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2012 Infiniti M35h Preview

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Nissan and its Infiniti luxury division may have been late to the table when it comes to hybrids but neither brand is shying away from launching a new generation of gasoline-electric vehicles. Infiniti has fired the latest round in the battle for hybrid supremacy with the unveiling of a new hybrid version of its latest M sedan, the 2012 Infiniti M35h.

First unveiled at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show back in March, the M35h has now made its North American debut at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Described as the ‘driver’s hybrid,’ the M35h introduces world-first steering and braking technologies designed to deliver both environmental benefits and enhanced driving feel. The steering of the M35h is an electro-hydraulic system with ‘on-demand’ assistance. It offers the advantages of both types of steering--the natural and smooth feel of hydraulic power steering and the improved fuel efficiency of an electric system--while the motor cuts in only when the wheel is turned, further boosting efficiency.

The brakes, too, help provide more accurate feel as well as curbing emissions. The system is called Electric Driven Intelligent Brake. 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 maximize the energy regeneration of the electric motor of the car’s hybrid system. Additionally, the electric motor directly operates the brake cylinders.

Of course, being a hybrid vehicle, the powertrain is the star of the show here, and Infiniti’s new M35h certainly doesn’t disappoint. The M35h marries a special 3.5-liter V-6 engine that’s capable of decoupling from the powertrain, as well as a 68 horsepower electric motor built into the car’s seven-speed automatic transmission and powered by an array of lithium-ion batteries.

Central to the system is the one motor/two clutch design. The first clutch is installed between the V-6 engine and the electric motor, which is embedded within the automatic transmission. The electronically controlled clutch allows the full decoupling of the V-6 when the car is in electric drive and power regeneration modes. Decoupling the V-6 reduces mechanical drag and boosts the efficiency of the electric motor.

Another special feature is the M35h’s advanced seven-speed automatic transmission. Its design does not include a torque converter, which enables the throttle to be blipped on downshifts just like in a manual car.

The 2012 Infiniti M35h goes on sale in Spring 2011. Final power outputs and performance data, including mileage, will be confirmed at later date.

[Infiniti]

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