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2004 Engine Epic - Nissan Engines

We look at the most desirable modern engines from Nissan...

By Michael Knowling

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Nissan has a rich history of building affordable and bulletproof performance cars. Skyline GTSs, the twin-turbo GT-R, 300ZXs, 350Zs, Silvias/SXs, GTi-Rs – the list goes on. In this article we’ll look at the latest and greatest engines manufactured by Nissan.

Nissan engines are identified by a fairly simple code system. The first letter(s) of the code identify engine family and the following two numbers indicate engine capacity. A D suffix means DOHC, DD represents direct injection, E stands for conventional port-style injection, T indicates a single turbocharger and TT means twin-turbo. Here are a couple of examples...

Engine Code

Engine Configuration


RB-series in-line six, 2.0-litre, DOHC, port style fuel injection, single turbo


SR-series in-line four, 2.0-litre, DOHC, port fuel injection


E-series in-line four, 1.5-litre, port fuel injection, single turbo


VG-series V6, 3.0-litre, DOHC, port fuel injection, twin turbo

Nissan V8s...

The current Japanese-market Nissan Cima rear-wheel-drive and President (both top-line luxury saloons) come powered by a VK45DE NEO 4.5-litre V8. Breathing through DOHC, 4-valve heads and with a 10.5:1 compression ratio, the big Nissan eight muscles out the Japanese regulation 206kW at 6000 rpm with 451Nm of torque at 3600 rpm. A direct injection version of the VK45 – the VK45DD NEO – was also produced and is listed with exactly the same power and torque.

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Before the release of the new VK45 engine, a VH45DE or VH41DE V8 was used to propel Nissan’s top-line saloons. In its final guise, the DOHC, 32-valve VH45DE used a 10.2:1 compression ratio to help reach an output of 198kW. Peak power arrived at 5600 rpm, while max torque – 394Nm – came at 4000 rpm. A smaller version of the same engine design – the VH41DE – swept 4.1-litres and ran 10.5:1 compression. It culminated with 198kW at 5600 rpm (the same as the VH45) but with ‘just’ 377Nm at 4000 rpm.

Note that the VH-design Nissan V8 was used in the American Indy Car series, where it topped 550kW. It’s very v-e-r-y strong!

Nissan Sixes...

In the last couple of years, Nissan has been forced to abandon its established RB and VG-family of six-cylinder engines. This has been necessary to meet tougher emission standards.

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The most famed Nissan engine in recent times is the RB26DETT, as fitted to the R32 – R34 Skyline GT-R. Since its Japanese release in 1989, the twin-turbocharged, six throttle, DOHC, 2.6-litre straight-six has been conservatively rated at 206kW. Although it is likely peak power increased during the GT-R’s lifespan, Nissan claimed that torque output was the only area of improvement – the early R32 GT-R made 368Nm while the latest R34 GT-R put out 392Nm at 4400 rpm. The static compression ratio of the RB26 remained pegged at 8.5:1, but there were numerous mechanical changes – such as turbocharger and intercooler size – during the R32 to R34 timeframe.

When you look at claimed specifications, there are several other six-cylinder engines from the Nissan stable that are every bit as good as the popular RB26DETT.

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Arguably better than the RB26DETT is the VG30DETT as fitted to the Z32 300ZX twin-turbo. The VG30DET sweeps 3.0-litres (a clear advantage over the RB26), uses DOHC, 4-valve breathing and a pair of ceramic turbochargers with separate intercoolers. Quoted output is 206kW at 6400 rpm with a strong 387Nm at 3600 rpm. Interestingly, the Japanese market also enjoyed a single turbo version of the DOHC VG30 – the VG30DET. This engine made up to 190kW.

Australia never officially saw the Z32 300ZX turbo, but it did get the naturally aspirated 2 + 2 version. Also using DOHC and 24-valves, the local spec VG30DE generated a decent 168kW but with much less torque than the twin-turbo model.

Note that the potent VG30DETT engine has recently been replaced by the all-alloy VQ30DET (single turbo), which came fitted to the last Japanese-spec Fairlady (aka 300ZX). This DOHC, 24-valve engine uses 9.0:1 static compression and makes a 198kW and 368Nm. In its up-to-the-minute configuration, however, the VQ30DET has been upgraded to NEO specs (which means it is more environmentally friendly) and once again you can enjoy the full 206kW together with 387Nm at 3600 rpm. This engine is currently available in the Japanese-market Nissan Gloria.

