The LS family is a series of engines that are actually really similar to each other. The architect of the Gen III and Gen IV Chevy V8’s is actually all the same. The main difference between the engines in the LS family is the displacement, intake, camshaft, and various small details. The LS1 and the LS2 have a lot in common. But, the most obvious difference between the two is the displacement.
The LS1 has a displacement of 5.7L, whilst the LS2 has a displacement of 6.0L. This increase in displacement makes the LS2 a little more torquey than the LS1. But what about the other differences? Which one is actually the better engine of the two? Well, lets dive in and compare LS1 vs LS2.
LS1 vs LS2: Cylinder Heads
This is arguably the best part about the LS engine family, the cylinder heads. Why is this one of the best parts? Because since the whole LS family is so similar, heads can be swapped around for your desired combination. The LS2 and LS6 heads are identical other than the lightweight, sodium filled valves in the LS6. But what about the LS1?
Well, the LS2 and the LS1 share a lot in common. But, the LS2 head ultimately flows more air than the LS1’s head. The LS2 also has a a slightly smaller combustion chamber, which increases the compression ratio. All of these things combined make the LS2 head better than the LS1 head. Thats partially why the later LS1’s came with an LS2/LS6 top end to increase horsepower and torque.
LS1 vs LS2: Intake
One of the main differences between the LS1 and the LS2 is in the intake manifold. The LS2 intake is slightly better than the LS1 intake. How is it better? The LS2 intake has a larger opening and larger intake runners. It’s also designed for a 6.0L motor and flows enough air to keep a 400 horsepower 6.0L happy.
The LS1 intake on the hand is designed for a 5.7L, and flows enough air for a 300+ horsepower 5.7L happy. The later LS1’s came with an LS2 intake, which improved horsepower. When dyno testing an LS engine, the LS2 intake will typically make about 10 horsepower more than the LS1 intake. Torque remains virtually unchanged.
The LS6 intake, which is essentially a revised version of the LS2 intake typically makes about 4 horsepower more than the LS2 intake.
LS1 vs LS2: Cost
When you first learned/heard about LS engines, which one did you hear about? Chances are you first heard about the LS1 engine, and learned about the rest of the LS family over time. Why is it that most of us hear about the LS1 before any other LS? Because its one of the most popular. Why is it the most popular? Well, it was the first of the LS family, and it made a huge amount of noise amongst the car community when Chevrolet released it.
The LS2 on the other hand wasn’t released until later. The LS2 didn’t appear until 2005. It became the new base Corvette engine, as well as being an optional engine for the 05-06 Pontiac GTO. Because of this, the LS2 was also produced in smaller numbers, making it harder to find, and of course more expensive.
Yes you can get an LM7 out of a Tahoe which is basically just a 5.3L, super cheap version of the LS1, but thats not what were talking about today. The LS2 is going to be more expensive to buy than an LS1.
So Which One is Better?
All performance signs point to the fact that the LS2 makes more power, and therefore would ultimately be the better of the two engines. But, is it really worth the premium price over the LS1? I personally don’t think so. Hell, if I was to build an LS I would start with an aluminum 5.3L from a Tahoe. Those engines are stupidly cheap.
So which one is better? The LS1 or the LS2? The LS2 is the better engine. It makes more power and ultimately has more potential with its larger displacement. But, if you are stuck on a tight budget the LS1 will suffice just fine.