It’s 11 consecutive years of Ward’s 10 Best Engines awards for Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and its 3.5L “VQ” DOHC V-6. No other engine has as many wins, and no other engine has won a 10 Best Engines award every year since the competition’s inception in 1995.

The VQ V-6 family, which comprises several displacements in other markets, started in the U.S. as a gem-like 3L that instantly caused a commotion in the powertrain sector with its scintillatingly low levels of noise, vibration and harshness, spectacular flexibility and high specific output.

Nissan’s VQ V-6 for North America now displaces 3.5L, but has sacrificed little of its superb engineering, build quality and driveability attributes. Powertrain developers the world over almost invariably still name Nissan’s VQ V-6 as the single most benchmarked engine in V-6 development programs. It’s remarkable that more than 11 years after its introduction, the VQ remains atop the heap.

Judges continue to be enthralled with the VQ’s thunderous power and torque, and Nissan engineers have a curious talent for perpetually upping the ante with the VQ’s output – or displacement – just when the competition begins to creep close. And despite the startling power now being generated by Nissan’s 3.5L V-6 in several of its multifarious states of tune, the VQ’s sophistication and driveability remain.

Nissan 3.5L DOHC V-6.

For ’05, engineers drummed up another substantial dose of horsepower for the 3.5L DOHC V-6, raising output from 280 hp to 298 hp for Infiniti G35 coupes and sedans with a 6-speed manual transmission. And versions of the 3.5L V-6 that formerly made 260 hp and 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) of torque now develop 280 hp and 270 lb.-ft. (366 Nm) of torque. Anniversary editions of Nissan’s 350Z coupe enjoy the highest-spec version of the 3.5L VQ, at an even 300 hp.

These new power levels are well-timed, because there seems to be an expanding list of increasingly power-dense V-6s working into several auto makers’ product cycles, including the new 300-hp variant of Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s own 3.5L SOHC V-6, which also wins a 10 Best Engines spot for 2005. A decade ago, Nissan’s 3L VQ V-6 was a benchmark with 190 hp. Now, with just a half-liter more displacement, a V-6 must be pushing the 300-hp mark to be fully competitive.

Meanwhile, the VQ’s impact in all world markets borders on incredible. Nissan says it’s made more than 3.6 million of the modular VQs since its launch. Late in 2004, Nissan announced it will build a second assembly plant in Iwaki, Japan, to hike VQ capacity from 396,000 units to 560,000.

Nissan needs more VQ V-6s because it’s an engineering and manufacturing masterpiece. And with the new upgrades for 2005, Nissan once again proves there’s not a better-developed or more technically proficient V-6 anywhere in the industry.

Nissan
3.5L DOHC V-6
Engine type 3.5L DOHC 60° V-6
Displacement (cc) 3,498
Block/head material aluminum/aluminum
Bore x stroke (mm) 95.5 x 81.4
Horsepower (SAE net) 298 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) @ 4,800 rpm
Specific output 85 hp/L
Compression ratio 10.3:1
Application tested Infiniti G35 Coupe
(6-speed MT)
Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg) 19/26

bvisnic@primediabusiness.com