The VQ35DE is one of Nissan’s greatest modern achievements, which ultimately led to the VQ37. The main reason that the VQ35DE was such a great accomplishment is because of its versatility.
It made an impressive 300 horsepower whilst keeping 22+ miles per gallon and the JDM community loves the VQ35DE for its unique exhaust tone, but is it really that good of an engine? Well, let’s dive in and take a look!
VQ35DE: Engine Basics
Before we get into why the VQ35DE is so awesome, let’s cover the basics of the engine:
The VQ35DE is a 3.5L V6 that replaced the VQ30DE found in the Nissan Maxima from 1995 to 2001. Nissan achieved such high horsepower per liter using dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.
Not too surprisingly, the VQ35DE features aluminum cylinder heads and an aluminum cylinder block.
This helps keep weight down, which is important for balance in a sports car. You really don’t want a heavy engine on the nose of your car when handling is important.
All VQ35DE engines feature Nissan’s variable valve timing system (CVTCS). This further improves power and decreases fuel consumption.
- Production: 2000 – present
- Cylinder Block Material: Aluminum
- Cylinder Head Material: Aluminum
- Valvetrain: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
- Stroke: 81.4mm
- Bore: 95.5mm
- Compression Ratio: 10:1 – 10.5:1
- Displacement: 3498cc
- Redline: 6,500 – 7,000 rpm (Rev-up version)
Cars That Came With The VQ35DE
The VQ35DE is a versatile engine with good horsepower and low fuel consumption. Because of this, Nissan used it in multiple vehicles.
The VQ35DE is available in these North American models:
- Infiniti QX60 (since 2014)
- Nissan Altima (since 2002)
- Nissan Maxima (since 2002)
- Nissan Murano Z50 (since 2003)
- Nissan Pathfinder (since 2013)
- Nissan Quest (since 2004)
Previously available in these models:
- Nissan 350Z (2003–2006)
- Nissan Pathfinder (2001–2004)
- Infiniti FX35 (2003–2008)
- Infiniti G35 Coupe (2003–2007)
- Infiniti G35 Sedan (2003–2006)
- Infiniti I35 (2002–2004)
- Infiniti JX35 (2013–2013)
- Infiniti M35 (2006–2008)
- Infiniti QX4 (2001–2004)
As you can tell, Nissan stuffed the VQ35DE in just about every product they’ve had over the last 15 years. If that’s not a testament to its versatility, then I don’t know what is.
VQ35DE: Performance Data
The performance data for the VQ35DE can be a little hard to understand online, but this is because throughout the many vehicles it came in and the different versions of the engine itself.
Luckily the folks at Wikipedia have made the performance data easy to understand.
Additional VQ35DE information is available on Wikipedia.
North American market:
- 2001–2004 Nissan Pathfinder: 240 hp
- 2013–2016 Nissan Pathfinder: 260 hp
- 2001–2004 Infiniti QX4: 240 hp
- 2002–2004 Infiniti I35: 255 hp
- 2002–2016 Nissan Altima: 240 hp – 270 hp
- 2002–2016 Nissan Maxima: 255 hp – 300 hp
- 2003–2006 Nissan 350Z: 287 hp – 300 hp
- 2003–2007 Infiniti G35 Coupe: 280 hp – 298 hp
- 2003–2006 Infiniti G35 Sedan: 260 hp – 298 hp
- 2003–2008 Infiniti FX35: 275 hp
- 2003–2016 Nissan Murano (Z50): 240 hp – 265 hp
- 2004–2016 Nissan Quest: 235 hp – 260 hp
- 2006–2008 Infiniti M35: 275 hp – 280 hp
- 2013–2013 Infiniti JX35: 265 hp
- 2014–2016 Infiniti QX60: 265 hp
Rev-up vs. standard:
The 2003 – 2004 350Z wasn’t the “rev-up” version of the VQ35 engine and produced 287 horsepower. The 2005-2006 350Z were “rev-up” engines and produced 300 horsepower.
The Rev-up engine produced more horsepower by adding variable valve timing to the exhaust camshaft. Nissan also added a different ECU, slightly different internals, and a different intake plenum. All of this added up to the 300 horsepower it produced compared to the 287 horsepower from the standard VQ35DE.
VQ35DE: Tuning Potential
As a car guy, this is the part I find interesting. Although the VQ35 is an interesting engine in stock form, we find modified engines more interesting. One of the quickest ways to see how powerful a VQ35DE can be is to look at Nissan’s race cars.
The Dallara T12, which races in the World Series by Renault, uses a VQ35 engine inside. The Dallara T12 makes an insane naturally aspirated 480 horsepower from the VQ35 that powers it.
The VQ35DE is also in many other Dallara race cars, all of which are equally insane as the Dallara T12.
Enough about the race cars already. Let’s hear about street cars! Some people will build a naturally aspirated VQ35 and while those are fun, they’re relatively limited. Some naturally aspirated builds can reach as much as 400whp. But that takes an insane amount of time and money.
The average tuner would rather boost their VQ35 because the performance per dollar is so much better.
Unfortunately, the VQ35DE is limited to about 400whp due to weak connecting rods. However, the stock block can take 700whp or more with a built bottom-end internals if you’re crazy enough.
The Intake Plenum Problem
One of the most popular modifications for the VQ35DE is an intake plenum spacer. Simply put, a large volume of space exists between the throttle body and the intake runners, which serves as a sort of buffer. This space also helps to ensure each intake runner receives an equal amount of air; however, there is a design flaw on the VQ35DE’s intake manifold that fails to allow each cylinder to receive an equal amount of air. With an intake plenum spacer, this issue is mostly solved, and you’ll typically see 10-20 horsepower from this modification. Plus it’s pretty easy to install!
VQ35DE: Known Problems
Like any other engine in the world, the VQ35DE has some issues. Both the DE and Rev-Up versions of this engine are well known for consuming excessive amounts of oil, however, there’s no easy fix for this issue. Even extremely low mileage examples of this engine suffer from this oil consumption issue. Luckily, by the time the VQ35HR came around, Nissan almost entirely solved this issue.
Many owners complain of a loud rattling noise on startup, which is typically the factory timing chain tensioner. The tensioner is known for not being the best quality and can cause major engine damage if ignored for too long.
The poor tensioner can cause excessive timing chain wear causing it to fail prematurely. A common VQ35DE problem specific to manual transmission applications is the clutch slave cylinder failing. It’s not uncommon to hear 350Z owners replacing this part every 30k miles.
So the VQ35DE is a versatile and reliable little engine. Nissan stuffed it into many of its products over the last 15 years. Not only can it make excellent power, but it’s fuel-efficient and reliable. It also has lots of tuning potential.
The reason people don’t talk about the VQ35 is the high cost for a N/A build. A Chevy LS swap is cheaper and has more potential for high horsepower.
Basically, Chevy LS swaps have forced the VQ35 into the shadows. This dropping cost of a used 350Z, however, is changing this issue.