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The latest Nissan 350Z engine – although not turbocharged – is also capable of 206kW. Released in 2003, the variable cam timed VQ35DE NEO engine puts out the Japanese regulation output with up to 363Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. The same engine is also fitted to the current top-line Skyline.

Note that a simpler version of the VQ35DE – as fitted to the current Japanese-market Elgrand – puts out a modest 177kW and 353Nm. The latest Australian-delivered Nissan Maxima also uses the VQ35DE engine, which comes rated at 170kW and 333Nm.

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That magical 206kW (280ps) output is also achieved by another Nissan six – the RB25DET as fitted to the Japanese R34 Skyline GTS. The R34’s NEO-spec RB25DET 2.5-litre DOHC straight six uses 9.0:1 compression, variable inlet cam timing, ceramic turbo and air-to-air intercooler – it’s a combo good for 206kW at 6400 rpm and 343Nm at 3200 rpm.

Note that the earlier R33 version of the RB25DET (non NEO) used a smaller turbocharger and intercooler, a more restrictive exhaust and different management. Accordingly, the R33 GTS25T engine is rated at 187kW at 6400 rpm and 294Nm at 4800 rpm.

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Also falling just short of the regulation output is the base engine as fitted to the new Skyline – the VQ30DD NEO Di. This motor uses DOHC, 32-valve breathing and 11.0:1 compression to reach 191kW at 6400 rpm together with 324Nm at 4800 rpm.

A different version of this engine is also used in the Japanese-market Nissan Cedric. Its VQ30DD LEV NEO 3.0-litre V6 makes 177kW at 6400 rpm and 309Nm at 3600 rpm. And note that the superseded Australian-spec Nissan Maxima uses a VQ30DE engine capable of 157kW and 291Nm.

Other engines of interest include the R32 Skyline’s RB20DET good for 158kW, the R33 Skyline’s RB25DE non-turbo at 142kW, the Z31’s SOHC VG30ET turbo at 147kW, the VG20DET at 157kW and the VQ25DE/VQ25DD NEO making 142kW/158kW.

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And we shouldn’t forget one of Australia’s favourite tuning bases – the Nissan designed RB30ET, as fitted to the Holden VL Commodore turbo. Using a plain SOHC, 12-valve head and two-mode EFI, the non-intercooled turbo 3.0-litre spins out 150kW with healthy torque.

Nissan Fours...

In the past ten years, Nissan has built some of the best four-cylinder turbo engines in the Japanese market.

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The most popular performance Nissan four-banger is the SR20DET, which started life in the S13 Silvia and died with the S15 Silvia (aka 200SX). The SR20DET sweeps 2.0-litres and features DOHC, 16-valves, a ceramic turbocharger and air-to-air intercooler. S14 and S15 versions also scored variable inlet cam timing. Power ratings vary across continents and models, but least powerful is the 147kW output quoted for the Australian delivered S14 and S15. The Japanese S13 and U13 SSS AWD version ups the ante to 150kW and 275Nm, followed by the Pulsar (aka Sunny) GTi-R credited at 162kW and 284Nm. Nissan’s SR20DET development culminated with the Japanese-spec S15 Silvia generating 184kW and 275Nm.

Naturally aspirated versions of the SR-family four-cylinder can also make decent power.

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The Japanese market SR20VE NEO VVL uses variable valve timing and lift to combat Honda’s VTEC, Mitsubishi’s MIVEC and Toyota’s VTi-L systems. This little screamer belts out 140kW at 7000 rpm with 196Nm at 6000 rpm. Kinda makes the Australian-delivered N14 Pulsar SSS’s 105kW SR20DE looks average...

The Japanese market SR16DE NEO VVL is a very hot 1.6-litre four that uses much of the same technology as its 2.0-litre VVL cousin. A rare N1 race version – identified by a red rocker cover and with a 11.6:1 compression ratio - puts out a monumental 147kW at 7800 rpm and 181Nm at 7600 rpm (!). A milder 11.0:1 compression version makes 129kW and 162Nm at 7200 rpm. Still, that equates to 81kW per litre...

