Tuning guide to the VQ35DE engine

"Nissans VQ35DE all you need to know."

There are many variants of the VQ35DE offering power outputs ranging from 240hp to 300hp depending on region, model year and trim levels.

It has won many awards and seen many revisions over the years generally each iteration offering major improvements over the last culminating in it's evolution to the HR version.

It even appeared on Wards 10 best engines from 2002 to 2007 and more recently in 2016.

Fitted to everything from the sporty Nissan 350Z to Renault Espace people carriers it is a versatile design and there are many aftermarket parts available for it.

This really is a class leading V6 engine and was fitted to many models of car including some Renault models.

The later VQ35HR had Dual VVT (variable valve timing) whereas this only came on the rev up versions of the VQ35DE.

Compression ratio on these was around 10.3:1 so is less likely to suffer from detonation than it's higher compression brothers.

Block design was similar to the VQ30HR which had low friction intake valve lifters with molybdenum coated pistons and the HR is generally regarded as stronger but the VQ35DE still offers plenty of tuning potential.

VQ35DE History, specs and power

231 to 304 PS (170 to 224 kW; 228 to 300 hp) of power and 246 to 274 lbft (334 to 371 Nm)

VQ35DE, Nismo version the S1,  300 PS (221 kW; 296 hp) at 7,'0 rpm

VQ35DE is fitted to the following vehicles:

  • '01–'04 Nissan Pathfinder
    240 hp (179 kW; 243 PS)
  • '13–'16 Nissan Pathfinder
    260 to 284 hp (194 to 212 kW; 264 to 288 PS)
  • '01–'03 Infiniti QX4
    240 hp (179 kW; 243 PS)
  • '01–'04 Infiniti I35
    255 hp (190 kW; 259 PS)
  • '02–'18 Nissan Altima
    240 to 270 hp (179 to 201 kW; 243 to 274 PS)
  • '02–present
    Nissan Maxima
    255 to 300 hp (190 to 224 kW; 259 to 304 PS)
  • '02–'06 Nissan 350Z
    287 to 300 hp (214 to 224 kW; 291 to 304 PS)
  • '02–'07 Infiniti G35 Coupe
    280 to 298 hp (209 to 222 kW; 284 to 302 PS)
  • '02–'06 Infiniti G35 Sedan
    260 to 298 hp (194 to 222 kW; 264 to 302 PS)
  • '02–'08 Infiniti FX35
    280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS)
  • '02–present Nissan Murano (Z50)
    240 to 265 hp (179 to 198 kW; 243 to 269 PS)
  • '03–'16 Nissan Quest
    235 to 260 hp (175 to 194 kW; 238 to 264 PS)
  • '04–'08 Infiniti M35
    275 to 280 hp (205 to 209 kW; 279 to 284 PS)
  • '12–'13 Infiniti JX35
    265 hp (198 kW; 269 PS)
  • '13–'16 Infiniti QX60
    265 to 295 hp (198 to 220 kW; 269 to 299 PS)

JDM and other markets

  • '00–present Nissan Elgrand
    240 PS (177 kW; 237 hp)
  • '01–'07 Nissan Stagea
    272 PS (200 kW; 268 hp) and above
  • '01–'09 Renault Vel Satis
    241 PS (177 kW; 238 hp)
  • '02–'07 Nissan Skyline (V35)
    272 PS (200 kW; 268 hp) and above
  • '03–present Nissan Teana/Cefiro (350JM-J31)
    231 PS (170 kW; 228 hp)
  • '03–'09 Nissan Presage
    231 hp (172 kW; 234 PS)
  • '03–present Renault Espace
    241 PS (177 kW; 238 hp)
  • '03–'04 Tatuus Formula V6, Formula Renault V6 Eurocup
    370 hp (276 kW; 375 PS)
  • '04–'07 Nissan Fuga 350 GT
    300 PS (221 kW; 296 hp)
  • '05–'06 Nismo Fairlady Z S-Tune GT
    300 PS (221 kW; 296 hp) (VQ35DE S1 engine)
  • '05–'07 Dallara T05, World Series by Renault
    425 PS (313 kW; 419 hp)
  • '06–present Renault Samsung SM7
    217 PS (160 kW; 214 hp) (Neo VQ35)
  • '08–present Renault Laguna Coupé
    241 PS (177 kW; 238 hp)
  • '08–'11 Dallara T08, World Series by Renault
    425 PS (313 kW; 419 hp)
  • '10–present Renault Latitude
    253 PS (186 kW; 250 hp)
  • '12–present Dallara T12, World Series by Renault
    490 PS (360 kW; 483 hp)

Pre 2007 - these had issues with the intake restricting performance, a revised uprated plenum is recommended.

A rev up version was added in the 2005 350Z in the form of the Track edition and Special anniversary editions, the engine has dual VVT and puts out around 300hp.

