Is the Intrigue's 3.5 Northstar a performance engine?

Jimmy Olsen
07-03-2007, 07:43 AM
I guess the first place to start is to define the term "performance engine."

There should be some standard where it is compared to similar engines. I mean, one really can't compare turbo engines to standard engines.

How does the Northstar 3.5 compare to other V-6 engines???

07-03-2007, 11:57 AM
First thing that popped into my head is that the 3.5 isnt a Northstar engine, it is derived from that line yes, but is not considered a Northstar engine perse. It was derived from the 4.0 V8 in the Aurora, which in turn was derived from the Northstar line. So its kind of a kissing cousin. If GM wanted it to be considered a N* engine, you can bet they wouldve added badging and decals like they did to everything else. It was supposed to be the first in a line of "Premium V6" engines. Which was never successful for several reasons. One would obviously be a lack of sales, two would be a combination of price/performance of manufacturing. The Shortstar was more expensive to produce, with minimal power gains over the existing 3.8 engine. A 3rd reason would be driveability. The 3.8 has a much lower,torquier powerband up to 4k rpms or so, the area in which the vast majority of drivers spend there throttle time. As we know, up until somewhere in that range the 3.5 can seem somewhat underwhelming, and thats in a car that weighs only around 3500 pounds. There was talk of putting the 3.5 into the new line of cars coming out such as the 00+ Bonneville which tips the scales at over 4k pounds. An extra 5-600 pounds isnt going to improve the feeling the car has no performance.

I think the next thing you have to consider is displacement versus power, and also how well does it propel the car its in. The 3.5 puts out enough power to squelch its competition which consisted of high performance vehicles like the Toyota Camry (sarcasm), but lets face it, its a high 15 second car at most, thats decent for a fun to drive factor, but not quite "quick" in most peoples books.

If you want to compare it to other V6 engines, how about the Nissan VQ35? The same displacement but with 265 hp and 255 lb ft of torque. In a car the weighs about the same as ours. Gearing aside, its not uncommon at all for a bone stock Maxima to break into the 14s, and for the Altima SE-R to break WELL into the 14s, what most start to consider "quick". I dont know if it requires premium gas or not, but I would be more inclined to call that a performance engine than a 3.5.

I will agree that the 3.5 is a well designed and well built engine, extremely reliable as far as the engine itself goes. Its built solid with high quality internals like powder-coated pistons, etc. But its hp vs displacement numbers arent exactly impressive. I also dont see many Intrigues and Auroras blazing down the track and making people go "wow, i didnt expect that".

It may sound a lot like im bashing my own engine, which im really not, I just realize what it is, I know it has a ton of potential, but with no aftermarket readily available, Im not willing to spend thousands of dollars on custom parts to maybe creep into the 14s. That would be impressive yes, but in my book, ill just go spend less, get a car that already runs 14s, then buy some parts to make it even quicker.

Jimmy Olsen
07-03-2007, 04:23 PM
You right in saying that the LX5 does not have the Northstar brand but it comes out to be a close match since they basically took a v-8 Northstar engine and eliminated 2 cylinders. Several years ago I looked at the Northstar website and they listed the LX5 as coming out of their shop.

Probably the fact that my first car was a '61 VW bug with a 65 hp engine had me thinking that the LX5 with its DOHC is a pretty hot little number. I agree that it doesn't do really well in the quarter mile department but I would like to see how other similar stock NA v-6 engines do in a 2 mile climb up a 6% grade. Seems like most of the power in the LX5 comes out at about 5000 rpm to redline. I just know that in 3rd gear and higher rpm it seems to have a lot of juice. Haven't driven modern cars with similar engines so maybe the LX5 is an ordinary engine in today's line-up.

Anyway, it is a fun car to drive on the open road.

07-03-2007, 06:47 PM
I can understand why you would feel that way, going from the VW to the Intrigue. I had a similar experience when I went from my trainingmobile of a 1987 Ford Ranger with about 90hp, to my 1996 Pontiac Bonneville with the NA 3.8 of 205hp. It was like night and day, and I thought it was amazing. I quickly learned though that even though it felt to me like the fastest car in the world, it wasnt.

The Intrigue does a good job of handing almost every true ricer there butt, and usually does a pretty good job of doing the same to most trucks. It handles the ricers because of power, and the trucks because of the large weight difference.

Do you have an Autobahn Intrigue or something? Because I dont see high RPMs in 3rd gear. It shuts off at 112 in 3rd gear turning about 4500 rpms. But I will agree that it is meant to rev to achieve power as are almost all DOHC engines.

It is a fun car yes, Ill agree with that all day long, but when you start comparing it to other cars that are similar, its not too much out of the ordinary.

Honestly, for climbing steep grades the 3.5 wouldnt be my first choice, you have to keep it revving to keep good power coming, meaning more heat, which becomes an issue at higher elevations. Id rather have something with a more chunky, low-down powerband for a situation like that, and for any time I feel like driving like a sane person. But for flat out foot to the floor action, you cant beat it. Well you can, but you know what I mean.

