Nissan VK45DE Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan VK45DE engine!"

The Nissan VK45DE is a 4.5-liter V8 engine known for its torquey performance and advanced technology. This engine was designed by Nissan to provide a balance of power and luxury, primarily for its high-end vehicles.

One engine that keeps cropping up in emails and questions we get sent, is the VK45DE, and what parts work best on it. So this article has been assembled to cover the primary areas you should tune and outline which modifications we feel are the best. We are always grateful for feedback and suggestions via the comments which allow us to update this article and offer the best and most impartial advice to other VK45DE owners.

This pages aim is review VK45DE tuning and summarise the best modifications. Nissan VK45DE are awesome to work on and with the optimum sports tuning mods like remaps, turbo kits and camshafts you will certainly improve your driving enjoyment.

History, Power & Specs of the VK45DE Engine

  • Infiniti Q45: The flagship sedan from Infiniti, where it produced approximately 340 horsepower.
  • Infiniti M45: Offering a similar power output as in the Q45, this model provided a dynamic driving experience.
  • Infiniti FX45: In the luxury crossover SUV, the VK45DE offered a blend of performance suited for both comfort and responsiveness on various terrains.

The engine continued in production until around the mid-2010s, with its application extending into some motorsport areas due to its robust design and reliable performance characteristics.

  • Infiniti Q45 340 hp (254 kW) (451Nm; 333 lbft) 2002–2006
  • Infiniti FX45 320 hp (239 kW) 446Nm; 329 lbft) 2003–2008
  • Infiniti M45 340 hp (254 kW)(451Nm; 333 lbft) 2003–2004
  • Infiniti M45 325 hp (242 kW) (461Nm; 340 lbft) 2006–2010
  • Nissan Fuga 450 GT 333 hp (248 kW) 461Nm; 340 lbft) 2004–2010
  • Nissan President 276 hp (206 kW) (451Nm; 333 lbft) 2003–2010

Tuning the Nissan VK45DE and best VK45DE performance parts.

Best VK45DE tuning parts

When talking about the best modifications for your VK45DE engine, we are going to focus on the modifications that give the best value for money.

Equipped with Nissan's VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift) technology, the VK45DE dynamically adjusts the timing and lift of the valves. This allows a tuner to extract power from other mods more effectively as the VVEL is used to deliver power and economy when needed.

Your typical fast road camshaft usually push up the bhp and torque across the rev band, you might lose a little low down bhp but the top end will be higher with VVEL you really do have the best of both worlds, an economy and performance profile.

Each engine responds better to different cam durations than others.

The ECU mapping and injectors and fuel pump also have an effect on the bhp gains you'll hit.

Longer valve durations can alter the bhp 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,  on a VK45DE you'll need to source aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs to achieve this.
    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:
Fast road camshaft, Panel air filters, Sports exhaust header/manifold, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Intake manifolds, drilled & smoothed airbox.

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

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

Carefully think through your options and then acquire your upgrades and set yourself a power target to avoid costly mistakes.

Mapping helps to establish the full potential of all the tuning mods you've done to your VK45DE and allows more control over the engine and fuel delivery but you'll need an aftermarket ECU on these.

Selecting the right aftermarket Engine Control Unit (ECU) can be crucial.

  • Haltech Elite Series: Known for its advanced tuning capabilities, the Haltech Elite series allows for precise control over fuel and ignition and offers comprehensive data logging, making it ideal for both street and track applications.
  • Link G4+ ECU: The Link G4+ stands out for its user-friendly interface and flexible configuration options. It's particularly appreciated for its ability to manage dual VVEL technology, ensuring that modifications to the VK45DE can be fully optimized.
  • Motec Systems ECU: Renowned for its use in motorsport, Motec's ECUs offer robust construction and high-end performance tuning capabilities. They are highly customizable, which is essential for getting the most out of a performance-oriented engine like the VK45DE.

