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Paris show: Infiniti’s M35h packs a punch

High-class hybrid: Infiniti claims that the M35h drivetrain enables electric-only propulsion to be used more often, for longer periods and at higher speeds than in existing hybrids.

Infiniti’s first hybrid set for 2011 Euro launch as 2013 EV sketch emerges

27 Sep 2010

NISSAN luxury brand Infiniti will present its M35h high-performance hybrid sedan in final production form at the Paris motor show later this week, ahead of a European launch early next year and a possible Australian introduction in 2012.

Key details of the V6-powered, rear-drive ‘driver’s hybrid’ emerged last week as Infiniti used the launch of a new showroom in central London to also release a sketch of its first all-electric vehicle, which it describes as a “stylish, compact, high-performance, five-seat luxury car” that will enter production in 2013.

No other information was provided on the new EV, although it is expected to be based on the same platform as the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

16 center imageLeft: Infiniti EV sketch. Middle: Infiniti M35h. Bottom: Infiniti IPL G Cabrio Concept.

Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn used last October’s Tokyo motor show to reveal that the company would broaden the application of its EV powertrain beyond the Leaf and specifically referred to a high-performance compact luxury car from Infiniti – albeit with four seats – as one of the models in development.

The EV is expected to offer higher levels of performance than the Leaf, following Mr Ghosn’s assurances that it would be “true to the Infiniti brand’s promise of inspired performance”, although it could also follow rival Lexus’ lead with the Toyota Prius-based CT200h in offering a more driver-oriented version of a regular eco-car but with the same level of performance.

The hybrid version of the new M sedan, meanwhile, could form part of the comprehensive Infiniti model range Nissan Australia is planning to launch in Australia in late 2012 or early 2013.

Powered by a 225kW/350Nm 3.5-litre V6 engine combined with a 50kW/270Nm electric motor and driving through a modified seven-speed automatic transmission, the M35h is said to be capable of accelerating from 0-100km/h in less than 5.9 seconds, making it the quickest car in Infiniti’s European range. Its maximum speed is restricted to 250km/h.

The M35h’s eco credentials include a range of up to 80km on electric power alone, combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.3L/100km and CO2 emissions of less than 170g/km.

Infiniti says the drivetrain enables electric-only propulsion to be used more often, for longer periods and at higher speeds than in existing hybrids. While the 80km/h range is derived from flat highway conditions, the M35h is able to run on electric power alone at speeds as high as 140km/h on a trailing throttle.

Other claims include electric propulsion for up to 2km in slow-moving traffic, while in “mixed driving” the M35h is able to drive in electric-only mode “for as much as 50 per cent of the time”, according to the manufacturer.

Set to rival BMW’s forthcoming 5 Series hybrid, the M35h will be available in base and luxury GT forms, with the range-topping GT Premium equipped with what Infiniti claims will be class-first technologies such as intelligent cruise control, a lane-departure warning system and ‘active noise control’.

Previously announced world-first technology specific to the hybrid version includes ‘on-demand’ assistance for the electro-hydraulic power steering system and an ‘electric-driven intelligent brake’ system.

The latter is designed to increase efficiency while meeting sporting driving requirements by employing the vehicle’s electric drive motor to operate the brake cylinders.

According to Infiniti, when the driver steps on the brake pedal, the necessary braking force is maintained while the hydraulic pressure of the friction brake is controlled to help maximise the energy regeneration of the hybrid motor.

The ‘on-demand’ steering system is claimed to offer both the smooth, natural feel of a hydraulic steering system and the fuel efficiency of an electric system by employing an electric motor that cuts in only when the wheel is turned.

The M35h tips the scales at 1885kg, with Infiniti pointing to the single electric motor, the use of a dual-clutch system (rather than a torque converter) built into its transmission, unique steering and braking systems, and lightweight 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack as contributing factors.

Infiniti will also use the Paris motor show to broaden its Infiniti Performance Line (IPL) beyond the 3 Series-sized G Coupe, announcing that it will unveil a G Cabrio “concept” that heralds a second new model in development to tackle rivals from BMW’s M and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG divisions.

As with the IPL G Coupe unveiled at Pebble Beach in August, the IPL G Cabrio has a modest performance increase and more aggressive looks over its donor model, with a 248kW/374Nm version of the 3.7-litre petrol V6 (with a high-flow dual exhaust system) enabling 0-100km/h in under six seconds and a top speed of more than 270km/h (exact figures still to confirmed).

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