What is there left to say about the Chevy LS format? Nothing original, that’s for sure. As one of the most highly publicized and celebrated American engine series ever made, the LS has certainly made its mark for numerous reasons. We’ve covered the LS3 pretty extensively at this point, having written articles covering everything from upgraded LS3 camshafts to ported LS3 throttle bodies. We have, however, skipped over a big topic in the LS3 community: LS3 Superchargers.
There’s no arguing that Chevy LS engines and forced induction go together like peanut butter and jelly. The strength and robustness of the 6.2L LS3 make it a prime candidate for boost. Between the LS3’s toughened cast aluminum block, 6-bolt main caps, and hypereutectic pistons, it is built for abuse. While turbochargers are a popular option on LS3 engines, there’s something a bit more correct about going the blower route.
With the proper modifications to an LS3, there’s no end in sight in terms of the power that you can make from a supercharged Chevy 6.2L. Even without extensive supporting modifications, there is a pretty wide margin of power potential that you can squeeze out of a supercharged LS3. In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of supercharging a Chevy 6.2L LS3 engine.
Chevy 6.2L LS3 Engine History
The LS3 was the second LS engine in the Gen IV series, preceded by the LS2. The LS3 was offered in the C6 Corvette, Camaro SS, and Pontiac G8 GXP. In factory trim, the LS3 put out 430 horsepower and 424 lb/ft of torque. The LS3 shared similar DNA with the outgoing LS2, yet with a larger bore which increased displacement to 6.2L.
From a technical and performance perspective, the LS3 is a very impressive engine. While older Chevy small-blocks are still loved by tons of automotive communities, the refinement of the LS3 put it in a league of its own. Beyond its impressive horsepower and torque output, the LS3 utilizes some notable strength and rigidity-enhancing features as well.
The LS3 has a deep skirt design that extends past the crankshaft centerline, which enhances the LS3’s rigidity and decreases engine vibration. This is an extremely strong setup and increases reliability in higher horsepower ranges. Additionally, the LS3 block features a structural oil pan which increases chassis rigidity.
The LS3’s rotating assembly is extremely strong due to a durable iron crankshaft and powdered metal connecting rods. They also utilize flat-top alluminum alloy pistons which are not only extremely strong but also lightweight. Lightweight piston construction improves overall throttle responsiveness and efficiency.
Chevy 6.2L V8 Supercharging Basics
Before jumping headfirst into the world of Chevy LS3 superchargers, let’s talk a bit about the basics first. The LS3 is a nearly indestructible engine if you know what you’re doing with one. With a supercharged LS3, it is possible to come close to 1,000 horsepower with minimal work compared to other similar engines. With that being said, it is important to know the limits of factory LS3 internals before cranking up the boost.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of superchargers available for the Chevy 6.2L LS3. Those include positive displacement and centrifugal superchargers. That might seem straightforward but it can be easy to get lost in the jargon. Positive displacement LS3 superchargers are often referred to as “PD blowers” or “Roots superchargers.” The term “blower” is often used interchangeably with “supercharger” in the muscle community, so keep that in mind.
6.2L LS3 Engine Limits
As we have already established, the Chevy LS3 is an engine that can withstand power figures far beyond its factory performance. In factory form, the LS3 is rated between 415 and 430 horsepower depending on the application. LS3-powered Corvettes edge out Camaro SS applications marginally in the horsepower department. Regardless, supercharged LS3s can produce horsepower numbers pushing double the factory figure. That isn’t to say that a supercharged LS3 nearing 4-digit horsepower figures doesn’t need a significant amount of attention and additional modifications beforehand, because they certainly do.
Ultimately, a supercharged stock 6.2L LS3 can be reliably run around the 650 horsepower mark with proper fueling and a quality tune. Beyond that figure, you’ll want to start considering stronger internal components. Despite the factory rods and pistons being extremely strong, they are cast aluminum at the end of the day. There are reports of stock LS3 pistons and rods being able to withstand upwards of 700 horsepower, but for reliability’s sake, a set of forged pistons and steel rods are a good idea for high-boost LS3s. We’ll cover LS3 supporting mods in more detail in the sections to come.
Two of the most crucial factors in building a long-lasting boosted LS3 are your tune and fueling. These two factors are even more important when you near the LS3’s internal limits. A safe tune is self-explanatory as far as engine preservation is concerned. A tune that limits detonation and keeps internal temperatures low reduces the chance of internal damage. The same can be said of using E85 instead of pump gas.
