In the early 2000s, the trend of a larger displacement is not expected due to the rise of the mid-level engines, as we have seen in movies and media during that era. While others are busy tuning their V6s, Nissan created a V8 that is loaded with power, balancing it with a better fuel economy, hence the birth of the VK family.
In this discussion, we will talk about the primary flagship of the VK engine, the VK45DE.
We will tackle its engine design, power, applications, tuning potential, issues, reliability, and many more.
What are Nissan VK45DE Engines?
The Nissan VK45DE engine is a naturally-aspirated, 4.5 Liter, 90-degree V8 gasoline engine from Nissan’s very own VK family of engines. The company produced the engine in their Yokohama Plant from 2001 until its eventual halt in 2010. The VK45DE replaced both VH41DE and VH45De engines at once. It first appeared in 2001 for the Infiniti Q45.
Nissan VK45DE is the base model of the larger 5.6 Liter VK56DE engine, and it possesses technologies that are warranted on the succeeding models of the VK engine family. Some of the technological advancements of the VK45DE engine include: micro-finished camshafts and crank journals, a super quiet chain system, low-friction molybdenum-coated pistons, epoxy resin-graphite coated piston skirts, and a variable-flow induction system that optimizes the airflow for low to high-speed engine operations.
It also features a lightweight V8 Aluminum block with a fully balanced five-bearing crankshaft. Two aluminum cylinder heads with one-piece cast camshafts for both the intake and exhaust and four valves per cylinder. The VK45DE engine has a Continuous Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTC) on the intake camshafts, electronic throttle, and ignition system where each spark plug has individual coils. It also uses Sequential Fuel Injection (SFI) for engine fuel supply.
The VK45DE engine was also picked by Nismo, the motorsport line of Nissan, to power their Super GT race cars.
Engine Specifications and Design:
- Production Run: 2001 – 2010
- Cylinder Block Material: Aluminum
- Cylinder Head Material: Aluminum
- Configuration: V8 90 Degrees
- Bore: 93 mm
- Stroke: 82.7 mm
- Valvetrain: DOHC with four valves per cylinder
- Displacement: 4.5 L (4494 cc)
- Compression Ratio: 10.5
- Weight: 520 lbs.
- Max HP: 340 HP at 6,400 RPM
- Max Torque: 333 lb-ft at 4,000 RPM
The Nissan VK45DE engine block is made from Aluminum and manufactured using gravity die casting (GDC); a five-bearing crankshaft system supports the block. The engine bore is 93 mm, a stroke length of 82.7 mm, and a compression rating of 10.5; the engine height stands at 220.35 mm.
It has forged steel connecting rods, a micro-finished crankshaft, and low-friction molybdenum-coated pistons. The crankpin diameter is 52 mm, and the crankshaft journal diameter is 64 mm. The engine has one oil control ring and two compression rings. The length of the connecting rod is 147 mm.
This 4.5 Liter engine has an excellent cooling efficiency due to its robust and lightweight aluminum alloy material. It is integrated with Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTC) on the intake camshafts. This system enables the reaction of the variable valve timing in accordance with engine RPM and throttle opening. That reduced system friction and enhanced control improves the response time and optimizes torque characteristics. The VK45DE engine is also equipped with a variable-length intake manifold, an electronic throttle body, and a new exhaust system.
The VK45De engine is equipped with a unique valve lifter instead of a hydraulic lifter. In addition to that, It also features double overhead camshafts for each cylinder bank which are chain-driven, one for each head. The timing chain sends the rotational movement to both the intake and exhaust camshaft from the crankshaft. The intake manifold and head cover are made for weight reduction hence its lighter composite material origins.
The intake valve diameter of VK45DE is 36 mm, and the exhaust valve diameter is 31.2 mm. The intake duration is 240 degrees, while the exhaust duration is 228 degrees.
The VK45DE engine produces 340 HP at 6,400 RPM with 333 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. Redline is at 6,600 RPM.
It is also known that a flat-plane crankshaft version of the VK45DE engine was used by Nismo, with the Nissan GT-R, for Super GT races instead of using the GT-R’s in-house VR38DETT twin-turbo V6 engine. Competitors cannot push over the VK45DE engine as it also has a history of racing experience, which was way back in 2007 in Nissan’s 350Z Super GT car, replacing the previous VQ30DETT equipped in that car.
In race trim, the Super GT VK45DE produces 493 HP and 376 lb-ft of torque. The engine idles around the 3,500 RPM number and is restricted to reach more than the specified power output. But without those restrictions, the machine is capable of producing more significant numbers, which nearly approaches 800 HP. Nismo explained that by using the engine, they had saved more weight, eliminate turbo lag, and they prefer the torque curve of the atmospheric V8s.