Performance stats for the 350z are shown below.

  • 300hp 260 lbft 0-60: 5.1 Seconds  VQ35DE (Rev up)
  • 276hp 268lbft 0-60 5.9 VQ35DE

Best VQ35DE upgrades

When talking about the top modifications for your VQ35DE engine, we are going to concentrate on the mods that give the best value for money.

Stock cranks on the 3.5 turbos are strong enough to handle power approaching 1000bhp so make a good option on other VQ engines.

The camshaft profile plays a big part in the engines power output so camshaft upgrades make quite a large difference. The intake and exhaust durations will alter depending on the chosen camshaft profile, so large power band gains are on offer for camshaft upgrades.

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.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your car. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

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.

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

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

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

remap will help unlock the full potential of all the parts you've done to your VQ35DE.

(In some cases, like with Nissan ECU, 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.)

Some of our members have used the following aftermarket ECU's to good effect in their projects. You'll generally find harnesses available now for most of the aftermarket ECU options for these engines.

  • Syvecs
  • Haltech Elite 1000/1500
  • LINK G4X
  • Megasquirt

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 power output will often rely on the parts you've applied and the condition of your engine. Ask our forum members for their experiences and tips.

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

It is vital to any engine tuning project to pull more fuel and air into each cylinder

VQ35DE Intake Mods

An intake manifold will channel the air during the suck phase from the intake filter and allow it to be sucked into the engine cylinders.

Design and rate of flow of the Intake manifolds can make a substantial difference to fuel delivery on the VQ35DE.

Commonly we find the plenum chambers are ripe for a performance upgrade, although a few car makers provide fairly well optimized plenum chambers.

Pre 2007 models had issues with the intake restricting performance, a revised uprated plenum is recommended, primarily improving the spacing and flow, allowing air to enter each cylinder equally.

The engine is closely related to the VQ35AE and the VQ35DE-R had slightly more power but Torque was lower. The VQ35DE was tuned by Nismo and made 296hp at a higher 7200rp, rev range. This NISMO tuned engine had the S1 badge and was installed in the Fairlady Z S Tune GT.

The 2007 revision, as fitted to the 350Z version had a different ECU, internals were adjusted slightly and the rev up version also benefited from CVVTCS on the exhaust cam in addition to the intake.

The intake Plenum was also revised. It is possible to get other engines to hit the 300bhp figure but it will have a different torque curve and power curve to the 2005 VQ35DE.

The later VQ35HR version based loosely on this block, featured a higher power engine 307hp, with higher redline, more torque throughout the RPM range and most internal components were made stronger. The electronic variable valve exhaust timing, helped control emissions and maintain power, it also had a dual path intake plenum and higher compression ratio.

A tip passed on by our members is that porting on the lower intake and plenum spacers help raise the power.

The 370Z 6MT engine has been swapped into a 350Z and works quite well, this engine has the rev up on down change feature, which was a great addition to a car, but we quite like to do this ourselves, it's taking the fun and skill out of driving in our opinion!

The Rev up on down change also featured on the 2005 35th Anniversary model VQ35DE engine on the 6 speed manual models.

The CVVTCS system keeps the valve durations shorter at lower engine speeds and can alter both lift and duration. When the RPM increases the valves open for longer durations.

The stock crank is known to hold 1000+ hp, and the oil pump must be upgraded with higher rpm and hp applications.

Nissan did release a GT-S version with a supercharger giving another 100bhp or so over earlier models.

This approach minimises blowback and boosts the velocity of air entering and leaving the engine.

Adjusting the timing and camshaft profile is one of the best mods on all generations of this engine.

Improving the exhaust and intake flow can in some cases yield a 30% higher peak power with other supporting mods. But the standard air intake flows really well to around 350bhp. Exhaust and particularly the catalysts are the weaker area in the OEM setup with improvements offered by most quality aftermarket exhaust system.

The Direct injection system makes performance tuning easier as the engine is more resistant to detonation.

The stock engines can handle around 400hp, but if you get stronger connecting rods and crank you should be good for another 300hp on top of this.

Head gaskets are different and the third generation water flow are spread across the head, whereas first and second generation were located on the left cylinder.

When tuning older blocks you should really make the diverted walls channel wider to aid cooling and flow.

OEM gaskets are not perfect and aftermarket ones from companies like Cosworth really improve things allowing you to run more power reliably.

CAMS will generally increase your peak powerband but if you get a cam with larger lobes you'll need to machine out the head. The C9 cams are a good example of this and the lifter bucket hole and head near the cam need to be ground away to allow clearance.

Turbocharging the VQ35DE

21psi of boost on these engines will give you around 610hp. So you don't actually need that much boost to make significant power gains.

Detonation is always a big problem when adding a turbo and this can be minimised with water/methanol injection, and or lower compression pistons or just running a modest level of boost.

