Nissan MR20DE Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan MR20DE engine!"

The MR20DE, a standout in Nissan's lineup of engines, combines efficiency with practical performance and was also adopted by Renault.

Introduced in 2005, this 2.0-liter inline-four engine showcases Nissan's commitment to delivering dependable and economical powertrains suitable for a wide array of vehicles. Whether nestled under the hood of a compact sedan like the Nissan Sentra or powering a crossover like the Nissan Qashqai, the MR20DE is designed to meet the diverse needs of drivers around the world.

Our aim here is to detail the best approach to MR20DE tuning and provide tips on the best modifications for your car.

Nissan MR20DE provide a fun base for your project and with carefully picked motorsport upgrades like remaps, turbo kits and camshafts you will really improve your driving pleasure.

History, Power & Specs of the Engine

The MR20DE is engineered with a lightweight aluminum block and a continuously variable valve timing control system, optimizing performance and fuel efficiency.

Its design focuses on reducing friction and improving the engine's thermal efficiency, which are crucial for enhancing overall vehicle efficiency.

Delivering a respectable output of around 140 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque, the MR20DE strikes an excellent balance between power and fuel economy. This makes it an ideal engine for daily commuting as well as longer, more demanding drives.

The MR20DE found it's way into many Nissan and Renault versions, and came in a few power figures depending on the application.

  • 131 hp
  • 135 hp
  • 138 hp

It was fitted to the following models between 2005 and 2020

  • 2005–present Nissan Serena
  • 2005–2012 Nissan Bluebird Sylphy
  • 2006–present Renault Clio
  • 2007–present Nissan X-Trail
  • 2007–present Nissan Qashqai
  • 2008–2014 Nissan Teana(J32)
  • 2007–2012 Nissan Sentra
  • 2013–present Nissan NV200
  • 2007–present Renault Laguna
  • 2008–present Renault Safrane
  • 2008–2016 Renault Mégane(III)
  • 2009–present Renault Scénic
  • 2005–present Renault Samsung SM5
  • 2009–present Renault Fluence
  • 2009–present Renault Samsung SM3
  • 2009–present Renault Latitude

As we delve deeper into the specifics of the MR20DE, we'll explore the capabilities and advantages of the MR20DE will provide valuable insights into why this engine remains a popular choice in Nissan’s engine lineup.

Tuning the Nissan MR20DE and best MR20DE performance parts.

Best MR20DE mods

The best MR20DE mods on an engine are sensibly the ones that give the best power gain for you spend.

We won't be swayed by popular MR20DE mods, they need to be cost effective. This engine has VVT on the intake so camshaft replacements are not really needed, the stock system gives the flexibility a performance cam offers without the drawbacks.

Decent top end gains on the MR20DE can be made from camshaft upgrades on the exhaust side. Altering the camshaft profile alters  exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the torque and power output.

A regrind on the stock cam seems to be the only option here, with hardly anyone selling a performance cam in our area.

Fast road cams commonly boost the power across the rev band, you may lose a little low end power but top end will be higher.

Race cams, boost the top end band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

In a daily driver must carefully try to match your bhp range to your preferences.

I'd be amazed if you have found a MR20DE Race cam is a pleasure to live with when on the daily commute, because the lumpy idle will make the car prone to stall and smooth driving at low rpm becomes impossible. If you are developing a track car this doesn't matter as you are in the high end of your RPM range anyway and that is where you want the power to be.

Some MR20DE engines respond better to mild camshaft durations check your engine on a rolling road.

The ecu map and fuelling also have an effect on the power gains you'll achieve.

Longer 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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Panel air filters, Intake manifolds, Sports exhaust header/manifold, drilled & smoothed airbox, Remaps/piggy back ECU.

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

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

Review your options and then acquire your upgrades and set yourself a power target to void expensive mistakes.

ECU flashing helps release the full potential of all the upgrades you've fitted to your MR20DE.

(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 15% of a power gain on the MR20DE at mid rpm points, but the outcome usually rely on the upgrades you've carried out and the condition of your engine.

It is the main goal to any engine modification task to push fuel and air into the MR20DE engine

Intake manifolds transmit the air during the suck phase from the air cleaner and allow it to be pulled into the engine cylinders.

Structure and rate of flow of the Intake can make a big difference to fuel atomisation and engine efficiency on the MR20DE.

Most air intake manifolds are needing aftermarket parts, although a few OEM provide decently flowing air intake manifolds.

Larger MR20DE valves, doing a bit of port work and head flowing will also raise bhp, and as an added benefit will allow you to get a better bhp increase on other tuning parts.

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 MR20DE

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.

It is not unusual that there is a limitation in the air flow sensor MAF/MAP on the MR20DE when loads more air is being fed into the engine.

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

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large bhp gains, although more complex to setup. We have this article covering twinchargers if you want to read more.


Don't forget to boost the fuel system when you are increasing the bhp - it makes the car more thirsty. It makes sense to be generous with your injector capacity. The MR20DE's direct fuel injection system and an intelligent engine control module, the MR20DE adapts to varying driving conditions to provide a smooth and responsive driving experience.

Stock fuel copes quite well on the MR20DE and only really needs upgrading if you go with forced induction.

The rule of thumb is to add another 20% when specifying an injector, this allows for injector deterioration and provides a bit of spare capacity should the engine require 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.


Only look to increase your exhaust if the current exhaust is actually causing a restriction.

On most factory exhausts you should find that the exhaust flow rate is still ok 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 balance the flow of air through the engine.

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

Common exhaust restrictions come around the filters installed, so adding a higher flowing race alternative such as a sports catalyst pretty much removes this restriction, thanks to it's larger size and surface area, and will effectively raise the performance to levels you would expect without having a catalyst installed, but keeps the car road legal.

Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the MR20DE

The MR20DE 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 MR20DE, 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 MR20DE engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss tuning options in more detail with our MR20DE owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which parts work best for you on your car. Which helps us keep our guides and tips up to date helping others with their modified car projects. Your feedback and comments are used to keep this page up to date, and help improve the accuracy of these MR20DE tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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