Honda’s New 3.5-Liter V-6 Goes DOHC, Drops VTEC

  • Honda’s latest 3.5-liter V-6 powering the new Pilot switches to a dual-overhead-cam design, the first naturally aspirated DOHC V-6 in any Honda or Acura since the first-generation NSX.
  • Bore, stroke and compression ratio carry over, while peak power increases by 5 hp to 285 hp and torque steady at 262 lb-ft.
  • This new V-6 is dramatically cleaner, with some pollutants reduced by 40 to 50 percent, which should last until at least 2030.

Hidden in the heads of the 2023 Honda Pilot’s new V-6, codenamed J35Y8, is a dramatic change: an additional camshaft for each bank. Instead, every previous naturally aspirated V-6 from either Honda or Acura, except for the first-generation NSX, was a single-overhead-cam (SOHC) design. Bore and stroke carry over (and thus its 3471cc displacement), as does a 60-degree bank angle and an 11.5:1 compression ratio. But this new engine powering the Pilot (and almost certainly any future V-6-powered vehicles, like the Odyssey and Ridgeline) gets the compact DOHC heads from the turbocharged Type S variants of the Acura TLX and MDX, where the cam bearing caps are incorporated into the valve cover, shrinking the head height by 1.2 inches.

Peak power rises by 5 hp to 285 hp at 6100 rpm, while peak torque is identical at 262 pound-feet at 5000 rpm; those peaks occur at slightly higher engine speeds, 100 rpm and 300 rpm, respectively. Hydraulic lifters are also new, meaning no more valve clearance adjustments, and lowering the pressure keeps the valves closed during three-cylinder mode. The DOHC V-6 still uses a timing belt, which has the same 100,000-mile replacement interval as the SOHC engine before it.

Exhaust gases jump this latest V-6 to a SULEV30 rating, which equates to a 40- to 50-percent reduction in particulates and NOx output. Fuel control is more precise, with direct injection system pressure increased by 50 percent to 30 MPa (or 4351 psi), along with smaller injection holes and an ability to do up to three injections per combustion cycle. Another key enabler is the use of cam phasers to continuously adjust both intake and exhaust timing rather than the high-lift and longer-duration intake lobes on the previous V-6. But that means this new engine doesn’t have VTEC, and a smooth and linear pull to redline replaces the manic shift point that helped give VTEC a cult following. Based on today’s rules, these changes will keep the V-6 around until at least 2030.