We're eager to hear from you! If you have upgraded your VK45DE with an aftermarket ECU, share your experiences with us. Which ECU did you choose, and how has it impacted your vehicle's performance? Your feedback can help other enthusiasts make informed decisions and maximize the potential of their own VK45DE engine.

It will usually give you around 15% on NA (naturally aspirated) engines, but the end result will vary depending on the tuning mods you've done and the condition of your engine as long as air and fuel supply are sufficient.

Forcing more fuel and air into each cylinder is the aim to any engine modification job.

Intake manifolds/plenums take the air from the filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase so any drag in this area will be detrimental to performance overall.

Design and flow characteristics of the Intake can make a substantial change to fuel delivery on the VK45DE.

Many mass produced engine plenum chambers are in dire need of an upgrade, although a few manufacturers provide decently flowing plenum chambers.

Fitting big valve kits, carrying out VK45DE port enlargement and head flowing will also increase power, and significantly will allow you to get a better power increase on other tuning mods.

VK45DE 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 VK45DE

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

If an engine has a turbo already fitted upgrades are giving better power gains and turbo charged engines are made with better components.

However you'll find engines will need better parts at higher power limits. Discover these restrictions and upgrade to better quality crank and pistons to survive the power.

We've seen mechanics spending a a stack of money on turbo upgrades on the VK45DE only to suffer the humiliation of seeing the car literally blow up on it's first outing after it's been completed.

Big turbos commonly suffer no power at low rpm, and little turbos spool up more quickly but don't have the high rpm power band gains.

In the last 10 years the choice of turbochargers is always evolving and we commonly find variable vane turbochargers, where the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end power.

Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust flow into two channels and push these at differently profiled vanes in the turbo charger. They also improve the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is not unusual that there's a restriction in the air flow sensor AFM/MAF on the VK45DE when considerably more air is being drawn into the engine.

You'll see that 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 bhp gains, although more complex to install. We have this in depth look at twinchargers if you want to read more.


When you lift the bhp and torque you will need to ramp up to the fuel delivery.

More bhp and torque needs more fuel.

When upgrading the fuel injectors, it's essential to consider not only the flow rate but also compatibility and ease of installation.

It's a wise strategy to exceed your engine's current requirements by about 20%. This extra capacity not only compensates for potential injector deterioration over time but also provides a cushion for any increase in fuel demand, whether from future engine upgrades or varying driving conditions.

Additionally, when selecting aftermarket injectors, you can often find compatible side-feed injectors from reputable brands such as Deatschwerks or Nismo.

These brands are generally reliable and ensure that you avoid the pitfalls of lesser-quality alternatives, which might not deliver the consistent performance your engine needs or prematurely fail on you.

It's important to note that these injectors can typically be installed directly without modifications. However, depending on the connector type your setup uses—oval versus square—you might need an adapter kit. Deatschwerks, for instance, offers these kits to facilitate installation on the VK45DE.

You might also explore the option of acquiring a "phase 2" fuel rail. This upgrade could potentially eliminate the need for an adapter kit altogether, streamlining the installation process and ensuring a cleaner setup under the hood.

Remember, matching the fuel injector to the type of fuel your vehicle consumes is just as crucial.

Whether your engine runs on gasoline, ethanol blends, or another type of fuel, the right injectors will ensure optimal compatibility and performance, avoiding any issues related to fuel mismatch. This might seem like common sense, but it’s a crucial step that ensures your engine operates efficiently and remains in good health over its lifetime.

VK45DE Performance Exhausts

You may need to boost your exhaust if your exhaust is actually creating a restriction in flow.

On most factory exhausts you should find that your flow rate is good 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 will certainly help air flow out of the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too large or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches for best results.

Common exhaust restrictions are traced to the catalyst installed, so adding a higher 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 VK45DE

The VK45DE 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 VK45DE, 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 VK45DE engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss with our VK45DE owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased 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 hearing about our website visitors projects, especially the mods done and which 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 VK45DE tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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