Nissan VQ 3L DOHC V-6 A year with WAW's long-term Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. Maxima and its outstanding "VQ" 3L DOHC V-6 has passed as quickly as with any long-termer we can remember.

The VQ is a five-consecutive-year Ten Best Engines winner. How did it do after rolling through a year of cold starts and searing summer days?

In a word: fabulously.

Since April 1998, the WAW staff has managed to rack up almost 40,000 miles - 39,856 (62,694 km) to be exact - on the Maxima - a lot of mileage in a year - and the powertrain only recently began to show the first signs of wear. No problems with the unceasingly exhilarating VQ V-6 - it seems to have only become stronger with age, and never required anything but routine maintenance and a couple of quarts of oil. But an editor did recently notice the 5-speed manual shifter's action getting a little rough around the edges.

The original stiffness quickly worked its way out of the shifter in a matter of weeks, leaving mostly smoothness - if not sheer precision - in its wake. Now that smoothness is showing the tiniest signs of slop.

Over the course of the last year's 39,856 miles, our Maxima averaged a none-too-shabby 27.4 mpg (8.6L/100 km), up 1.5 mpg from the last update in March. We attribute the significant jump in fuel economy to the 9,130 higway miles (14,700 km) our staff has piled on the odo in the last couple of months.

Meanwhile, vehicle problems were confined to warranted fixes, such as the failure of the power steering's rack seal, and one bit of negligence on our part - the $83 premature departure of the antenna.

We really just can't say enough about Nissan's peerless VQ. Its remarkable flexibility lends an exceptional driveability factor to the car, but it's the straining-at-the-leash performance that leaves the most lasting impression. We've talked so often about this engine's unmatchable refinement that we're starting to feel like shills, but darn it, the VQ's microfinished and lightweight internals impart a high-performance/utter refinement "feel" that, five years later, still can't be replicated by any competitor - at any price.

But a totally redesigned-for-2000 Maxima is here, complete with a redesigned VQ. The 2000 Maxima's new VQ owns the unenviable responsibility of replacing an engine that's an icon.