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The VR38 DETT engine guide

"Tuning the stunning Nissan VR38DETT"

The VR38 DETT is built by craftsmen and is one of the best engines around for tuning projects.

Able to hit really high power figures from relatively simple mods or with some serious upgrades you could hit motorsport power figures and still have a reliable daily driver.

In it's first incarnation the VR38 DETT offered 485hp and boasted two IHI RHF55 turbochargers. The strong block can cope with quite a bit more power and in just a couple of years Nissan had pushed up the power to 545hp.

Revised in 2010 the VR38DETT produced 530hp thanks primarily to better flow through the engine thanks to a new intake and larger bore exhaust.

In 2011 another set of upgrades were introduced with uprated fuel injectors, a new blow off valve and revised ECU map. This pushed power up to 545hp.

There are so many tuning options for the VR38 DETT and it is relatively easy to hit high power figures.

Nismo had a good few years to play with the VR38 DETT engine and extracted 600bhp using a few choice upgrades including revised turbos, fuel pump and ignition system changes.

Then the VR38 DETT was again revised in 2016 with boost raised to 13.5psi and a new exhaust system design. This saw power hit 565hp which for a reliable mass produced performance car is a fantastic accomplishment.

Tuning to 600bhp

The engines are solid and reliable and can easily handle power figures of around 600 bhp, it is usually the transmission that complains at this power figure.

A remap (via a replacement ECU) is a great first point of attention for tuning if you are looking for a cost effective power upgrade. Remaps will release around 490 to 540 bhp  (at the wheels) with the earlier models benefiting from higher power gains than the better tuned later versions. The later cars, from 2012 onwards, flow better through the intake and boasts a better transmission so you can often see figures nearing the 600bhp mark.

Exhaust and intake mods usually yield around 30 more bhp and they provide a good basis for more extreme tunes offering more headway to work in.

Stock turbos will provide enough air to run around 620hp. Fuel injectors, pump and engine internals like rods and pistons should be upgraded when you hit 600hp.

Going beyond 600 bhp

For a monster like the GTR people will often want to push the tuning limits to the max. With a large turbo conversion and forged pistons and rods you'll open up a world of 800bhp plus power figures.

The airflow metering system will also need to be upgraded, now there is more air running through. A Map sensor makes good sense at these power levels.

TorqueCars have seen quite a few 1000bhp VR38DETT engines around which goes to show the potential of these blocks. The transmission needs to be particularly strong to handle this much power.

VR38 DETT turbo upgrades

The turbo is the primary component for a large power figure and thankfully there are plenty of CR38 DETT turbo upgrades around. Garrett CHRA (2nd Gen) are popular with the following power figures on offer GTX 2860 900bhp, GTX 2867 1000bhp and the GTX 3071 1200bhp.

The Borg Warner EFR's are great turbo upgrades, the 7163 EFR in a twin setup will allow you to reach 1000bhp+ and we see quite a few tuners opting for the twin scroll EFR 7670 thanks to the early spool up and compact size. When watercooled and with a ceramic ball bearing you could see power hit 1200bhp with the EFR 7670.

Stroker kits are often employed when looking for an 800bhp+ engine. Taking the VR38DETT to 4.1 litres or 4.3 allows more headroom and if the engine has been strengthened sufficiently you can build a serious competition car with 1500bhp or more that can still be safely and reliably driven to and from the track.

Headline power figures of 2500bhp - a positively dyno smashing earth rotation stopping level of power have been achieved on highly tuned VR38DETT engines.

The engines require regular servicing and fully synthetic oil of the correct grade if you are serious about maintaining it in good condition.

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