Positive Displacement vs Centrifugal LS3 Superchargers
LS3 superchargers come in multiple different shapes and sizes. The two broad umbrella terms that encompass them include positive displacement blowers and centrifugal superchargers. The two serve the same purpose but function in different ways.
Positive displacement superchargers are the kind that you think of when you hear the term “classic muscle.” PD superchargers are the type that have made a name for themselves by sticking out of the hoods of classic Camaros and Novas. As positive displacement superchargers revolve, they pump a constant volume of air into the intake manifold regardless of how fast they are revolving. If the engine cannot intake the amount of air that the PD supercharger is supplying, positive pressure builds in the LS3 intake manifold.
Centrifugal LS3 superchargers are a more modern solution. Unlike a PD supercharger, centrifugal superchargers work in a near identical way to turbochargers. They have a compressor wheel that spins at a high RPM to force air into the LS3 engine. However, unlike turbos which use exhaust gas to function, centrifugal superchargers are belt driven.
Due to the way that each supercharger functions, they have different power delivery characteristics. Since LS3 positive displacement blowers maintain a consistent amount of boost throughout the rev range, power is very linear. Boost from a centrifugal LS3 supercharger will be significantly peakier and provide power high in the rev range.
6.2L Chevy LS3 Supercharger Supporting Mods & Tuning
While it is possible to run an LS3 blower at a low boost level without any supporting modifications other than a tune, pushing a supercharged LS3 to high horsepower figures will require some additional modifications. In the initial 500-650 horsepower stages, headers and fueling modifications are optional but recommended. For LS3 power levels beyond that, those, and other, reliability and performance enhancing modifications become necessities.
There are certainly some supercharged LS3 horsepower benchmarks where supporting modifications aren’t necessary. The build quality and materials of the Chevy LS buy you a bit of wiggle room before other supporting modifications are necessary. With that being said, supporting modifications for a supercharged LS3 are never a bad thing. They can only serve to increase the robustness of the already strong LS3 engine and tack on some extra horsepower as well.
Obviously, the supporting mods needed for a supercharged Chevy 6.2L LS3 engine are entirely dependent on your power goals. In the following sections, we’ll break down the supporting mods needed to handle a supercharged LS3 putting out a variety of ascending horsepower figures.
500 Wheel Horsepower LS3
- Supercharger Kit: $6,000-10,000
- Long-tube headers: $700-1,500 (Optional)
The 500-horsepower mark is a comfortable benchmark for a supercharged LS3 build if reliability is a high priority. In fact, looking at how the LS3 was constructed from the factory, it’s almost like GM expected owners to breach the 500 horsepower barrier, especially with forced induction.
At this horsepower benchmark, aftermarket supporting mods are truly optional. With a 500-horsepower goal, you won’t need to run very much boost. Depending on the supercharger that you choose, only 5-9psi of boost will be required to get you to this baseline level. Factory LS3 internals are more than capable of withstanding the forces that a supercharger supplies to get there. Of course, a proper LS3 tune is always a necessity regardless of the horsepower figure.
With that being said, long-tube headers might be worth considering once you surpass the 500-wheel-horsepower barrier. While the stock exhaust manifolds flow alright, they lack proper merge collectors and reduce flow as a result. Long-tube headers will play into the strengths of a centrifugal supercharger especially, as long-tube headers will benefit high-rpm performance and increase flow overall.
600 Wheel Horsepower LS3
- Modifications listed above
- Water/methanol kit: $650-1,000 (Optional)
- ARP Head Studs: $300 (Optional)
- ARP Main Studs: $227 (Optional)
Surprisingly enough, even close to 200whp over stock, an LS3 with factory internals will still hold up like a champ. There really aren’t many limiting factors at this horsepower range either. The stock LS3 bottom end will have no problem dealing with the forces required to get a supercharged 6.2L LS3 into the 600whp range. The aluminum block and rotating assembly are both capable of withstanding horsepower figures nearing 4-digits, so you’re good on that front.
While the rotating assembly itself is able to withstand the pressure, a quality set of head studs and main stud bolts are a good investment to ensure as little movement from the rotating assembly as possible.
At this horsepower benchmark, fueling is still not an imminent concern. However, a methanol/water injection kit might be a good idea, especially if you plan on pushing further in the future. For a relatively low cost, water/methanol has key benefits that can ensure the safety of your supercharged LS3. An LS3 water/methanol kit will reduce air charge temperatures by 20-30 degrees, reduce cylinder temperatures by over 200 degrees, increase the octane of standard pump gas, and reduce the chance for detonation within the cylinders. Overall, it is a preventative measure that is important at further benchmarks, but can likely be skipped at the 600rwhp mark.