Noting the power limitations of the stock engine, it makes sense to limit boost unless you want to make large power gains on this block.

There are quite a few kits around and this is a popular conversion.

The most common bit power mod for the VQ35DE involves adding a turbocharger. This is a major job but the reward is 50-100% more power.

Kits using the Garrett GTX3582R mated to a wastegate, BOV and custom exhaust with a fast road map should provide around 400bhp of power on stock internals.

The fuelling will need to be improved and for this conversion you'll need 600cc injectors which the OEM fuel pump will struggle to feed.

Adding in a 265litre per hour fuel pump will provide enough fuel to these injectors to cope with demand.

Carbon build up on the intake can be an issue and is best avoided by fitting an oil catch can to prevent oil particles from reaching the intake.

Engine management is generally best left to an aftermarket ECU, and fuelling and timing is critical when running a turbo so make sure you go to someone with experience in setting these up.

Adding an intercooler is also a good idea on a turbo setup as the intake charge gains quite a bit of heat running through the turbo as it's compressed.

A twin turbo using smaller GT2871R turbos worked really well with 1000cc injectors,  and the twin turbos helped reduce the low end lag you get with larger single turbos. But this 800 hp version required extensively revised internals (Pistons, Rods Camshafts and heavy duty ARP studs) which gave a lower compression and were stronger.

VQ35DE performance exhausts

You should look to upgrade your exhaust if the current exhaust is creating a restriction in flow.

On most factory exhausts you'll find the exhaust flow rate is still 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 gases through the engine.

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

Typically 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.

Please help us to complete this article, use the feedback box below if you spot any errors or have any tips or comments to pass on to other VQ35DE engine tuners

Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the VQ35DE

The VQ35DE 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.

Exhaust cam cover wear and failure will usually result in rough idling.

Regular oil changes are vital on the VQ35DE, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

Swirl flap screws can work lose and if they get into the engine can cause pretty serious damage.

Keep an eye on the oil consumption, piston ring and cylinder wear is exacerbated by poor quality fuel resulting in blow by. The later VQ35DE has oil consumption issues. Dealers have been replacing oil rings in bad cases but poor quality fuel and skipping maintenance causes this issue.

The timing chain tensioner is a possible weak spot, an early symptom of problems is a loud rattle on startup. The chain wears out the rails and tensioner, so check these areas for wear during your service period - wear is usually apparent at 60-90,000 miles.

Heat build up in the engine can be an issue, so fit an uprated radiator when tuning the engine to avoid this.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your VQ35DE engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss tuning options in more detail with our VQ35DE owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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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 VQ35DE tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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6 Responses to “VQ35DE Tuning”

  1. Vance says:

    The stock crank is known to hold 1000+ hp, and the oiling system must be upgraded with higher rpm and hp aplications. porting on the lower intake and plenum spacers help.

  2. Ali says:

    Just i want to get 350whp on vq35de without turbo just get hight pressour what do need to change to get this hp cuz i family car

  3. Jeremy says:

    I have a 2014 infinity Qx60 that I am currently putting a exhaust on with bigger cats and down pipe from flow master and a muffler with a piggyback ecu by bulldog and Spector intake. Should I do a manifold with exhaust and tune up and 600cc fuel injectors and fuel pump. My goal is around 450bhp later I wanna put on a supercharger with 8psi but if the engine can handle it. That is all being tested at my local infinity dealer. Pressure test and a full go over. Just need ideas for 2022 tax time project. Should I work on suspension and wider tires, like the ones on the BMW X5 M series??! Need pointers on who to buy stuff from if possible. Keep in mind tho it is my daily and I tote 6 kids in it. Just wanna be that cool soccer dad with an unexpected family car. Like an infinity track/trail hawk edition.. lol wheather u choose off road applications or street, I wanna see what it would look like. Might make the local Bentley guy take a second look at it.. Thx if u read this as I have a lot more questions about tuning my Qx60 haven’t found one yet…

  4. Erik says:

    What do the engine tunes run?

  5. TorqueCars says:

    Some of our members recommended the following aftermarket ECU’s from their projects. You’ll generally find harnesses available now for most of the aftermarket ECU options for these engines.

    LINK G4X
    Megasquirt
    Apexi
    Syvecs
    Haltech Elite 1000/1500
    IMPUL Hi Power

    An aftermarket ECU is harder to setup and requires some specialist knowledge of your engine and parts you’ve fitted, but gives better performance and helps you optimize the timing and fuelling to a fine degree of accuracy – we suggest you go for the Link G4+ (or a G4 with an external knock control unit) or the better but more expensive Syvecs ECU (the upgraded data logging feature is extremely useful)

  6. Rylo says:

    Very informative . Too the point . Even though I wasn’t sure on everything stated in the artical as far as understanding all the technical explainations , some how it all made sense to me . Thank you , nicely done

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