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 is extremely similar. The Gen IVs are supposed to have a slightly stronger block, but not by much. The main difference between the engines in the LS family is the displacement, intake, camshaft, and various small details. The LS1 and the LS3 have a lot in common. But, the most obvious difference between the two is the displacement.
The LS1 has 5.7L of displacement, and technically was the first Gen III Chevrolet engine. The LS3 on the other hand has 6.2L of displacement, and is a Gen IV Chevrolet engine. But I’m sure you’re wondering if there is other things that are different between these two, other than the displacement. With the given age gap between these two engines what was Chevrolet able to improve upon? So, let’s dive in, and compare LS1 vs LS3.
LS1 vs LS3: Cylinder Heads
One of the most important parts to any performance engine is the cylinder head(s). Things like port shape, size, and length have a massive effect on the performance output. Luckily when Chevrolet built the LS family they knew how to make really good cylinder heads. As a matter of fact, LS7 heads flow nearly as well as Nascar heads! But what about the LS1 and LS3?
LS1 flow numbers: 244 cfm intake, 206 cfm exhaust. Pretty impressive for completely stock production heads.
LS3 flow numbers: 293 cfm intake, 244 cfm exhaust. As you can tell, Chevrolet continued to innovate and design better heads throughout the LS family’s lifetime.
So it’s not really a huge surprise to LS enthusiasts that the LS3 heads are pretty amazing. They outflow LS1, LS2, and LS6 heads by 50 cfm on the intake side. Thats a massive amount. But, unfortunately you can’t really just bolt LS3 heads onto an LS1 due to the LS3 heads needing a minimum cylinder bore of 4″.
LS1 vs LS3: Intake
Just like everything else in this comparison, the later engine was better in nearly every single way. The LS1 and LS3 intake are somewhat similar, but have quite a few differences. First of all, the LS1 intake manifold is designed for the cathedral port heads (LS1, LS2, LS6, and truck heads). So unfortunately you can’t just bolt an LS3 intake onto an earlier LS.
Chevrolet also increased the LS3’s intake manifold flow by straightening out the intake runner, and optimizing the flow path to the heads. The LS3 intake is designed for the later rectangle heads. The LS3 intake produces about 10-20 horsepower more than the LS1 intake. But, if you want the LS3 intake you also need LS3 heads, and a 4.0″ bore block.
LS1 vs LS3: Cost
So by now I’m sure you know that the LS1 was the first engine to be released in the LS family. It was also produced in fairly large numbers. It was C5 Corvette engine until the LS2 came around, it can also be found in the Camaro SS.
The LS3 on the other hand didn’t come around until 2008. Much like the LS2 it replaced, it was the new base Corvette engine. The LS3 also came in 2010-2015 Camaro’s, and various other Chevrolet vehicles.
Why am I telling you what cars the LS1 and LS3 came in? Because thats a large factor when it comes to pricing. The LS1 is more abundant than the LS3, which brings the price down quite a bit. The LS1 is also older, which also makes it cheaper.
So, to no ones surprise, the LS1 is cheaper. An entire LS1 drivetrain can be picked up for about $1000+ less than an entire LS3 drivetrain.
LS1 vs LS3: Which One Should I Swap?
The Chevy LS is pretty much the go-to swap when you’re looking to upgrade your engine. But which LS should you swap? The LS1 or the LS3? This can be pretty dependent on your budget. If you’re willing to cut some corners elsewhere on your car to afford an LS3, I say do it. If you are on a tight budget then the LS1 will work perfect for you.
The LS1 and LS3 are going to be almost identical as far as the swap process, so you might as well get the more powerful engine if possible. Both are very easy to swap thanks to the simple wiring harness of the LS. The wiring harness allows the LS to run on its loop, so it has no idea what’s going on with the rest of the car.
So Which One is Better?
Much like the LS1 vs LS2 debate, the later engine is the better one. The LS3 makes more power than an LS1, and has more potential at the end of the day. The LS3 has better heads, a better intake, and a bigger displacement. But, price limits nearly every car guy. We must pick and choose our parts in order to stay within our allotted budget. For that reason many of us will end up picking the LS1.
Although we would all love to have to bigger, and better LS3. Most of us just can’t afford it. Like I said in the LS2 vs LS3 debate, I would personally rather have an aluminum 5.3L from a Tahoe. It’s a much cheaper option and it’s nearly just as good as the LS1. All the money you save going with a 5.3L can be put into a set of top-of-the-line cylinder heads.