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Before the days of the SR-series a go-fast four-cylinder Nissan typically meant CA18DET. The 1.8-litre DOHC, 16-valve four used 8.5:1 static compression, direct-fire ignition, hot-wire airflow meter and a ceramic T25 turbo and intercooler to rustle up as much as 130kW at 6400 rpm and 225Nm at 4000 rpm. Australia never saw the CA18DET officially but did see the naturally aspirated CA18DE in the late ‘80s EXA, where it generated 93kW.

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During the early/mid ‘90s, Nissan also offered a SOHC and DOHC ‘big banger’ four. The 2.4-litre KA24E – released in the up-market versions of the Australian Pintara/Corsair – used a SOHC, 3-valve-per-cylinder head to achieve 96kW with strong low rpm torque. For the next model – the U13 Bluebird – Nissan whacked on a DOHC, 16-valve head (amongst other changes) and upped the output to 112kW at 5600 rpm. This KA24DE was also fitted to the American S13 240SX.

Today, the latest breed of Nissan fours – the all-alloy QR-series – is replacing the established SR and KA-series engines.

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Top of the QR-range is the QR25DE (as fitted to the Australian X-Trail) that uses a DOHC, 16-valve head with continuously variable inlet cam timing to achieve 132kW at 6000 rpm and 245Nm. Interestingly, the Japanese market also gets a NEO version of the QR25DE and a direct injection QR25DD NEO – these make 121kW/245Nm and 125kW/245Nm respectively.

A shorter stroke 2.0-litre version of the QR is also available. The Japanese Primera’s QR20DE NEO and the Bluebird’s QR20DD NEO both make 110kW/200Nm.

Another Nissan four worthy of mention is the FJ20DET, as fitted to Japanese S12 Silvia (aka Gazelle). With a chain driven DOHC, 16-valve head this engine generates up to 142kW at 6400 rpm. The non-turbo version is still good for 112kW.

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And don’t forget the little E15ET 1.5-litre SOHC turbo, as fitted to the N12 Pulsar ET/EXA. In Australian form these engines are good for up to 86kW at 5600 rpm. Not bad for something from the early ‘80s.

Nissan Performance Motors at a Glance...


VK45DD NEO 4.5 litre


VK45DE NEO 4.5 litre


VH45DE 4.5 litre


VH41DE 4.1 litre




RB26DETT 2.6 litre


RB25DET NEO 2.5 litre


VG30DETT 3.0 litre


VQ30DET NEO 3.0 litre


VQ35DE NEO 3.5 litre


VQ30DET 3.0 litre


VQ30DD NEO 3.0 litre


VG30DET 3.0 litre


RB25DET 2.5 litre


VQ30DD LEV NEO 3.0 litre


VQ35DE 3.0 litre


VQ30DE 3.0 litre (Australian Maxima)


VG30DE 3.0 litre (Australian 300ZX)


RB20DET 2.0 litre


VQ25DD NEO 2.5 litre


VG20DET 2.0 litre


VQ30DE 3.0 litre (Australian Maxima)


RB30ET 3.0 litre


VG30ET 3.0 litre


RB25DE 2.5 litre


VQ25DE 2.5 litre





SR20DET 2.0 litre (Japanese S15)


SR20DET 2.0 litre (Japanese GTi-R)


SR20DET 2.0 litre (Japanese S13)


SR20DET 2.0 litre (Australian S14/S15)


SR16DE NEO 1.6 litre (11.7:1 CR)


FJ20DET 2.0 litre


SR20VE NEO VVL 2.0 litre


QR25DE 2.5 litre


CA18DET 1.8 litre


SR16DE NEO 1.6 litre (11.0:1 CR)


QR25DD NEO 2.5 litre


QR25DE NEO 2.5 litre


KA24DE 2.4 litre


FJ20DE 2.0 litre


QR20DE NEO 2.0 litre


QR20DD NEO 2.0 litre


SR20DE 2.0 litre (Australian N15 Pulsar)


KA24E 2.4 litre (Australian U12 Pintara)


CA18DE 1.8 litre (Australian EXA twincam)


E15ET 1.5 litre (Australian Pulsar ET)


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