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.

Block design was similar to the VQ30DE but had variable valve timing and a low friction intake with molybdenum coated pistons.

It has won many awards and seen many revisions over the years generally each iteration offering major improvements over the last.

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 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 bore the S1 name 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 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.

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 downchange 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.

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.


The later VQ35DE has oil consumption issues. Dealers have been replacing oil rings in bad cases.

The timing chain tensioner is a possible weakspot, an early symptom of problems is a loud rattle on startup.

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

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 invovles 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.

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


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