Applications of the VK45DE Engine:
- 2002 – 2006 Infiniti Q45 340 HP and 333 lb-ft of torque
- 2003 – 2008 Infiniti FX45 320 HP and 329 lb-ft of torque
- 2003 -2004 Infiniti M45 340 HP and 33 lb-ft of torque
- 2006 – 2010 Infiniti M45 325 HP and 340 lb-ft of torque
- 2004 – 2010 Nissan Fuga 450 GT 333 HP and 340 lb-ft of torque
- 2003 – 2010 Nissan President 276 HP and 333 lb-ft of torque
- 2007 Super GT Nissan 350Z 490 HP and 380 lb-ft of torque
- 2008 – 2009 Super GT Nissan GT-R 490 HP and 380 lb-ft of torque
- 2011 – Present Various LMP2 racing cars 450 HP and 430 lb-ft of torque
The VK45DE has a variant with the same characteristics and very similar to its structure and architecture. However, it is integrated with a direct injection fuel system. This is Nissan’s first V8 with the direct injection system (NEO-Di). The engine’s power output was rated at 276 HP at 6,000 RPM and 333 lb-ft at 3,600 RPM. This engine has a bore of 93 mm, 82.7 mm stroke, and a compression ratio of 11.0.
There is only one known application of the VK45DD engine, the 2001 – 2010 Nissan Cima for Japan.
Engine Tuning, Upgrades, and Modifications
The Nissan VK45DE is an excellent engine project medium, and with a few upgrades and modifications like turbo improvements, remapping, and camshaft upgrades, you can enhance your driving experience.
The first thing to take note of when tuning the engine is to improve your air intake, as this process provides fuel to the engine. When tuning the intake, you need to get an air sensor or flow meter that can withhold 58 psi to cope with the power gains. Significant valve conversions, port enlargements, and head flowing will also add more torque and create an avenue for you to increase other modifications.
Also, you can change your cams to increase the engine bhp. Choosing a cam profile that is designed for a higher performance will raise the horsepower.
There are types of cam available in the market: Fast road cams, Race cams, and Motorsport cams. As the name suggests, fast road cams increase the power through the RPM band, but it decreases the engine power by a bit; race cams, however, bump the top end band, resulting in unstable idling, and the lower end power is compromised.
A motorsport cam is difficult in heavy traffic and is exclusively designed for non-stop, high-power demands.
It is crucial to optimize your power range depending on your driving style and preference.
To add to that, you can still add more horsepower by purchasing JWT camshafts, valve springs, headers, and cold air intake. Then adjust the ECU according to the aftermarket parts that you had purchased. As a result, it can give you 50 HP and a better acoustic.
You can also install a turbocharger, especially the twin-scroll turbo units, which diverts the exhaust flow into two channels, but it will involve more replacements and time. For this upgrade to work, you need to buy Darton sleeves, change all the stock internals by the forged ones.
Problems Surrounding the VK45DE Engine:
Like all other engines, the Nissan VK45DE is not perfect from the factory type of engine at all, and no machine is. Though this engine is reasonably reliable and creates a better line balance between longevity, fuel economy, and reliability, we cannot change the fact that even the most reliable engines still pose problems that will eventually occur as the engine starts to age. These issues are addressed to be aware of the issues that might arise in the machine, so later you know what to expect.
The first problem with the VK45DE engine is the front catalytic converters. This issue is more prevalent among machines that are sent in countries that have low fuel quality. This issue can result in loss of power or rough idling. This is due to a broken catalytic converter, and the ceramic dust will grind the cylinder walls, which causes abrasion, reaching the oil system and spreading it all over the engine. To avoid such issue, you need to replace it with high-flow catalytic converters plus an ECU reflash.
Another issue to notice is the intermittent misfiring. A most common cause of misfiring is when you have a faulty spark plug or spark plug wire due to excessive wear. Deformed valve covers can also cause it, and the engine oil settles in the spark plugs wells; therefore, you need to check it.
In addition to that, you need to clean the radiator regularly, use the recommended engine oil and fuel, and periodically check the engine and look for any leaks or any foreign matter or smell there.
The Nissan VK45DE engine is what started and introduced the VK family in the automotive industry world. It gave an excellent impression to the community and other automakers for its innovation and abilities with a delicate balance between power, fuel economy, and overall reliability. This engine covers the Nissan’s first V8 with direct injection system that also made its way on other machines. Though it has some fair share of problems and shortcomings, this engine is solid and can last for at least 250,00 miles with proper maintenance and care.
I hope that this simple discussion and guide helped you understand the VK45DE engine’s design, power, applications, issues, reliability, tuning potential, and overall impact on the automotive industry and community.