Have you noticed that a lot of car enthusiasts are putting Chevy engines in their project cars, as opposed to building a high performance engine that originally came in their car? Well, there’s a few good reasons why you should swap an LS engine into your car if you’re looking for high performance and reliability.
The Chevy LS Engine, first debuted in the 1997 Corvette, GM called it the “Gen III small-block” now known as the LS1. The LS1 is a 5.7L engine and it featured an all-aluminum design, coil near plug ignition, and various other new features that made it vastly greater than the previous generation small block. In 1998 the LS1 replaced the LT1 found in Camaros and Firebirds. Chevrolet then began producing an iron-block Gen III small block which came in the pick-up trucks and SUVs.
Chevrolet later produced the the “Gen IV small-block”, which featured MPG boosting cylinder deactivation, larger displacements compared to Gen III and reengineered camshaft sensing, all of which were great improvements for the LS engine family. The Gen IV family includes the LS2, LS3, super-charged LS9, super-charged LSA, and the all-mighty LS7.
6. Engine Strength
What would a good engine be without a solid foundation? Chevrolet knew that the strength of the block was extremely important when they developed the LS engine. Lets start with the block design. Chevrolet designed the Gen III (LS) block as a “Y” block. The Y block design helps increase rigidity in the main cap area. Previous small blocks didn’t have this design.
The Y block design allows them to use 6 bolt main caps on the crankshaft, 4 facing vertically, and 2 horizontally that clamp the block wall to the main cap. This is what GM engineers call snap-fit cross-bolting. This design provides great crankshaft and block rigidity.
Chevrolet took it a step further by not just designing an incredibly strong bottom end, but also a strong top end. Chevy designed the block to take extra long head bolts that thread much deeper into the block than previous GM small-block engines. This minimizes cylinder bore distortion and variation in the head bolt torque spec which can become a problem when mass producing engines. Subaru and Toyota are currently facing this issue with the FA20.
Chevy also raised the camshaft up and farther away from the crank which allows them to clear a 4 inch stroke crankshaft, which was used in later model LS engines. To further increase the strength of the top of the engine block they used a “valley plate”, which is a large plate of metal that cover the valley where the camshaft lifters reside. This increases the strength of the block by bolting each side of the block onto one plate.
The pistons are the weakest point in the LS engine. They are pretty strong, but when you start getting into serious performance they are the first to fail. All of this combined made the LS engine stronger and smaller than any other GM small-block before it. There are people out there making close to 1,000 horsepower on stock bottom end LS engines.
Chevrolet has produced the LS engine since 1997, and they came in everything from Trucks and SUVs to Camaros and Corvettes. Since they were put in so many cars, there’s a slight over abundance of them, and with the rising popularity of LS swaps, the prices have dropped due to high demand for used engines. You can walk into any junkyard in America and find an iron or aluminum LS engine within a few minutes, they’re that common.
Replacement parts are also very cheap, this is not only because of its extreme mass production, but also the fact that its an American car, so replacement parts are produced by hundreds of manufacturers, which drives the prices down. Although some parts can be expensive, the parts are dirt cheap compared to high performance Japanese engines.
A great example would be the world famous beater bomb. Which is the true meaning of balling-on-a-budget. Beater bomb is a world famous street racing Fox Body. He has blown up a few LS engine’s from spraying to much nitrous, and all he has to do is walk into the junkyard with a couple hundred dollars to get a new engine.
4. Displacement Options
Since the LS engine came in a variety of automobiles for over 15 years now, Chevrolet needed to develop different size engines for different uses. Chevy trucks came with iron-block 4.8L and 5.3L they also came with all-aluminum 6.0L and 6.2L engines. Car engines came in 5.3L, 5.7L, 6.0L, 6.2L and 7.0L size engines, some configured for front-wheel-drive. Not only are there options when deciding on displacement, there are also choices when deciding if you want an iron or aluminum block.
The rise of stroker kits has also increased the amount of displacement options. The LS7 can be pretty expensive, but you can always buy a stroker 427 ci kit for your LS3 and beat an LS7.
If you count Chevy Performance’s LSX engines, then the biggest available LS engine would be the LSX 454 (7.4L). The cheapest of the LS engine family is the 5.3L truck engine, since it came in most of the trucks and SUVs that Chevrolet produced in the early to mid 2000’s. All of these engines have been pushed past 1000+ horsepower by racers, and have done so reliably.
