Under Godzilla's Hood: The VR38DETT Motor
Previous Skyline GT-Rs relied on a twin-turbocharged RB-series inline-six motor to propel the vehicle. The last-gen (R34) model had a 2.6-liter RB26DETT that officially sent 276 hp to all four wheels. That number sounds modest by today’s standards, given 268 hp Toyota Camrys and 280 hp minivans. But there was a mythical gentleman’s agreement among the Japanese automakers to not release domestic cars with power greater than that to avoid a possible horsepower war.
That was more than 10 years ago, and Nissan's GT-R tosses the old RB26DETT out the door to make room for an exclusive VR38DETT motor with immense amounts of power. Gone is the inline six-cylinder layout, creating space for a V6 derived from Nissan’s VQ-series engines. This family, which includes the VQ35 found in our previously-reviewed 2013 Infiniti JX35, delivers anywhere from 260 to 350 hp, depending on the application. But don't expect the GT-R's motor to share any resemblance with the V6 found in your Altima, because it's a completely different beast.
In the GT-R, displacement is increased to 3.8 liters, up from 3.5 or 3.7 liters across the rest of Nissan's line-up. Of course, the most significant difference between the VR38DETT and more run-of-the-mill VQ-series motors is a pair of turbochargers sourced from IHI Corporation. The dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) motor debuted with an impressive 478 hp with 434 lb-ft of torque back in 2008. However, the company's engineers continually upgraded the VR38DETT to the point that the 2013 GT-R offers 545 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque.
Other notable features of the VR38DETT motor include a variable valve timing system applied to the intake valves, an aluminum cylinder block, and aluminum pistons.
As if that wasn’t enough, Nissan takes the AMG approach and hand-builds the VR38DETT at its facility in Yokohoma, Japan. The company employs specially-trained technicians to assemble the motor with extreme precision, too.
Nissan tops the VR38DETT with a red engine cover, which debuted with the 2011 model year, replacing the black cover used since launch. The red-topped VR38DETT reminds us of reading up on SR20DET motor swaps, where automotive forum members debated the pros and cons of black versus red tops. It’s a nice throwback touch to the Nissan faithful, in our opinion.
The VR38DETT is a work of art that we'd have no problem putting on display in a man cave, were it affordable or practical to do so. Nissan took a mundane engine found in your dad's Altima or mom's Pathfinder, and transformed it into a race-ready beast. It looks beautiful in the GT-R's engine back, adorned with a carbon fiber strut tower brace.