Chevrolet’s LS engine series, which debuted in 1997, is one of the most revered engine lines ever produced. Today there are over 40 different variations of LS engines out on the road.
These small-block V8 engines found homes in all sorts of rear-wheel-drive vehicles, from various trucks to the venerable Corvette.
The defining trait of LS engines is their performance capabilities. Their design allows for highly-efficient airflow, which means incredible revving potential. Combine that with their low price and relative abundance, and it’s easy to see how these engines kicked off a cultural revolution in the enthusiast community.
Read on to learn about the best LS engines of all time and see if an LS engine for sale is right for your vehicle.
This is the engine that started it all. The 5.7 L LS1 debuted in 1997, finding a home in GM cars like the Camaro, Firebird, and C5 Corvette.
At the time of their release, these engines indicated a cultural shift at General Motors. The company was phasing out its older line of larger V8 engines and looking for a new direction.
The result was the birth of the small-block LS1. Technically, it’s the third generation of small-block V8s from GM and is based on the pushrod engine design.
While other companies were developing overhead cams, GM perfected the pushrod. A totally aluminum casing meant the LS1 was much lighter than its predecessors.
The LS1 spawned a legion of devoted followers. It quickly became the engine of choice for hot rods and engine swaps in the enthusiast community.
It makes around 350 horsepower out of the box, but a few modifications can dramatically improve its abilities.
It’s also the reason that the C5 Corvette remains so popular these days. Even in 2022, it’s one of the most sought-after used sports cars.
When this engine broke onto the scene with the 2008 Corvette, it was the most powerful base engine Corvette ever. With its 6.2 L displacement, it was capable of producing a walloping 430 horsepower.
The LS3 quickly became the stuff of legends, and enthusiasts scrambled to buy it as a crate engine. Virtually no V8 small-block engine could match its performance and cost value. It’s even highly moddable, and simple upgrades quickly push it over the 500 horsepower threshold.
In addition to the Corvette, this engine could also be found in the Camaro SS and the Pontiac G8.
While many of the LS engines on this list found their initial homes in sports cars, the L92 was designed for trucks. It came standard in the Hummer H2, the GMC Yukon Denali, and the Cadillac Escalade.
The L92s may be the best engines for a new project car. They’re nearly identical to the LS3, but can typically be had for a significantly reduced cost.
Like the L92 engine, the LS4 also bucked the trend of LS engines. While many power rear-wheel-drive vehicles, the LS4’s companions were the front-wheel-drive Pontiac Grand Prix GXP and the Chevy Impala SS. Its smaller form factor and shrunken water pump allowed it to accommodate front-wheel-drive systems.
While it doesn’t feature eye-popping performance numbers like some other LS engines, the LS4 still offers respectable performance. This 5.3 L engine produces 303 horsepower and 323 lb-ft of torque.
The LS2, with its slightly larger 6.0 L displacement, was the bigger and better version of the LS1. It produced 400 horsepower when it launched with the C6 Corvette, a benchmark the car had never achieved in stock form.
This engine also powered the Chevrolet Trailblazer SS, the Pontiac GTO, and the Cadillac CTS-V. Clearly, this is a well-rounded engine suitable for a wide range of high-performance cars.
These engines were built on the foundation laid by the LS1. They still featured an all-aluminum design to keep it light but used a longer bore dimension.
Unlike other LS engines that saw a wide range of applications, the LS9 only ever came paired with one production car: the ZR1 Corvette.
This supercharged 6.2 L engine is capable of producing 638 horsepower and catapulted the ‘Vette down the quarter-mile track in just over 11 seconds. At the time of its release, it was the most powerful production engine ever produced by General Motors.
While the ZR1 is the only production car available with such an engine, GM also sold it as a crate engine. Finding one is rather difficult these days, as they were quickly snatched up by enthusiasts looking for the ultimate in LS performance.
No discussion of LS engines would be complete without mentioning the LS7 engine. While the LS1 set the stage for affordable performance, the LS7 embodies it.
There are no other engines like the LS7. It’s hand-built and features racing-inspired lightweight components. Its titanium rods and intake valves may be its most significant feature, as they contribute to the incredible air circulating abilities of this naturally-aspirated engine.
The 7.0 L LS7 engine first appeared on the scene paired with the C6 ZO6 Corvette, where it made 505 horsepower and 470lb-ft of torque. Eventually, it made its way into the Camaro Z28 as well.
At the time, this level of performance was only available to supercars. Very few production cars even came near the 500 horsepower this engine creates.
Today’s muscle cars may eclipse that performance metric, but they need the help of turbos and superchargers to do so. The extra components needed to support these things add a considerable amount of weight, so the naturally-aspirated LS7 is still competitive.
Few of these engines were offered as crate engines, and they have since been discontinued by Chevy. It’s the ideal engine for any sports car build.
Looking at the Best LS Engines of All Time
Chevrolet’s LS engine series is one the most respected engine lines ever to grace production vehicles. These small-block engines pack power and are coveted for their performance capabilities.
From the LS1 to the LS9, these engines sat at the pinnacle of GM’s performance offerings. The LS7s are the best LS engines of all time.
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