An engineer for one of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s rivals recently groused, “You know, you really ought to call it 'Ward's 9 Best Engines,' because Nissan automatically gets a win every year.”
The comment was offered good-naturedly but with a twinge of frustration.
With a record 12th consecutive win for its landmark 3.5L VQ DOHC V-6, Nissan is making a case for the engineer's suggestion.
It has been a 10 Best Engines winner every year for some variant of Nissan's fabulous VQ engine family since the competition began in 1995.
As far as competitors are concerned, it really has become something like “Nissan's VQ and the year's nine other best engines.”
In a dozen years since the launch of the original 3L VQ DOHC V-6, Nissan has wrought numerous improvements and changes.
There has been the addition of electronic throttle control, variable valve timing and two major new variants: the 3.5L that for some years has been the smallest-displacement VQ V-6 for the U.S. market and a more recently added 4L unit employed in the company's light trucks and SUVs.
The matrix of VQ displacement and power and torque ratings is manifold.
Regardless of variant and model, the baseline VQ design remains the foundation for the VQ modular family's iconic status: microfinishing of critical internal surfaces, keen attention to balance and a priority for reduced weight for reciprocating masses.
For its 2006 10 Best Engines win, Ward's tested the 3.5L VQ in the Infiniti G35 sedan with a 6-speed manual transmission.
At 298 hp, the VQ, going into 13 years in the market, still plays in the upper strata of premium V-6s, generating a thunderous 85 hp per liter.
The figure, remarkably, is just a few horses short of the class-leading, direct-injection 3.5L DOHC V-6 from Toyota Motor Corp. (also a 10 Best winner for 2006), which launched this year.
Moreover, the VQ performs as if it were a brand-new engine. Ward's judges remain intoxicated by the 3.5L V-6's riotous midrange urge, which is palpably abetted by a manual transmission.
The power cascade is not confined to a narrow midrange window, either: One often runs out of road space (or nerve) before the VQ runs out of breath.
“Spectacular in-gear acceleration,” says one 10 Best judge. “And this engine has brilliant throttle response in any speed range. Authoritative power and torque,” says another.
It may be the grizzled vet of overhead-cam V-6s, but Nissan's 3.5L VQ V-6 still has got game – and plenty of it.
McClellan: This is still a nice package and a terrific engine.
Winter: It still is soooo good.
Visnic: So broad, so even, the torque flows like an opened spigot. Midrange almost any V-8 would envy. Throttle response still should be studied by everyone.
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. 3.5L DOHC V-6
Engine type: 3.5L DOHC 60° V-6
Displacement (cc): 3,456
Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
Bore x stroke: 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
Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 19/26
Application tested: Infiniti G35 6MT