Ford Modular vs Chevy LS: Which is the Better Engine?
I love Chevy LS engines, my first ever “technician” job, was to rebuild a C5 Corvette from the ground up. I was 17 and had no idea what I was doing, but I was working side-by-side with a former Lopers (Chevy performance shop) employee.
We built the motor using a custom ground cam and cnc ported factory heads. We picked up nearly 100whp over stock just from those changes, and ever since then I’ve loved LS motors.
But, I’ve completely forgotten about Ford modular motors, are mod motors better? Lets dive in and compare Chevy LS vs. Ford Modular. Before we start this comparison let’s briefly cover each engine individually.
Ford began using their modular design back in 1991. The Modular engine is a replacement for the 302ci engine that was well-known and loved. Its lower displacement to gives it better fuel efficiency, just as much torque, and more horsepower. However, it failed at pretty much all of those.
There are various reasons why it didn’t make much power, but the main one is that it didn’t rev high enough. The SOHC design brought higher red lines, and more horsepower. But, the 4.6L modular’s redline was hardly any higher than the 302’s redline.
Fast forwards to 2011 and Ford is producing the 5.0L Coyote. They had to develop an engine that could compete with Chevy’s 6.2L and Chrysler’s 6.4L. Ford was able to push out a very impressive 412 horsepower of their 5.0L V8. Today the Coyote makes 435 horsepower, and it made 444 in the Boss 302 model.
Chevrolet introduced their new V8 design in 1999. This new small-block design replaced the LT series of engines, which was basically a small-block Chevy with some EFI components attached to it. They called their new small-block the LS1, and it led to a massive engine family.
The LS is larger is displacement than the Ford Modular, which gave it more horsepower and torque. The LS, just like every other small-block (excluding the LT5) before it was an OHV design. This makes the LS engine family very compact and very lightweight.
What’s the Major Difference?
The biggest difference between LS and Mod motors is in the valve train. The LS engine uses a pushrod design, with one cam in the center of the block, and pushrods to move the rocker arms. Modular motors use overhead cams, depending on which engine you’re talking about it may have 1 cam per head or 2 per head.
There are loads of smaller differences between the two, but the valve train is definitely the biggest difference between the two.
Newer mod motors (Coyote and Voodoo) use variable valve time. That’s right, you can hit VTEC in a Mustang (note: sarcasm). Mod motors are also smaller displacement than LS motors, Coyote engines are 5.0L compared to the LS3’s 6.2L.
The F150’s modular engine is as large as 5.4L, whilst the Silverado’s LS based engine is as large as 6.2L. The difference in displacement makes the LS engines much less efficient, but they make more power and torque.
Ford Modular vs Chevy LS: Stock
For comparisons sake, were going to show numbers from LS3 (Camaro) vs. Coyote (Mustang), both of which came in 2012 pony cars. This will help keep the playing fields as level as possible.
While the LS3 makes more power and torque than the Coyote, it takes an extra 1.2 liters to do so. If the Coyote was a 6.2L it’d make 510 horsepower, which is quite impressive.
How does the Coyote make more hp/liter? The Coyote has dual over head cams, and variable valve timing, which is the same reason Honda’s can make well over 100hp/liter.
Those things alone aren’t the reason it can make so much power per liter. Overhead cams can withstand really high RPMs, which allows the Coyote to rev higher than an LS. As I’m sure you know, HP = Revs x Torque, that’s why the Coyote makes so much power per liter.
So, if you’re comparing the stock numbers, the Coyote would be the better motor, it makes nearly the same horsepower as the LS3 while being much smaller in displacement.
But, what about modified? After all, the reason you’re reading this is because you’re a car guy (or car girl). This is where the LS motor shines.
Ford Modular vs Chevy LS: Modified
Chevy built the LS family with low hp/liter, giving it superb reliability, but leaving a huge amount of performance on the table. The low horsepower per liter means the LS isn’t being pushed near its limited. A simple head/cam swap on an LS motor can gain over 100hp.
The LS3 has been proven able to make 1,000 horsepower reliably, but it requires a perfect tune. The Coyote 5.0L can only make 700-800 horsepower reliable without extensive changes.
There are a ton of very reputable engine parts manufacturers that make Chevy LS parts that are very cheap (heads, cams, etc). A head/cam swap can cost around $2k for pretty nice parts.
On the other hand, the Coyote doesn’t have cheap engine parts on the market. This is mostly because the Coyote’s complexity.
To put it simply; the Chevy LS loves the typical head/cam swap and will make a ton of power when modified like this, the Ford Modular loves bolt-ons (intake, exhaust, throttle body, etc).
Which One is Better?
Stock vs. stock the Coyote is the better engine, it makes crazy hp/liter. But this is at the cost of less reliability since DOHC and variable valve timing is more moving parts that can break. But, the extra displacement of the LS engines allows huge gains when modified, and more reliability with such a simple valve train.
Also note, older mod motors sucked really bad, they didn’t make good power and have almost no aftermarket engine parts available.
Also, LS motors are dirt cheap second-hand because Chevrolet produced so many and put into so many different types of vehicles. So, if you ask me, the LS engine is better, it simply responds better to modifications and is more reliable.
That said though, the new VooDoo 5.2L equipped in the GT350 makes over 100hp/liter and is one hell of a motor, and I wish Chevy would make DOHC engines.