Nissan MR20DD Tuning

"All you need to know about performance parts and tuning the Nissan MR20DD engine!"

In this article we outline options for your MR20DD tuning and outline the best modifications for your car. Nissan MR20DD provide a fun base for your project and with the ultimate performance mods like a remap, turbo kits and camshafts you will certainly maximise your driving pleasure.

This engine was a collaborative effort between Nissan and Renault (M5R) with variable valve control.

History, Power & Specs of the MR20DD Engine

  • 147 PS (145 hp) at 5600 rpm and 155 lbft (210 Nm) of torque at 4400 rpm JDM
  • 137 hp (139 PS) at 5200 rpm and 147 lbft (199 Nm) at 4400 rpm Export
  • 106 kW (144 PS) at 6000 rpm and 200 Nm (148 lb⋅ft) at 4400 rpm. AU & NZ Quashqai

This engine block was also used in the Hybrid format, with the electric motor providing around 40hp

  •  144 PS (142 hp) at 6000 rpm and 147 lbft (199 Nm) of torque at 4400 rpm
  • 150 PS (148 hp) at 6000 rpm and 147 lbft (199 Nm) of torque at 4400 rpm


  • 2010–present Nissan Serena
  • 2013–present Nissan X-Trail
  • 2014–present Australian & New Zealand Markets Nissan Qashqai
  • 2016-present Renault Kadjar (China)
  • 2016-present Renault Koleos II
  • 2017-present Renault Samsung QM6
  • 2017-present Nissan Rogue Sport
  • 2013–present Nissan X-Trail Hybrid
  • 2012–present Nissan Serena S-Hybrid

Tuning the Nissan MR20DD and best MR20DD performance parts.

Best MR20DD mods

When talking about the best modifications for your MR20DD engine, we are going to concentrate on the upgrades that give the best power gain for you spend.

Getting a fast road cam helps you to make more peak power, and we generally recommend this as a primary mod on petrol engines, and secondary on Diesels to a remap.

Altering your MR20DD camshaft will make a dramatic difference to the engine power band. Choosing a higher performance camshaft profile raises the power band accordingly.

Fast road cams usually push up the torque throughout the rev range, you could drop a little low down power but the high end rpm power will improve.

Race cams, push up the high end rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Competition camshaft makes it harder when driving around busy urban areas. This is because a competition cam causes a very lumpy idle, and makes the car more prone to stall or jerk along in stop start traffic, sadly though many ignore this and end up ruining a perfectly good car and having to revert back to a fast road, or OEM cam profile.

You should ideally optimize your bhp range to your typical driving style so for a daily driver stick with a mild fast road MR20DD camshaft

Some MR20DD engines respond better to more or less aggressive cam durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The map and fuel pump and injectors also have an effect on the power gains you'll make.

Altering valve durations can alter the power band and on most engines the exhaust and intake durations do not need to match, although most cams and tuners use matched pairs there are some advantages to extending the intake or exhaust durations.

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Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Engine Tunes - engine tuning/remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.
  6. Typical stage 1 mods often include:
    Intake manifolds, Panel air filters, Sports exhaust header/manifold, Fast road camshaft, Remaps/piggy back ECU, drilled & smoothed airbox.

    Typical stage 2 mods often include:
    high flow fuel injectors, induction kit, Sports catalyst & performance exhaust, Fast road cam, fuel pump upgrades, Ported and polished head.

    Typical stage 3 mods often include:
    Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression, Engine balancing & blueprinting, Competition cam, Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Twin charging conversions.

    Carefully think through your options and then acquire your upgrades and set yourself a power target to avoid wasting your time and money.

    ECU flashing allows a tuner to fully realize the full potential of all the tuning mods you've done to your MR20DD.

    (In some cases, as the factory ECU is locked flashing is not an option, so an aftermarket ECU is the route to take, and many of these will outperform factory ECU's but make sure it has knock protection and that you get it setup properly.)

    It will usually give you around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NA (naturally aspirated) engines, but your mileage may depend much on the tuning mods you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

    Getting air and fuel into the MR20DD engine is vital to any engine tuning job.

    Intake carry the air during the suck phase from the intake filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine and mixed with fuel.

    The size of bore and shape and rate of flow of the Intake can make a big effect on to fuel delivery on the MR20DD.