With such a large amount of LS engines, and in such a variety of vehicles, aftermarket companies started making every performance part imaginable. From just the basic bolt-ons like an intake/exhaust, all the way up the race-spec cylinder heads and turbo kits. The most common modification being a high performance camshaft, which is really the best bang-for-buck upgrade you can do on these engines.
The rise in popularity of LS engines has also helped mold some of the worlds best engine builders into LS masters. Companies like Nelson Racing Engines have become extremely popular to do their knowledge of the LS engine and they really know how to get the best bang for buck performance out of them. From mild builds, to high horsepower street cars, to full race cars, companies like NRE can build you one incredible little LS engine for your application.
Chevy also jumped into the aftermarket game of its own engine. Chevrolet Performance produces the LSX, the holy grail of Chevy engines, the most powerful being the LSX454r crate engine which produces a whopping 770 horsepower and 620 ft-lbs of torque. Chevrolet Performance also produces high strength engine blocks, as well as many other components to hop up your LS engine. The aftermarket also makes a lot of swap kits, making it a breeze to swap an Chevy LS engine into basically any automobile you want.
Chevy really knew what they were doing when they designed the LS engines, they designed an engine family that made good horsepower and good torque. How did they do this? The factory heads flow nearly as good as nascar heads did at the time (300+ cfm). They achieved this by using modern computer technology to test different port lengths and designed to find the best performing head design. You may be surprised by how the port shape, size, and length can affect torque and horsepower ratings.
Chevrolet also designed the intake manifold using similar technology, they aimed for the LS engine to produce usable power really low in the RPMs, and decent power up high. They also focused on small features like the cam size, they made the cam core massive, which means you can easily fit a .600+ lift cam and it won’t be that harsh on your motor.
All Chevy LS engines are known to respond to modifications really well, even an intake/exhaust will gain you substantial amounts of HP, the typical head/cam swap is known for gaining over 100 HP. Some people even leave the stock heads on and just have them worked over, combined with a big cam and many LS engines are making over 440rwhp with just head work and a cam. What other engine can you name that makes that much horsepower with just a cam swap?
The internet sensation, the LSX Willys Jeep, is a perfect example of this performance that can be achieved with these engines.
Would you believe me if I told you that a 5.7L LS1 will fit into a 1.6L Mazda Miata? The LS engine family is known for having smaller proportions than its competitors engines, making it much easier to swap into cars with small engine bays. The Chevy LS platform is banned from some motorsports, because it can be swapped into smaller cars and give them an unfair edge over the competition.
The main reason that they’re such a compact engine is because of they’re “old-school” pushrod design, as well as all of the modern designs they used when designing the engine block. The push-rod design that they continue to use is unlike almost all modern engines which have overhead cams. You can achieve better performance and economy with an overhead cam, but at the cost of a much larger and heavier engine.
Thanks to the all-aluminum design, a fully dressed LS1 is nearly as light as a cast iron 4 cylinder. For example, a stock 1995 Nissan 240sx with a full tank of fuel weighs in around 2917lbs, the same car under the same circumstances with an LS1 swap weighs in at 2950lbs. Thats a gain of 32lbs, which is pretty much nothing consider you’d be gaining hundreds of lb-ft of torque, and hundreds of horsepower.
When it comes to engine vs engine, the LS engine typically weighs less than a cast iron 4-cylinder, its not until both are fully dressed and filled with fluids that the LS engine becomes the heavier of the two. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen a 4 cylinder vs V8 debate going on and the opposing side always seems to say “heavy” whilst referring to V8’s, and specifically LS engines. But little do they know that they weigh nearly the same amount as their little 4 banger.
LS vs The World
Is the LS as good as I say it is? Well yes and no. Depending on how you look at it, the LS is the best street V8 available, but things like the Ford Modular are better race V8s. DOHC V8s such as the 1UZ, VH45DE, and Coyote are superior on paper and in design, but just don’t make as much power as cheaply as an LS.
To put this simply, there are superior V8s on the market, however the low cost of the LS makes it the better option for most people. The LS will remain king as long as its prices stay low. You can read a lot more about this topic in our Chevy LS vs Ford Modular article.
Here’s the bottom line; the LS is cheap, light, compact, and makes a ton of horsepower. It can fit into nearly anything you want, and it can be done on a tight budget. From the average Joe, to a professional racer, the LS engine is perfect for nearly anything.
