Nissan makes one of the world's best engines - but its days could be numbered
And it's a great time to be an engine lover, with all manner of powertrains now propelling modern cars and trucks. We've driven big American V8s, exotic V10s and W12s, lots of turbocharged four-cylinder powerplants, a fair number of twin-turbocharged supercar engines, and of course a wide range of gas-electric hybrids and full-electric vehicles.
Sometimes, the good old workhorse engine of the auto industry, the venerable V6, has gotten lost in the shuffle.
But at other times, a really stupendous six-banger distinguishes itself.
That's been happening lately with Nissan's VQ motor, a six-cylinder masterpiece that's been around since the mid-1990s and is found throughout the Nissan/Infiniti lineup.
We recently savored this excellent engine in an Infiniti QX70 crossover. This VQ is the 3.7-liter flavor, making a robust 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. For my money, 3700 cubic centimeters of displacement is the absolute sweetspot for a traditional V6 motor, with no extras bolted on - no turbos or supercharger, just a straight engine crafted from aluminum, sucking in air, combining it with gasoline, blowing up the mixture, and creating movement. Internal combustion at its finest.
The definitive example of this is the legendary Buick 3800, a V6 that arrived in the early 1960s and earned the awesome-cool "Fireball" nickname.
A great V6 is a thing of beauty because it can serve up power and torque without requiring the two extra cylinders of a V8, thereby achieving better fuel economy. The 3.7-liter on the QX70 doesn't deliver particularly amazing MPGs - 22 highway/16 city/18 combined - but it isn't awful, and the performance is majestic. This straight-up engine, coupled with a seven-speed transmission, can launch the QX70 from 0-60 mph in six seconds, which is eminently respectable.
The feel of that acceleration is refined rawness, with the power flowing to the wheels in a linear manner. No turbo-lag here, nor late-arriving supercharger punch. You put the pedal down and the thing just goes.
That's a satisfying sensation, one that a truly good V6 can serve up. A V8 might kick harder, and a turbo four might get you there with buzzier thrills. But the VQ gets in done the old-fashioned way.
Sadly, as good as this engine is, the fuel-economy numbers are going to catch up to at some point. Infiniti already dropped a V8 as a QX70 option, and the trend in the industry is to use turbo fours in place of dated sixes, keeping the V8s for the higher-performance vehicles, and even then, often using turbocharged sixes instead.
But for the time being, engine lovers can enjoy the mighty Nissan VQ, while it's still around.
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