Jimmy Olsen
07-04-2007, 07:42 AM
I see the high rpm's in 2nd gear. Every few weeks I drive on the little express loop we have in 2nd and get it up to about 6000 rpm for a 5 to 10 seconds. I then take my foot off the gas pedal and let the engine use compression to slow the car down to 2500 rpm. This is suppose to blow carbon out of the system (super hot exhaust temperatures) and to move the rings around so they don't get stuck. The LX5 likes to be driven hard. I read somewhere that during the development testing of the engine it was run for 300 hours at red line.

About the only time I put the car in 3rd is when I'm driving in the mountains. More power going up and more control going down.

Running the engine occasionally at higher rpm's is also good for the tranny. Some of the problems we see here are because people are babying their LX5.

07-04-2007, 01:31 PM
By today's standards, the LX5 is by no means a performance engine. However, if you look at when it came out - 1999 model year, it was leaps and bounds ahead of most mid-priced [sport] sedans at the time. The Maxima was still below the 200 hp mark, as was the camry v6. Other GM's had between 150-205 hp (save for the 3800s/c models with 240). The top-end Accord was at something like 200 hp and even less torque. So, the LX5 was considered fairly high performance at the time.

Now, fast forward to today when a typical family sedan has over 240hp and still has good fuel economy, the Intrigue's engine looks to be quite weak.

I'm not saying it is weak, but it lacks things such as variable valve timing, which would help give it some low rpm power. I'm sure that with a little tweaking, GM could easily manufacture another Shortstar V6 with 250 hp. But why do it? The Northstar engine in 15 years old and on its way out the door and GM already has the 3.6 high feature engine making anywhere from 240hp to 302 hp and it's cheaper to produce than the Intrigue's V6.

panzer dragoon
07-04-2007, 04:53 PM
By today's standards, the LX5 is by no means a performance engine. However, if you look at when it came out - 1999 model year, it was leaps and bounds ahead of most mid-priced [sport] sedans at the time. The Maxima was still below the 200 hp mark, as was the camry v6. Other GM's had between 150-205 hp (save for the 3800s/c models with 240). The top-end Accord was at something like 200 hp and even less torque. So, the LX5 was considered fairly high performance at the time.

The Maxima and Acccord both needed to run premium gas and the LX5 will still beat them both mostly due to the torque.

The LX5 is a champion. Put it into a lighter chassis and you will be rewarded. A very smooth and torqy engine. Run synthetic oil and get those revs up. The 4T65E tranny is no slouch either -no tranny brake though and that really hurts the 1/4 mile performance.

07-04-2007, 05:18 PM
Im a bit of a closet Maxima fan, so here goes:)

The 1999 Maxima still had 190hp and 205 ft lbs of torque, not too mention had about 400 pounds on the average Intrigue. I would bet my money on the Max, even in those days. But Im not sure about the need for premium gas, youre probably right, because that was only a 3.0 engine putting out that much power. Im unfamiliar with the type of powerband the 3.0 produces though, I would assume it to be similar to the 3.5, so neither would excel more than the other at higher rpms.

I agree that swapping a 3.5 into something lighter would produce good results, the question is...why? Unless you simply want to be unique, why swap an engine with no aftermarket into a lighter car?

Im not a huge fan of the 4T65-E either, they have a pretty high failure rate. Especially if you start any serious modding, plus Ive always heard that it is barely rated to handle the power the 3.8/3.5 put out. But

You can get a high stall TC for the 4t65-e if drag racing is your thing, but your gas mileage will suffer. I believe the stock converter stalls out around 2000rpms, which would help get it off the line a tad quicker in a drag situation. The 3.5 doesnt launch well at all really. An M62 like GM had in mind once would fix that right up though:)

07-04-2007, 05:18 PM
Back when the engine came out, it was worlds better than the maxima or accord engines. but now, both have blown past it.

07-05-2007, 01:37 AM
The Intrigue isn't too heavy of a car. My guess would be around 3500 lbs or less. The Maxima is no way 400 lbs lighter. Maybe 200. I've driven a few of them and their engines are more eager to rev and slightly smoother at lower rpms than the shortstar, but they don't have the torque needed for a good pulling feel.

Now the 4T65-E is definitely not a great transmission to take advantage of performance potentials. The HD version in the Grand Prix GTP might be better with slightly faster shifts and supposedly better durability, though the valve body can have some problems. The 4T80 is much better, but weighs way too much and is large. Too bad GM didn't have its great 5 speed autos that came out in the early 2000's in the Intrigue. That really would've been able to take advantage of the engine's powerband. Even better, I could imagine (and dream of) an Intrigue with a 5 or 6 speed manual. That would be sweet - the maxima and accord both had it at the time, I don't know why Olds refused to join the club.

