The General Motors LS Engines are Beautifully Engineered
They’re so damn good they end up in -everything-
With the new LT engines on the horizon, it’s time to recognize the LS series. I’ve been meaning to post some American tech on this blog for awhile now, too.
Compact, efficient, powerful, torque-linear and with near-infinite potential, it’s hard to beat a GM LS engine. Everybody puts them in everything, and they’ve gotten a bit boring over the years because of that fact, but the LS has good reason to be a first choice swap.
The GM LS engine family is an engine design intended as the only V-8 engine used in General Motors’ line of rear-wheel-drive cars and trucks. The LS series was a “clean sheet” design with little in common in terms of shared parts with the classic Chevrolet Small Block V8. The LS was a big step forward for American V8s. While early units used cast iron blocks, the performance variants had a focus on weight savings, using aluminum instead of cast iron for the block and heads, and a composite intake manifold. Engine control was modernized with a switch to a coil-on-plug ignition system for greater efficiency and power.
While the LS series is often criticized for it’s use of simple pushrod valvetrain with OHV heads when most modern engines were using DOHC designs, this design allows the engine’s center of gravity to be much lower and more centralized than a DOHC design, as well as significantly reducing total engine weight.
The LS range has produced anywhere from 305hp in the original LS1 in the Camaro SS and Firebird, to 638hp in its final evolution as the LS9 in the Corvette ZR1. Aftermarket support is vast, and it’s not uncommon to hear of tuned variants making 900hp while being perfectly streetable and running on 91 octane gasoline.
When compared to popular, small-displacement, high-output engines like Honda’s VTEC units, Nissan SR/RB, Toyota 1J/2J turbo variant engines, the LS engines do not produce as high of a specific output (HP/liter) in stock form, but offer a much more linear power band and greater torque output lower in the rev-range that offers better car control in most cases.