800-850+ Wheel Horsepower LS3
- Modifications listed above
- Performance Valve Springs: $100
- 1050cc Injectors: $700
- Upgraded Fuel Pump: $500-800
- E85 Flex Fuel Kit: $300
- Forged Pistons / Rods: $1,500-3,000
The 800-horsepower threshold is the point where some more intensive modifications enter the picture. That is both from strength-enhancing and performance-enhancing standpoints. Closing in on 800rwhp, some LS3 internals will begin to falter from the stress. That isn’t to say that you can’t run an 800-horsepower supercharged LS3 on stock internals, as there are plenty of examples out there. However, the prognosis isn’t great from a reliability standpoint.
This is around the power limit for the stock pistons and rods. While some people spring for a set of off-the-shelf Weisco or Diamond-made forged pistons and rods, it can be difficult to source them for your exact build. Custom pistons might be required to work with your build which can get costly.
In order to truly push massive horsepower numbers, many supercharged LS3 owners opt to swap in a larger camshaft that is designed to work in conjunction with the blower. When swapping in a larger LS3 cam, it is important to consider the supporting mods for that too. Valve springs, for example, will need to be swapped out for high-performance ones to prevent valve float from the high-rpms. Additionally, factory LS3 exhaust valves should be swapped for ones that can withstand a higher temperature range.
Fueling is another key consideration when venturing into the high-horsepower LS3 realm. In order for your LS3 fuel system to keep up with the demand of the supercharger, you’ll need bigger injectors and either a larger in-tank fuel pump or pump booster. 1050cc LS3 injectors paired with higher octane E85 fuel is a good combination for 850+ horsepower LS3s.
Best 6.2L Chevy LS3 Supercharger Upgrades
Because blowers are such a popular addition to the 6.2L LS3 engine, there are a ton of kits out there. In fact, there are so many that a comprehensive list would take up more than a couple of pages. With that being said, there are some well-known kits that have established themselves in the LS community. Those are the kits that we’ll be covering here.
We’ll also try to cover both positive displacement and centrifugal options from a number of manufacturers. Supercharger kits for the LS3 can range in price anywhere from $5,000-10,000 depending on the manufacturer, build quality, included parts, and power potential.
1) A&A C6 Corvette LS3 Supercharger
HP Rating: 550-1,200 horsepower
Purchase Here: aacorvette.com
We’ll kick off the list with one of the most popular centrifugal LS3 superchargers on the market. If you have even ventured into the “Forced Induction” section of any Corvette forum, there’s no doubt that you’ve seen someone singing A&A’s praises. It makes sense too. That makes a kick-ass kit. Before we jump into the specifics of the kit itself, there’s another standout reason that the A&A kit is special. It is the only emission and CARB legal centrifugal LS3 kit on the market. That makes the A&A kit the perfect option for LS3 owners looking for a boosted daily driver.
A&A has been fiddling with the centrifugal Corvette blower formula for over 15 years. In addition to offering kits for the LS3, they also have quality kits for C5 and C7 Corvettes as well. The result of all of that experience is a superior product, especially in the quality department. A&A works exclusively with Vortec to provide two trim levels of trustworthy head units. The Si trim is intended for stock LS3s, while the Ti trim is better suited for LS3s with light modifications like headers and cams.
The A&A C6 centri supercharger kit is ready to go, including all of the necessary components to get you going. The kit includes a ram air intercooler, adjustable billet tensioner, 38 of 55mm BOV, spark plugs, mounting hardware, and more. It truly is all-inclusive.
At moderate boost levels, dyno tests of the A&A kit have breached the 550 horsepower mark on a completely stock LS3. That is typically the low end of the A&A kit’s performance with no fueling mods or exhaust modifications.
2) Magnuson TVS2300 Heartbeat C6 Corvette LS3 Supercharger
HP Rating: 550-900+ horsepower
Compressor: Roots / PD style
Purchase Here: magnusonsuperchargers.com
When it comes to a more traditional roots-style LS3 blower, Magnuson has you covered. As a company more recently known for blending old-style roots technology with a newer method of air intake. Unlike a traditional twin-screw type of PD blower, the Magnuson TVS LS3 supercharger doesn’t compress air. It simply moves, or pumps, air into the engine via the inlet port. This results in a more efficient way of supplying boost, as air temperatures don’t rise with the TVS method.