Something of note at the time and even still now. The Intrigue had the 3.5 as the STANDARD engine from late 99 models til the end. Almost all the competition had a lower engine in most models and had V6's only in their top end ones. Even those v6's were still slower than the BASE Intrigues. That being said, it would've been sweet to have a performance Intrigue, such as shown with the two OSV concepts, both of which were entirely drivable proto-type vehicles that would've seen production had Olds lived to see the light of day. The 1st OSV (I think 2000) has a slightly tweaked (I think low boost supercharged) 3.5 that produced 250 hp. The 2nd one (2001) had the high-performance Northstar from the Seville STS, producing 300 HP, paired to the 4T80-E with a 3.73 axle ratio. It also had cross-drilled 13" front Brembo brakes with 19" wheels and a fantastic paint job. That would've been a force to be reckoned with at the time, had it gone into production. No W-body ever used the Northstar and none ever will now.

07-05-2007, 02:06 AM
I was just listing the curb weights I saw on MSN. They vary for the Max with transmission and trim level, the lightest is 3012 and the heaviest is 3085, the Intrigue chunks in at 3455, almost all reviews of the Intrigue mention it being heavier than the Accord, Camry, etc. If those numbers are correct, and im sure theyre close, then 400 lbs difference is feasible with drivers, gear, fuel, etc taken into account.

Yes an Intrigue with a manual transmission would be awesome. In fact many of GMs FWD sedans could have used a manual, especially the ones that were built with performance in mind. I cant believe they didnt use one. I mean a 4-speed automatic doesnt exactly scream performance.

They finally got the idea now though, with cars like the G6 GTP hitting the road with powerful engines and manual transmissions...I reeeeeally like the looks of those cars, but they are much smaller than my Intrigue, and even it feels cramped sometimes.

An excellent point about the 3.5 being standard in the Intrigue, I hadnt considered that.

I think I would choose the OSV Intrigue that had the blown V6 over the V8. The Eaton M62 blower they had on there had been used before in popularity on the 92-95 Bonneville SSEi and the Olds Touring Sedans in small numbers of that same era.

If nothing else you could at least drop pulley sizes, and there are PCMs available for the 3.8 with that blower, so Im sure someone wouldve jumped on the bandwagon for the 3.5.

Taking the V8 from the Caddy would be excellent power, but youd be stuck with it for the most part, because once again, the Northstar series of engines have very little aftermarket.

I like both OSV Intrigues, the Red one in pics is absolutely beautiful, I believe it was the V6, and the Green one was the V8.

07-05-2007, 08:59 AM
Here are links to two comparison with the Intrigue. One is from 1998 (3.8 L engine) and the other is from 2000 with the 3.5L. The Iintrigue finished 2nd in 1998 and further down in 2000. Not agreeing with the comparisons but they do give the specs for the car and it appears our memories are not as sharp.

07-05-2007, 12:00 PM
Meh, those are just one groups opinions, Ive read other reviews where people loved it much more than the competition.

For whatever reason American cars, especially GM, always seem to get poor reviews, but in my opinion are great cars.

I thought it was weird how they adored the 98 Intrigue, but werent fond of the 2000. But heck, they liked the Taurus more than the Maxima. Thats just dumb. People have opinions, I for one dont always agree with them. All I know is there are tons of Intrigue owners, that arent as nitpicky as reviewers, that love their Intrigues.

07-05-2007, 02:59 PM
I didn't agree with their assessment of the 2000 Intrigue. I thought they were especially harsh on the Intrigue. Treated it like the red head step child.

But the main reasons for posting those links were two fold: a) to show who the competitors were in the Intrigue's heyday; and b) to see the specifications for the vehicles. The comparison is meaningless as it is one publications opinion. The fact they placed the 1998 Intrigue in 2nd place in 1998 and next to last two years later with an improved car, is mind boggling. But for what were are debating here, we should be using the facts (i.e. the specs for the vehicles).

panzer dragoon
07-05-2007, 03:38 PM
fact: I can buy a 3.5L Intrigue for ~$3000 on a used car lot and can beat most cars 0-60 mph.

About a week ago I was driving 55 on a country road about 2 miles out of town. A GP tried to pass me = he could not and gave up at 90mph. Never gained more than my trunk on me either.

On the highway from 60/70 mph to 90mph the Intrigue can be hard to beat. Off the light it can be a little slow until it gets on the torque at >4k rpm, but anymore power and the wheels would be slipping anyway.

I have run my Intrigue hard and 4T65E has never shown any problems except sludge in the pan. The 4T65E is under-rated, but spinning your wheels will ruin them fast.

My car could take another 50+ and maybe 100hp. Anything more than that would cause problems.

The Intrigue is very low to the ground = a good handler. My car (2000) originally was very stiff. It has since softened up some but is still very firm. Steering is very good also.

The bottomline: I could buy a new Maxima, Camry V6 (268hp) and still not get the performance or happiness that the Intrigue provides at 3k-5k$

I drive a 1966 Charger with a 1967 440ci engine and the Intrigue seems very docile and almost silent compared to it. Back then you could but Hi-Test 100+ octane gas = this car can barely run on todays premium 90/91/92 octane = when you buy a tank of skanky gas your car is not happy.

For performance I like the 3.8L Cieras. For $500 you have a great car that can beat my Charger off the light (you will need the supercharger mod after that)

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