2012 Infiniti M Hybrid, at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show
Think "hybrid" and what comes to mind? Small or midsize, sometimes odd-driving Toyotas?
There's now actually a raft of low-volume hybrid luxury and sports sedans from such makers as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, and now Infiniti. The 2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid was officially unveiled at last fall's 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show after one of the more drawn-out introductions we've seen.
Now the EPA has rated its gas mileage, and Infiniti is proud of the fact that it is the sole vehicle in its class to offer both more than 350 horsepower and a highway rating of more than 30 miles per gallon.
Note, however, that the power figure is the maximum combined horsepower of the engine and the electric motor operating together. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine itself puts out a rather more predictable 302 horsepower.
The ratings, in fact, are 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 29 mpg, higher than the ratings Infiniti had predicted last autumn.
Infiniti's new hybrid system includes an air-cooled 1.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that powers a 50-kilowatt (67-hp) electric motor mounted between the V-6 engine and the company's new 7-speed automatic transmission.
The peak torque from the electric motor is 199 foot-pounds, or fully 80 percent of the gasoline engine's 258 lb-ft. The gasoline engine can be fully decoupled when the car is being powered electrically or in regenerative mode.
Infiniti says the M35h offers electric-only running for more than a mile, at speeds up to 62 mph. In mixed use, the M35h operates purely on electric power as much as 50 percent of the time, according to the company's test data.
Of course, the 2012 M Hybrid isn't the sole vehicle to offer both a 300-plus-horsepower engine and 30 mpg on the highway. The rather less luxurious 2011 Ford Mustang with the 3.7-liter V-6 engine puts out 305 hp and is rated at 31 mpg highway.
But it's missing two doors, an electric motor, and the potential suburban cachet of those little "hybrid" badges. We suspect they're hardly likely to be cross-shopped.
Still, Ford's powerful pony car is a good case study of why it's important to read the qualifying wording carefully in such claims.