When Nissan launched and introduced the VQ engine in 1994, the Nissan VG engine slowly went down to the ground from the Nissan vehicles. After the year 2000, VG30s became available only in the Nissan Xterra and Nissan Frontier. They halted the production in 2004 and retired it in the same year, by which all of the V6 powered Nissan vehicles switched to the newer VQ engine.
V6 configuration is a design that allows a greater torsional rigidity for higher performance potential. The engine’s shorter length would give Nissan designers and engineer some breathing room for a better vehicle design, allowing them to create vehicles with frontal crush zone space and allowed transverse mounting.
So in recent years, these engines are left out most in the garage and sit there all day, all night without use. We are talking here about the VG engines, particularly the VG30DE, which we will discuss below.
Let’s dive in and talk about the VG30DE engine’s design, applications, architecture, issues, problems, reliability, and many more.
What are Nissan VG30DE Engines?
The Nissan VG30DE is a naturally-aspirated, 3.0 Liter, V6 gasoline engine from the Nissan VG family of engines. The machine was manufactured from 1995 up to 2000 and was first introduced on the Nissan MID4 concept car for 1985 Frankfurt Autoshow. It is the first quad-cam 24-valve engine and developed for the 1985 MID4 concept.
There are two versions released for the VG30DE. The earliest version was introduced on the Japanese 300ZR (Z31) and Nissan Leopard F31 in 1986, but Nissan never sold that in North America. It also used large oval intake ports and rounded exhaust ports; though it is more similar to the SOHC VG engine, the spacing on the bolt is slightly different.
The later VG30DE release has slightly smaller oval intake ports and oval exhaust ports. Unlike the early release, the bolt spacing was shared with the round-port variant from the previous years.
The VG30DE has two throttle bodies that are facing the vehicle front for the Nissan 300ZX and Fairlady Z, or two throttle bodies to the left for the sedans and 300ZR.
The Nissan VG30DE features a cast-iron block and two aluminum heads with dual overhead camshafts design and acts four valves per cylinder (a total of 24). This Nissan engine is a product of sophistication and many technological advancements during that era.
It is equipped with a multi-point fuel injection system (EGI), a mechanically timed electrical ignition system with one ignition coil, and a mechanical distributor. It was installed with N-VCT, the earlier form of variable valve timing.
However, Nissan developed a new high-performance version of the VG SOHC engine series. So, in 1983, it was initially released as SOHC VG engine version in 300ZX for the United States. This is the first high-performance 60-degree V6 engine in Japan which will be released in 1986 on the Japanese Domestic Market.
Its primary goal as an engine is to achieve high-performance that matches the expectation of the driver. And apart from the featured technologies mentioned, they incorporated more advancements, such as the cross-flow cooling system that utilizes a water gallery for the aluminum cylinder heads and block. It is equipped with an individual cylinder knocking control system, Electronic Concentrated Engine Control System (ECCS) by cylinder pressure sensors, Nissan Direct Ignition System (NDIS), Nissan Induction Control System (NICS), and Nissan Valve Timing Control System (NVCS).
Engine Specifications and Design:
- Production Run: 1985 – 2000
- Cylinder Block Material: Cast-iron
- Cylinder Head Material: Aluminum
- Configuration: V6
- Bore: 87 mm
- Stroke: 83 mm
- Valvetrain: DOHC with four valves per cylinder
- Displacement: 3.0 L
- Compression Ratio: 9.0 to 11.0
- Weight: 482 lbs.
- Max HP: 222 HP at 6,000 RPM
- Max Torque: 206 lb-ft at 4,000 RPM
The cylinder block of the Nissan VG30DE is made from cast-iron supported with a system of the four-bearing crankshaft. It has a cylinder bore of 87 mm, 83 mm piston stroke, and a 9.0 to 11.0 compression rating.
The Nissan VG30DE has one oil control ring and two compression rings.
The connecting rod center distance is 154.10 mm, the crankpin diameter is 50 mm, the crankshaft main journal diameter is 62.9 mm, and the center distance is 41.5 mm.
The engine’s cylinder head has a good cooling efficiency due to its robust and lightweight aluminum alloy material. It has a double overhead camshaft design for each head and acts in four valves per cylinder. The camshafts are driven via a single timing belt, and it is also equipped with the Variable Timing Control (VTC) on the intake cams.
The intake valve diameter is 34 mm, while the exhaust valve diameter is 29.5 mm. The lift duration for both intake and exhaust is 248 degrees. The VG30DE engine is equipped with hydraulic valve lifters.
