Nissan VQ20DE Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Nissan VQ20DE engine!"

This pages aim is examine the options for your VQ20DE tuning and show the best modifications. Nissan VQ20DE great bases for a tuning project and with the right upgrades like ECU maps, turbo upgrades and camshafts you will certainly increase your driving fun.

The VQ engine was born in 1994 and has had many revisions and specs over the years. We will look at the 2.0 NASP version of this great little V6 engine and see what can be done to raise power.

History, Power & Specs of the VQ20DE Engine

  • Power ranged between 150 PS (110 kW; 148 hp) and 160 PS (118 kW; 158 hp) at 6400 rpm
  • with 137 to 145 lbft (186 to 197 Nm) at 4400 rpm

It was fitted to the..

  • 1994–2003 Nissan Cefiro A32 and A33
  • 1995–1999 Nissan QX A32

Tuning the Nissan VQ20DE and best VQ20DE performance parts.

Best VQ20DE upgrades

The best VQ20DE modifications on an engine are sensibly the ones that give the best power gain for you spend.

We won't be swayed by popular VQ20DE modifications, they need to be cost effective.

Significant gains on the VQ20DE can be made from cam upgrades. Altering the cam profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the power band and power output.

Fast road camshafts commonly raise the performance across the rev band, you might lose a little low down bhp but higher rpm power will be higher.

Motorsport camshafts, raise the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Motorsport and race cam is not great in heavy traffic.

You should ideally optimize your torque band to your usage of the car so for a road car stick with a shorter duration VQ20DE cam

Some VQ20DE engines respond better to different camshaft durations than others.

The ECU mapping and injectors and fuel pump also have a large bearing on the torque gains you'll hit.

Longer valve durations can alter the torque 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:
    Panel air filters, Fast road camshaft, Sports exhaust header/manifold, Remaps/piggy back ECU, drilled & smoothed airbox, Intake manifolds.

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

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

    Carefully think through your options and then find your parts and set yourself a power target to save yourself from expensive mistakes.

    Remaps should help to unlock the full potential of all the modifications you've done to your VQ20DE.

    (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 the outcome will vary depending on the modifications you've applied and the condition of your engine.

    Pulling more fuel and air into each cylinder is the whole point to any engine tuning task.

    Your intake manifold will direct the air during the suck phase from the filter and allow it to be drawn into the engine cylinders.

    The shape and flow characteristics of the Air Intake manifolds can make a noticeable effect on to fuel delivery on the VQ20DE.

    I usually find plenum chambers are begging for motorsport parts, although some makers provide reasonably well designed plenum chambers.

    Larger VQ20DE valves, doing some 3 or 5 angle valve jobs and porting and head flowing will also boost power, the fantastic side effect is it will make space for an improved power increase on other parts.

    VQ20DE 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 VQ20DE

    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.

    When a car is turbo charged mods are going to net you a larger power gain and turbocharged engines are made with harder and stronger components.

    There are tuning limits for every engine, with some being extremely strong and some only able to handle stock powerDiscover these limitations and install higher quality crank and pistons to cope with the power.

    There are many people spending a lots of money on turbo charger upgrades on the VQ20DE only to watch the motor explode soon after it's used on the roads.

    Larger capacity turbochargers tend to experience a bottom end lag, and little turbochargers spool up quickly but do not have the peak end engines power gains.

    Thanks to new tech the choice of turbochargers is always evolving and we are seeing variable vane turbochargers, permitting the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end performance.

    Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and push these at differently profiled vanes in the turbo charger. They also boost the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is common that there is a limit in the air flow sensor AFM/MAF on the VQ20DE when considerably more air is being pulled into the engine.

    Going up you'll find 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited torque at a much lower level.

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


    Don't dismiss the need raise the fuel delivery when you are increasing the performance - it makes the car more thirsty. Don't forget to over specify your injector capacity.

    As a rule of thumb add 20% when fitting an injector, this takes into account 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.

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

    6 Cylinder NA (naturally aspirated) engines

    • 58 PSI 189cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 284cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 378cc/min 400hp
    • 58 PSI 568cc/min 600hp

    6 Cylinder turbocharged engines

    • 58 PSI 227cc/min 200hp
    • 58 PSI 341cc/min 300hp
    • 58 PSI 454cc/min 400hp
    • 58 PSI 682cc/min 600hp

    VQ20DE Performance Exhausts

    Only look to increase your exhaust if your exhaust is actually creating a restriction.

    On most factory exhausts you'll see the exhaust flow rate is still 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 generally help improve air flow out of the engine but do not go 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 as a rule of thumb.

    Typically exhaust restrictions come around the filters installed, so adding a better flowing high performance aftermarket one will improve air flow, and rather than doing an illegal decat, will keep the car road legal.

    Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the VQ20DE

    The VQ20DE 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.

    Keep an eye on the oil consumption, piston ring and cylinder wear is exacerbated by poor quality fuel resulting in blow by.

    Exhaust cam cover wear and failure can result in rough idling.

    Regular oil changes are vital on the VQ20DE, 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 VQ20DE engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss VQ20DE tuning options in more detail with our VQ20DE owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Nissan tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be for your car.

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    We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which upgrades 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 VQ20DE tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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