7 days and 820 miles with the M35h we averaged a quite respectable 29.1MPG (excluding our track adventures, photo shoots, etc) in our mixed driving of mostly California freeway and rural mountain highway. Our numbers were no doubt buoyed by moderate traffic and a general inability to exceed 72MPH on the highways in the SF Bay Area. Infiniti claims the system will allow you to drive electric only up to 62MPH but in reality there didn’t seem to be much of an upper limit for the EV functionality provided you were gentle on the go-pedal. This is also a key area where the M35h differs from a Prius, to drive at 65MPH, the Prius has to use the engine because of the design of the transmission, the M35h on the other hand just disconnects the engine from the equation. While on a level highway with the cruise control set to 67MPH the hybrid system would switch in and out of electric only mode fairly often with my daily commute spending some 19% of the time in “EV mode” (22% for the lifetime of the car) as figured by the trip computer.

Since the M37 delivered some 22MPG on the same commute, the efficiency gain is noticeable. Thankfully hypermiling skills were not required to achieve our test numbers, but perhaps more strangely a daily jaunt testing all the hypermiling skills from Prius forums didn’t appreciably bump the numbers either. Since Infiniti opted to keep the grippy all-season tires from the non-hybrid M, and thanks to the nearly perfect weight balance, it was possible to test the economy figures on some of my favorite mountain roads. When driven this way the economy certainly drops like a rock (17MPG for that trip), which may sound bad, but put in perspective the lighter G37 convertible scored 11MPG on the same route.

What’s the M35h’s competition? By my estimation it competes most directly with the Lexus GS450h, a sedan that is not long for this world. Since the 2013 GS450h has yet to be announced officially, a comparison to the current hybrid GS is all I can offer. In this match up the GS offers a suitably swish cabin that has aged well but is a definite step behind the M35h’s silver-dist rubbed goodness (the 2013 GS I was able to preview at Pebble Beach has a competitive cabin, but is not a substantial step above the M35h). The GS is also significantly behind the M when it comes to fuel sipping delivering only 22/25/23 (city/highway/combined) EPA numbers, a substantial 26% lower than the 27/32/29MPG numbers Infiniti scored. If that weren’t enough of a shot across the bow of the company known for their hybrid tech, the M also wears a 20% smaller CO2 footprint, if you care about that sort of thing. Driving pleasure in the GS is limited by the CVT that is the heart of the Lexus Hybrid Sybergy Drive system, but that may be balanced out by the M35′s less polished transitions between gasoline and electric power.

With a base price undercutting Lexus by $5,250 and offering more interior room, a real transmisison and improved economy I’d take the M35h over the GS450 any day. Unfortunately like most hybrid cars the M35h has less of a value proposition when compared to its own non-hybrid brethren. The M37 which is cheaper, delivers 8/10ths the speed, 8/10ths the fuel economy and perhaps 11/10ths the luxury feel due to the sometimes quirky nature of the hybrid clutch packs the M35h uses. At the end of the day the M35h is far from a leather clad disappointment like other luxury hybrids, but as long as the M37 is available for sale, I just don’t see the M35h enjoying a place in my garage.

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad. For out Facebook peeps, here’s what you wanted to know: Jason M: Smugness level is similar to a Prius, 1/2 the economy but 2X the car. Andy A: No paddle shifters. Clay C. I tried, but BlendTech doesn’t carry a car-sized blender. Phillip W: We never reached battery depletion levels, try as we might. This is easier in Toyota hybrids because putting the car in N disconnects the generator, the M will still connect the generator whenever it feels like it, N or not. Mirko R: Yes. Marc C: Mileage depends greatly on how you drive, we did however average 29.1 which is the combined EPA number in mixed driving, moderate speeds, moderate acceleration. Sergio P: No idea what the batteries will sell for, my dealer didn’t know either. J S: Not quite sure why Autoblog thought it was more refined than the Lexus system. Infiniti’s solution is perhaps more interesting, and it is newer, but it isn’t as smooth. Given the choice, I’d take the Infiniti.

Infiniti provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas.

Specifications as tested
0-30: 1.9 Seconds
0-60: 5.0 Seconds
¼ Mile: 13.5 Seconds @ 103MPH
Average Fuel Economy: 29.1 MPH
Miles Driven: 820

 

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Review: 2011 Infiniti M37 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-2011-infiniti-m37/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-2011-infiniti-m37/#comments Fri, 28 May 2010 17:38:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=357533 With the 2006-2010 Infiniti M, a highly competent luxury performance sedan was hidden beneath utterly forgettable sheetmetal. Before my father bought his 2008 Cadillac CTS I suggested that he also check out the M. One glance at the car’s exterior was all he needed to summarily reject it. Well, for 2011 Infiniti has totally redesigned […]

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With the 2006-2010 Infiniti M, a highly competent luxury performance sedan was hidden beneath utterly forgettable sheetmetal. Before my father bought his 2008 Cadillac CTS I suggested that he also check out the M. One glance at the car’s exterior was all he needed to summarily reject it. Well, for 2011 Infiniti has totally redesigned the M to address this shortcoming. The question now: does the rest of the car measure up to the new come-hither exterior?