There’s a lot of controversy about swapping an American engine into a Japanese car. Some call it blasphemy, and some call it genius. But with so much power, reliability, and such a large aftermarket backing, swapping an LS engine into your car just makes sense. Don’t take it from me though, check out some videos and see for yourself how fast LS swapped cars are.
Chevrolet has been in a clash with Dodge and Ford for a very long time now. Die hard fans refuse to budge from their brand, even if it’s inferior. For Chevrolet fans, the question may arise: “Which one is better? The LT1 or the LS1?”. Both were available in the 90s Camaro and 90s Corvette. The LS1 is word renowned for its power and reliability. It’s the most debated engine in the world, but what about the good ole’ LT1? Let’s dive in and compare LT1 vs LS1.
In 1992, General Motors created the all new LT1 small-block. The LT1 used a reverse-flow cooling system that cooled the cylinder heads first. This allowed for higher compression ratios which increased power output compared to its predecessors. All LT1s featured a cast iron cylinder block, with aluminum heads for Corvettes and Camaros, and cast iron heads for all other models.
If you are ever in the market for an LT1, find a Corvette LT1. The Corvette block featured 4-bolt main bearing caps, all other LT1s have 2-bolt main bearing caps.
If you’ve poked around other parts of this website, than you’ll know that we absolutely love the LS engine. The LS1 was much more advanced than the outgoing LT1 engine. The LS1 featured an all aluminum block, and aluminum heads. This reduced weight significantly whilst increasing heat dissipation. This allowed for more performance while keeping temperatures safe.
This shouldn’t surprise you to much, but the LS1 was way more powerful out of the factory than the LT1. How much better was it though? Lets look at the factory LT1 Corvette and Camaro performance numbers:
LT1 Corvette HP: 300 bhp
LT1 Corvette TQ: 330 lb-ft
LT1 Camaro HP: 285 bhp
LT1 Camaro TQ: 325 lb-ft
Now lets look at the numbers for the same generation Camaro and Corvette, but with the LS1 engine.
As you can see from these numbers, the LS1 is way more powerful. Not only does it make more peak horsepower, but it also makes more peak torque. This is due to the massive advancements such as the distributor-less ignition system.
Many Chevy fans argue that the LS1 Camaro made the same amount of horsepower and torque as the LS1 Corvette. After all, they were physically identical. The only possible thing that could made the Camaro less powerful would be the tune. Many LS1 Camaro owners have put their cars on the dyno completely stock and put down 315-325 rwhp, which equates to around 345 bhp.
LT1 vs LS1: Cylinder Block
All small block Chevrolet engines were cast iron block with cast iron heads. The LT1 cylinder block is basically no different than any other small block produced before it. The Camaro and Corvette received aluminum cylinder heads, which helped increase performance.
The LS1 received a massive upgrade to the cylinder block. The block material was changed from cast iron to aluminum. This helped reduced weight a huge amount, but it also increased heat dissipation. This is important since the LS1 made way more horsepower than the LT1 did. Horsepower creates heat, and cast iron holds heat in much longer than aluminum does.
The LS1 is also a Y block design. This increased the strength of the block greatly. Chevrolet increased the size of the camshaft core on the LS1. This allows for much higher lift camshaft profiles without harming the camshaft bearings.
LT1 vs LS1: Price/Performance
Price is basically the ultimate deciding factor when purchasing parts. Many of the people reading this right now own f-body Camaros, and want to know if they should mod their LT1, or swap in an LS1. It’s a tough decision, and 8 years ago I would’ve said mod the LT1. Now LS engines are so insanely cheap that it makes way more sense to go with an LS engine.
You might be able to get an LT1 for a couple hundred dollars cheaper, but you’ll already be behind 50+ horsepower. A few thousand in LS1 mods will bring it up to 440+ rwhp. On the other hand, a few thousand in LT1 mods will bring it up to around 400 rwhp, and likely won’t run as good as the LS1.
I have nothing against the LT1 engine, but lb for lb you get way more for your dollar with the LS1 engine. Its cheaper to buy, and now in 2016 its cheaper to modify too. Many parts manufacturers have hopped on the LS bandwagon and are making a fortune doing so.
This shouldn’t have surprised you too much, but the LS1 is the clear winner here. Its lighter, costs nearly as little, makes more power, and has just as big of an aftermarket. The LT1 is a great engine, but the LS1 is an amazing engine. There’s are reason the LS1 is one of the most talked about engines in the entire world.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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.
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.