    I usually find intake manifold are needing a performance upgrade, although some car makers provide reasonably well designed intake manifold.

    Larger MR20DD valves, doing a bit of MR20DD port enlargement and head flowing will also raise torque, & importantly will afford you a greater torque increase on other tuning parts.

    MR20DD Turbo upgrades

    NA (naturally aspirated) engines need quite a lot of work when you add a turbo, so we have a separate guide to help you take into account the pros and cons of going this route on your MR20DD. It is a fairly high compression engine, but does have direct injection allowing a little more flexibility when adding forced induction.

    This is a complex and costly upgrade, and is not for the fainthearted.

    The more air you can get into an engine, the more fuel it can burn and uprating the induction with a turbocharger upgrade makes superb power gains.

    When the engine has forced induction modifications are relatively easy and you'll see that turbocharged engines use more solid components.

    There are common areas of failure for every engine, with some being over specified and some only just able to handle stock power. We recommend you find these restrictions and upgrade to better quality components to utilize the power.

    We've seen tuners spending a fortune on turbo upgrades on the MR20DD only to watch the motor explode on it's first outing after it's been finished.

    Bigger upgraded turbo chargers tend to experience no power at low rpm, and smaller turbo chargers spool up more quickly but won't have the peak rpm torque gains.

    Thanks to new tech the market of turbo chargers is always evolving and we now see variable vane turbo chargers, allowing the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end performance.

    Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust gases into 2 channels and push these at differently designed vanes in the turbo. They also increase the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is not unusual that there's a limitation in the air flow sensor AFM/MAP on the MR20DD when a lot more air is being pulled into the engine.

    We note 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited performance at a much lower level.

    Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large torque gains, although harder to install. We have this article on twincharging if you want to read more.


    When you raise the bhp and torque you will need to look at to the fuel system.

    More bhp and torque needs more fuel. Don't forget to be generous with your injectors flow rate.

    The accepted safe increase is to add another 20% when fitting an injector, this accounts for injector deterioration and provides a bit of spare capacity should the engine need more fuel.

    We think this one is common sense, but you'll need to match your fuel injector to the type of fuel your car uses as well.

    All the following flywheel power targets will assume an injector duty cycle of 80% and a base of 58psi of fuel pressure at idle.

    4 Cylinder turbocharged engines

    • 58 PSI 340cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 511cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 682cc/min 400hp
    • 58 PSI 1022cc/min 600hp

    5 Cylinder turbocharged engines

    • 58 PSI 273cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 409cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 545cc/min 400hp
    • 58 PSI 818cc/min 600hp

    4 Cylinder NA (naturally aspirated) engines

    • 58 PSI 285cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 426cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 568cc/min 400hp
    • 58 PSI 853cc/min 600hp

    4 Cylinder supercharged engines

    • 58 PSI 312cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 468cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 625cc/min 400hp
    • 58 PSI 937cc/min 600hp

    MR20DD Performance Exhausts

    Only look to improve your exhaust if the current exhaust is actually causing a flow problem.

    On most factory exhausts you should find that the flow rate is fine even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

    Sports exhausts can help equal out the flow of air through the engine.

    But if the exhaust pipe is too large, ie: over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose a lot of the flow rate and end up losing power and torque.

    Usual exhaust restrictions can be traced to the catalysts installed, so adding a better flowing performance catalyst removes the restriction. We note that performance cats perform similarly to decats and have the added benefit of keeping your car street legal, as decats or catalyst removal is illegal in most territories for road going cars.

    Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the MR20DD

    The MR20DD engines are generally reliable and solid units, as long as you follow the manufacturers service schedules, and use a good quality oil to ensure longevity. Few problems should happen as long as they are regularly serviced and maintained.

    Carbon build up in the head, particularly around the valves which will sap power or create flat spots, this is a larger issue on direct injection engines but should be looked out for on all engines. We have tips on removing carbon build up.

    Some of our members have had issues with flat spots or glitches after applying mods and upgrades or tuning, this is not usually related to this engines design, so instead see our article on diagnosing flat spots and problems after tuning which should help you get the bottom of this issue.

    Regular oil changes are vital on the MR20DD, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

    If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your MR20DD engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss with our MR20DD owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks
    of each modification.

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