Ads feature the new Infiniti M with the optional sport package and its 20-inch alloys, and the car so equipped is striking. Maserati-influenced curves are a stark contrast to the relatively conventional three-box shape of both the previous M and the current competition. Curves always lend a feminine aspect to a car, but the forms in this case are massive enough that no one will think the M strictly a “woman’s car” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In comparison, even Jaguar’s current styling direction seems overly stiff and straight of line.

Why bring up the ads? Because I’ve yet to see a car with the 20s in the metal. Here in Michigan the dealers only order all-wheel-drive cars, and for some reason Infiniti does not offer the sport package with all-wheel-drive. Yes, this package does include summer tires, but surely all-season tires in the same size are feasible.

The non-sport wheels are 18s. Not so long ago 18s seemed HUGE. Well, they’re lost within the new M’s massive fenders and supersized wheel openings. Bereft of the 20s it was clearly designed for, the exterior that looks so graceful in the ads appears stubby and stout in person, if still a refreshing break from the usual. Infiniti needs to find a way to offer the 20s more widely.

Inside you’ll find Infiniti’s best interior to date. Nearly all of the various surfaces and switchgear bits look and feel worthy of the $55,000+ price. And the interior styling is warm, classically inviting, and gorgeous. Most notable: the sporty double bump of the instrument cover and the teardrop shape of the door panel trim. The British and Italians, clearly sources of inspiration, have rarely done it better. The interiors of competing sedans are unimaginative and boring in comparison. And, unlike in many highly styled interiors, the controls on the new M’s center stack are all logically arranged within easy reach.

Yet some people will not be happy with the new Infiniti M’s interior. Though not to the same extent as that in the EX35 compact crossover, the new M’s interior fits closely around you. It was clearly designed to feel sporty and intimate, not spacious. I generally like this ambiance, but the A-pillars are too intrusive even for my taste, as they extend unusually far inward. From the driver’s seat the M doesn’t feel quite midsize despite its generous exterior dimensions.

The driver’s seat itself is larger and broader than that in the half-size-smaller G37 sedan. Adults who frequent neither the gym nor the buffet line might find them, unlike the interior as a whole, a little loose-fitting and short on lateral support. I recall cushier, more comfortable seats in the previous M, though perhaps my memory is misleading me here? To its credit, Infiniti has avoided the rush to install rock hard headrests that jam forward into the back of your skull.

The rear seat also doesn’t feel spacious, but it is comfortably high off the floor and includes a couple inches more knee room than you’ll find in the G37. The front seatbacks are low enough that they don’t block rear seat passengers’ view forward. The trunk continues the “not spacious” theme and, as in other Asian luxury sedans, the rear seat does not fold to expand it.

The new Infiniti M is offered with a 330-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 and a 420-horsepower 5.6-liter V8. The latter is the clear choice for torque junkies who can never get enough. For nearly everyone else, including most driving enthusiasts, the sampled V6’s noise output will be more of an issue than its power output. This V6 is perhaps the loudest in the segment despite the thoroughly sealed engine compartment. What might be fitting for a sports cars on the open road—and even then a sweeter song would be welcome—can come across as unseemly in a luxury sedan on suburban streets. Your ears will tell you to take it easy lest you attract unwanted attention.

With this six at least the seven-speed automatic is not the best of partners. Downshift to second for a thirty-something MPH turn and the resulting engine noise suggests that you’ve gone a gear too far. But third is too tall. Responses to the manual shifter are sometimes quick, sometimes not, and are not always smooth. To be fair, I didn’t have a lot of seat time in the car. After a few days a better working relationship might well develop as driver and transmission adapt to one another. A head-up display that included the selected gear would help. The attractive instruments are located too low for a quick glance during aggressive driving—good for seeing the road, not good for instantaneously seeing which gear you’re in (which is never nearly as intuitive with an automatic as it is with a manual) or how fast you’re going.

Despite these shortcomings, perhaps even a little because of them, I did enjoy driving the new Infiniti M37 more than nearly any other car in this class, with the BMW 5-Series the only likely exception. The intimate cockpit combines with a balanced chassis and the relatively visceral nature of the car to inspire a close connection and confidence I never felt in the previous M. The all-wheel-drive system includes enough rearward bias that the attitude of the chassis can be adjusted with the throttle. The steering could feel more razor sharp, but it compares well to the numbness of today’s typical system. Pushed, the new M feels smaller and lighter than its 195 inches and two tons, and hustling it through curves quickly becomes second nature.

Ride quality is similarly more polished than that of the previous M, and is generally acceptable for a luxury sedan with sporty pretensions. There’s some jostling about on uneven road surfaces, but no harshness, at least not with the 18s. (The lower profile 20s could be a different story.) Wind noise is low, but road noise on concrete is a bit above the luxury sedan norm. Infiniti continues to have different priorities than Lexus.

No car is perfect. Overall, my criticisms stem from how close the new Infiniti M comes to perfection rather than how far it falls from it. Beautiful exterior—unless you get the standard wheels. Lovely cockpit—except the A-pillars are overly intrusive while the seat bolsters aren’t intrusive enough. Fun to drive—but the V6’s engine note could be of higher quality and lesser quantity. Compare the new M to existing competitors rather than an evasive ideal, and it stacks up very well for anyone who prioritizes the driving experience over silence and spaciousness.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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