Infiniti's latest luxury car could just be the car of the future. Yes, it's a 3.5-litre executive behemoth that comes in at nearly £50,000, but look closer and it's actually an automotive harbinger. The clue is in the subtly placed lowercase "h" in its name. It stands for "hybrid" and means the M35h joins the diesel (M30d) and petrol (M37) models as the cleanest, fastest and probably safest car in Infiniti's M line-up. Ideal for our risk-averse and emission-watching age then.
Its gutsy V6 petrol engine is supplemented by a 68-brake horsepower electric motor, which allows it to run on juice alone at low speeds, leaving the engine disengaged until required. What really sets it apart from other luxury hybrids, though, is that the transition between the two is seamless and you can travel at up to 60mph on battery power alone. And its lithium-ion battery (which admittedly does reduce your boot space) won't run flat because the vehicle's electric drive motor operates the brake cylinders and charges the battery at the same time.
Aside from cutting emissions of luxury car owners, this level of technical wizardry is important because it will almost certainly appear on the next generation of Nissan hybrids (Infiniti is the luxury moniker of the Japanese car brand). Put simply, it will one day feature on cars that you and I might be able to afford.
It is the same story on the safety front, too. Like many top-end cars, the M35h comes with a host of safety gadgets, from intelligent cruise control to lane collision warning. Most of these are expensive toys but its blind-spot warning function (radar waves check for vehicles in your blind spot and trigger a light, then an alarm, if you move towards it) is truly inspired. Mid-market car makers now offer it in their higher-spec cars and it won't be long before it's an affordable option on your Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Astra.
What perhaps won't feature on tomorrow's family cars is the level of luxury inside the M35h. It only comes in the top-of-the-range spec, which explains the hefty price tag (£50,000 is expensive even for an executive mile-eater), as do its delicate curves and near Audi-like levels of build quality and elegance.
Hybrids have long been seen as the boring option. That's where the other side of the Infiniti's character – its pace – comes into play. Its engine comes from Nissan's brutish 370z, and coupled with its electric motor, offers staggering acceleration. It's so fast that it now holds the record as the world's fastest hybrid, and its nifty speed limiter control (another clever safety feature) is essential if you don't want to hit license-endangering speeds. Sadly it lacks steering-wheel-mounted gear paddles for quick shifts and its handling is luxurious but firm rather than engaging, lacking the precision of a BMW.
Yes, some of the traditional downsides of the M range remain (ugly looks, lack of name recognition, high prices, the less-than spectacular handling) but in the M35h Infiniti has succeeded in creating an ultra-safe luxury limousine that's almost as fast as an Aston Martin Rapide, without the debilitating environmental guilt. Silly speed aside, and perhaps in a more modest form, it could just be the type of car we'll all be driving one day.
Infiniti M35h GT Premium
Engine capacity: 3.5 litre V6 petrol, plus electric motor
Top speed (mph): 155
0-62 mph (seconds): 5.5
Fuel economy (mpg): 40.4
C02 emissions (g/km): 162