Applications of the VG30DE Engine:
- 1985 Nissan MID4 (Non-Production)
- 1986 – 1989 Nissan 300ZX Z31 (300ZR only)
- 1990 – 1997 Nissan 300ZX Z32
- 1989 – 2000 Nissan Fairlady Z Z32
- 1986 – 1992 Nissan Leopard F31
- 1992 – 1998 Infiniti J30/Nissan Leopard J Ferie
- 1992 – 1995 Nissan Gloria and Cedric
- 1989 – 1991 Nissan Cima
Engine Upgrades, Tuning, and Modification
The Nissan VG30 is internally balanced. Most of its internal components are durable enough to withstand aggressive boosts, so it is a good platform for upgrades that can produce higher horsepower even without changing its internals. Apart from that, VG30DE has a wide range of aftermarket support, and choosing is not hard since many upgrades are easy to get.
So the first thing you can do in upgrading your VG30DE engine changes its cam profile. Changing the cam profile makes a lot of difference and plays a big part in increasing the power as they alter the intake and exhaust duration. More enormous torque gains are due to a changed cam profile.
You have two options for the cam profile – motorsport and fast road. Fast road cams are suitable for high-end RPM power, but it sacrifices a bit low-end HP. Motorsports cams by its name, you can tell that this boosts the higher end RPM powerband, but the car will not idle smoothly, and the lower end power suffers.
It is up to you to choose your cam profile, be it on urban driving or weekend track. But I recommend using the fast road as motorsport cams are not suited for urban areas, especially if you live in a crowded and busy city.
Remapping also helps reach the maximum potential of all the modifications you’ve made to your VG30DE engine. Some stock ECUs are locked, and flashing does not work, so buying an aftermarket ECU is the option to take. They usually give at least 30% more power on turbocharged and 15% on the naturally-aspirated engine.
The first stage of modding the engine includes intake headers, remapping, drilled and smoothed airbox, panel air filters, fast road camshaft, and sports exhaust manifold.
The second stage is fast road cam, high flow fuel injectors or high-performance injectors, induction kit, ported and polished head, fuel pump upgrades, and sports catalyst and performance exhaust.
The last stage requires a lot of work due to engine balancing and blueprinting; for some, upgrading it by installing a turbo, but for VG30DE, Nissan released a separate engine for turbocharged machines. Crank and piston upgrades to alter the compression ratio, head flow ports, and bigger valves.
Problems Surrounding Nissan VG30DE Engine:
Nissan VG30DE engine is a durable engine and a reliable one too. But there are some drawbacks and shortcomings due to the fact that this engine was produced a decade ago. With that, we want to give you some additional information regarding the engine’s weaknesses and issues that might arise in the longer run. If you regularly follow the schedule recommend for a replacement for oil, belts, and other components, this least worries you. However, it is still important as a precautionary measure.
The first issue is when the VG30DE is running on low oil, it might spin a bearing or throw a rod. This problem is not a lubrication matter but more of an internal issue. To be exact, the bottom end of the VG30DE is its weak spot because its internals is already strong and can handle better than those of the bottom ends.
VG30DE engines are belt-driven, so changing the timing belt is an essential matter for you to attend. Failure to replace the belts will result in some bent valves and eventually engine failure, which we do not want to happen at all.
Additionally, early versions of the VG30DE engines have troubles regarding fuel injectors. Also, when age comes to play, crashing and corroded connectors infect the machine as well, and it is irreversible, and it takes a lot of work for that to bring back.
The good thing is that VG30DEs have no issues with engine overheating and oil leakage.
Nissan VG30DE is a highly durable engine. It is stuffed with many electronic advancements for a machine to achieve the maximum potential and meet satisfaction standards. It has a superior response for that era as well as a lightweight and compact block; low noise and vibration, high reliability for a low level of maintenance. It is developed for high-performance expectation, so to speak. Besides the mentioned attributes, it is best used for high output in the high engine speed range and provides sufficient torque in the low to medium speed range in urban driving; that is why VG30DEs are suitable for city and casual driving.
Though it has some issues, they are slim and does not affect the engine that much. With proper engine care and maintenance, the VG30DE can reach 200,000 miles at a minimum.
I hope that this simple discussion helped you understand the Nissan VG30DE engine’s design, applications, weaknesses, issues, tuning potential, aftermarket support, reliability, and overall impact on the industry and community.