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Hybrids Become Indispensable Luxury Feature

infiniti-m35h-610xInfiniti 35h’s powertrain uses a 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V6 engine that works with a single electric motor and two clutches to deliver 300 horsepower.

Nissan continues to trumpet pure electric cars as the ultimate answer to sustainable mobility—but will make gas-electric drivetrains the solution to efficient luxury. The Infiniti M35h Hybrid, coming in spring 2011, will allow luxury buyers to keep all the desired horsepower and high-end features, but no longer guzzle gas. Infiniti has not released fuel economy numbers but on several occasions has stated the system will deliver fuel mileage comparable to the Nissan Versa’s 1.8-liter four—28 mpg city/34 highway. That’s a huge leap beyond the new M37’s (the 2011 replacement for the M35) numbers of 18 city/26 highway. That’s just the beginning of Infiniti hybrids. Larry Dominque, Nissan North America’s vice president of product planning for the Americas, says the M hybrid system was designed to fit all of Infiniti’s rear-wheel-drive models, including the G sedan and coupe and the EX and FX crossovers.

Lexus executives have said they will make hybrid technology, and sporty driving, the hallmarks of the luxury brand. The line’s newest, coolest and highest mpg model is coming in March 2011—the Lexus CT 200h. Keywords: Efficient, Luxury, Compact, Hatchback. The 2011 Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid—like the 2010 Toyota Prius—features a 1.8-liter 98-horsepower gas engine and 80-hp electric motor for total system power of 134 hp. It’s capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in 9.8 seconds and can reach a maximum speed of 112 mph. With a combined city-highway mileage of 42 mpg, it will be the first vehicle in the luxury segment to step over the 40-mpg line—and it will be Lexus’s fifth hybrid offering, the most of any automobile nameplate.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen chairman Martin Winterkorn recently said that hybrid and electric vehicles will account for three percent of the German carmaker’s global sales by 2018. The Touareg Hybrid will appear in mid-year—but the mainstream high-volume VW hybrid model we’re waiting for is the gas-electric version of the newly introduced Jetta. That might not come until 2012, but before the end of the year, we’ll see Audi, VW’s luxury brand, introduce the Audi Q5 Hybrid crossover and probably the A6 Hybrid sedan.

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