ROAD TEST – Nissan Infiniti

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ELECTRIC motors are the big news right now. Motoring man LES OLIVER puts Nissan’s luxury Infiniti hybrid through its paces.

THE Infiniti brand has only been available in Britain for a couple of years, and on the continent for not much more than that.

So this luxury arm of Nissan is relatively unknown compared to the likes of BMW and Audi.

Execs in the market for a luxury saloon are spoilt for choice with the generally highly thought-of German big three leading the field.

But the arrival of a hybrid version of Infiniti’s seriously quick 3.5-litre V6 adds a fresh dimension.

Not only do you have a 360hp powerplant that will whisk you to the 62mph benchmark in 5.5 seconds and on to 155mph, you also get whisper quiet performance - and 40-plus mpg economy.

And it’s just under the important 160g/km tax threshold.

That silent start as you glide away from the pavement always amazes any passenger not used to electric motoring.

Out on open country roads he is flabbergasted as this extremely calm nature is transformed into a Jekyll and Hyde racer.

The transition between electric power and petrol-driven is seamless. You can monitor its progress on the multi-function/satnav screen.

When you are cruising on the motorway the electric takes over, you can see when you are braking that this energy is recharging the batteries.

And when you stop in traffic it’s totally silent and emission free as the power is cut out.

But touch the accelerator and it’s away again without a moment’s delay.

This certainly is an excellent machine. It’s roomy, has a sophisticated generous specification including leather seat facings, heated and ventilated front seats, bi-Xenon headlights with adaptive front-lighting, a great satnav, alloy wheels a sophisticated aircon system and a rear electric sunblind.

The Premium version is packed with virtually every toy you can think of.

With all these goodies it’s not cheap - £42,000 for the well-quipped M35h GT - and £46,000 for the even better equipped Premium.

With all this you’d expect it to be snapping at the heels of the traditional sector leaders, but it takes time to establish a new brand.

The Japanese newcomer is not as immediately recognisable as a big sleek Mercs, Audi or the familiar Beemer.

Another consideration if you live in the North East is that you won’t be able to pop round to the local dealer. The nearest is in Leeds, though there are plans to open one in Newcastle.

But Infiniti cover that issue by offering to pick up your car either from your office or from home when it needs a service and drop it back for you afterwards.

Its quality features, power and economy puts the performance hybrid in a class of its own.

But this luxury limo still has a way to go to make a dent in the Teutonic shield.

TECH SPEC

Infiniti M35h GT Premium

Engine: 3.5-litre petrol/hybrid

Power: 360bhp

0-60: 5.5 secs

Top speed: 155mph

Economy: 40.4mpg

CO2: 159g/km

Price: £45,990