There are actually quite a few reasons to favor a roots-style Magnuson LS3 blower over a more modern centrifugal one. A crucial characteristic that makes the Magnuson favorable is the lack of external moving parts. With a roots LS3 supercharger, everything is contained within the supercharger body. The TVS replaces the factory LS3 intake manifold, pulley, and features an integrated intercooler. That makes the overall installation much easier. Since it is a PD LS3 supercharger, power delivery is immediate and strong. Unlike centrifugal superchargers that peak towards the top of the rev range, LS3 roots blowers supply boost almost immediately and continue to do so linearly through to 6,500 rpm.
As we already discussed briefly, the Magnuson TVS2300 Heartbeat LS3 supercharger is the way to go for ease of installation. One of Magnuson’s biggest claims is that the Heartbeat can be installed in a day for an immediate 120-horsepower boost. The Magnuson kit is the best option for those looking for factory-like power delivery from an easy-install kit.
3) ECS LS3 NOVI 1500 Corvette C6 Supercharger Kit
HP Rating: 500-1,300 horsepower
Purchase Here: eastcoastsupercharging.com
Steering back to the more modern approach, the East Coast Supercharging LS3 centrifugal kit is another fantastic new-age option. Alongside A&A, ECS is perhaps the second most popular centrifugal supercharger option available for the LS3 engine. It is second to A&A not because of a lack of quality, but because they aren’t quite as established. Despite being the underdog, the ECS LS3 kit is a proven setup, holding multiple drag records in the C6 community.
As with the A&A Centri kit, the ECS LS3 kit comes with a truly mind-boggling amount of parts and components. Nearly every supporting component, from a fuel pump booster to a new 160-degree thermostat, is included in the kit. Special attention should be paid to ECS’ insistence on reliability and strength. The kit comes with an extra-strong, custom belt tensioner and billet aluminum brackets to compensate for the extra strain on the LS3 belt system.
The ECS system comes with the choice of four different head units that vary in their power potential. The base Paxton Novi 1500-SL unit is capable of producing up to 800rwhp on properly dialed LS3 engines. In entry-level form, expect around 500-600 horsepower with a moderate boost level. NOVI centrifugal superchargers have proven to be extremely reliable independent of power level. The ECS kit is the best option for those looking to make at least 200 horsepower over the stock LS3 with plenty of upward potential possible in the future.
4) Whipple Chevy Camaro LS3 2.9L Supercharger
HP Rating: 575-1,300 horsepower
Compressor: Twin-Screw / Positive Displacement
Purchase Here: treperformance.com
Getting back to basics, the 2.9L Whipple Twin-Screw roots supercharger is perhaps the most traditional option on this list. Whipple has been in the business for 35 years and has been developing GM twin-screw superchargers since day one. It’s fair to say that they have pretty much mastered the positive displacement formula for the LS3. They claim that the 2.9L twin-screw is the most powerful PD system on the market. Who are we to argue?
The 2.9L of volume has a few significant benefits in regard to performance. The most significant advantage of a larger volume is the added room for an oversized air-to-water intercooler that keeps internal air temperatures much lower than the competition. That is a significant advantage, as heat soak is a common issue with twin-screw blowers. Overall, the Whipple LS3 supercharger is extremely efficient, reaching 99% volumetric efficiency.
Like the Magnuson listed above, the Whipple, by design, is an all-inclusive kit. As with all positive displacement LS3 superchargers, the Whipple replaces the factory intake manifold and has its own self-contained oil system. That makes it extremely easy to install when compared to other centrifugal options. The 2.9L Whipple LS3 supercharger does not come with a base tune installed out of the box. It requires a custom tune by a local tuner. That is important to note if you are looking for a blower that’ll work out of the box.
Chevy LS3 Supercharger Guide Summary
Of all of the engines that you could pick to supercharge, a Chevy LS3 is a very good pick. The unparalleled strength, variety of supercharger options, and supporting aftermarket community make the LS3 a prime candidate for a blower. It is no secret that the LS3 can withstand a ton of horsepower right out of the gate. In fact, there are plenty of 700-horsepower supercharged C6 Corvettes running the streets with very few modifications. While stock high horsepower LS3 builds are tempting for many, it is a better idea to play it safe and pair an LS3 supercharger kit with quality supporting mods that will improve reliability and preserve your engine.
The number of LS3 blower kits on the market is truly astronomical. With that being said, there are a few go-to options in the LS3 community that have been tried and tested with solid results. If you are looking for a positive displacement LS3 blower that will provide a linear power band and effective boost through the entire rev range, the Magnuson TVS2300 or Whipple 2.9L blowers will get the job done. For those looking for a more modern LS3 supercharger solution, a centrifugal supercharger, like the ones provided in the A&A or ECS NOVI kits, will be more your speed.