Test Drive: 2013 Infiniti M Hybrid

The only Hybrid that fights back.

2013_infiniti M hybridNearly every automaker has its own take on the hybrid. Whether they shape it like the Prius or not, they all want to capitalize on the popularity of hybrids. While I?ve derided some (the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid) and loved others (Prius C) each surprisingly has its own distinctive characteristics. None more distinctive, however, than my most recent hybrid encounter: the 2013 Infiniti M Hybrid.

First, let?s get to the basics: the 2013 Infiniti M Hybrid carries a base price of $54,200 but my test vehicle weighed in at $66,245. Under the hood Infiniti has placed a 3.5-liter V6 mated to an electric motor that together produce a net 360 horsepower that is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The EPA has rated the 2013 Infiniti M Hybrid at 27 MPG city and 32 highway with a combined score of 29.

Now we?ve gotten the nitty-gritty out of the way; let?s talk design.

Say what you will about the looks of the new Infinitis. I think they appear to have been stung by a bee and suffered unsightly swelling. Plainly put: new Infiniti body designs take rounded, aerodynamic-inspired bodylines to an all-new level. The grille is rounded, the fenders are entirely rounded, and the bumper is rounded. I don?t believe the exterior has one truly flat surface. Everything is curved and rounded.

Infiniti continues the rounded line design aesthetic onto the interior. Infiniti has given the dash and center stack many wandering, rounded lines that don?t seem to serve any purpose other than to say ?look, it?s round-y in here, too!?

2013 Infiniti - InteriorWhile many automakers are opting for wood trim with a flat finish, Infiniti has buffed their Japanese Ash wood trim to a nearly faux plastic finish. While it looks good, it?s just not that modern. Then in the back, where there?s normally a spacious trunk, Infiniti has chosen to stow the lithium-ion battery pack. Mind you, the trunk is still usable; it?s just not as big as it once was without the batteries. The batteries also impinge on the ability to fold the rear seats down, cutting even further into potential cargo capacity.

My complaints with the interior end there, however. With a staggering 16-speaker Bose sound system; satnav; intelligent cruise control; blind spot monitoring; Bluetooth; rain sensing wipers; and much more; Infiniti leaves little to be desired in the way of technology and luxury.

Admittedly all those things sound great. But let?s be honest: most automakers? features lists read nearly exactly the same. It?s the M Hybrid?s driving characteristics that truly set it apart.

If you?ve ever driven a Hybrid, you?ve probably noticed the driving characteristics that haunt virtually every hybrid: lumpy, uneven power delivery. Every hybrid (save the Prius C) suffers from it. The Infiniti is no different. But while the M Hybrid, too, is lumpy, it makes up for it with boatloads of power on the backend.

There?s no mistaking: the M Hybrid is fast. Shift the drive mode selector into ?Sport,? and the M Hybrid becomes the heavy-hitting, fuel thirsty car it was designed to be before Infiniti over complicated it with an electric motor and some batteries.

2013 Infiniti - Engine compartmentThe 2013 Infiniti M Hybrid pulls and pulls, no matter the speed (or RPM) because the two motors (gasoline and electric) pick up where the other leaves off. Then at stoplights the engine shuts off, which saves fuel. When the gas engine shuts off, the AC system doesn?t have to shut down because there?s enough power to still run your accessories thanks to the extra batteries on board.

In Sport mode, the 2013 Infiniti M Hybrid is the best hybrid over $30,000 that money can buy. But when the driver pops it over into ?Eco? mode, the story changes. Drastically.

Typically in hybrids (when in Eco mode) the throttle response is simply ratcheted back by the on-board computer. Not so, in the 2013 Infiniti M Hybrid. From a stoplight, the accelerator feels normal for the first quarter throttle. Push your foot any harder into the throttle, however, and the M Hybrid pushes back. I kid you not, the throttle pedal pushes back against you, resisting throttle. It is the most bizarre sensation I?ve ever felt. It?s hugely unnatural feeling and I never once got used to it. It made me feel like my leg and foot were failing me. It felt like a mental block. It never felt like the vehicle was pushing back, resisting my desired throttle application; no, it must be my muscles are simply incapable of performing the task at hand. It was infuriating.

Why Infiniti decided to design a throttle that fought back against the driver rather than just electronically withholding throttle response is beyond me. For a neurotic fellow like me, the bully of a throttle pedal made the M Hybrid virtually undrivable in any setting other than Sport.2013 Infiniti - side view

And that?s really too bad. Since it left my driveway, I?ve spent a lot of time thinking back fondly on our time together. I never thought I?d say this about a hybrid; but I kind of miss it.

If you?re in the market for one of the out-and-out strangest hybrid on the market, I urge you to rush into your local Infiniti dealer as quickly as you can. If, however, you?re simply interested in an M37 and are alternately considering the step to the Hybrid model I advise you save your self the $18,000 and stick to the ?plane Jane? M37 version instead.