In 2005, Chevrolet kicked off the fourth generation of their small-block engine series with the unveiling of the LS2 engine. The Chevy LS2 is a 6.0 liter V8 engine that lasted in production until 2009. Though it only had a relatively limited run, it is still considered one of the top Chevy small-block engines ever. Chevrolet put it inside their 2005-2007 Corvette, as well as their SSR and Trailblazer SS. It quickly earned a reputation as a very powerful and robust machine, and it’s still widely used in drag racing builds today.
This guide will provide everything you need to know about the Chevy LS2 engine. We’ll go through the LS2 specifications, vehicle applications, history, engine design, different variants, and reliability, as well as potential upgrade paths. This is your go-to article for any and all relevant LS2 information.
Chevy LS2 Engine History
The beginning of the LS2 engine actually dates back almost a decade prior to its release, to the 1997 introduction of the LS1 small-block V8. The LS1 was the first engine to be released as the third generation of General Motors small-block V8s. Chevy put the LS1 in their C5 Corvette from 1997-2004, where it made 350 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque. The LS1 also found its way into the Camaro Z28 and SS, as well as Pontiac GTO, Firebird, and TransAm.
The third generation of GM small-blocks was a significant departure from the first and second generations, which were similar. The Gen III+ are known as the LS-series of engines, because the LS1 was the first engine in the family. The engines are also called the Vortec series sometimes. The LS and Vortecs names are interchangeable, with the LS generally referring to aluminum block car engines, and Vortecs referring to the cast-iron block truck versions.
Following the end of the LS1 domestic run in 2004, General Motors introduced the LS2 engine for 2005. The LS2 was based on both the LS1 and its high-performance variant the LS6. Power was bumped up in the LS2 to 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque in the Corvette. The LS2 also appeared in the ill-conceived SSR, as well as the Trailblazer SS, Pontiac GTO, and Cadillac CTS-V.
The LS2 only lasted until 2009, when it was retired by General Motors. However, it was offered as a crate engine for several years, and is still used by independent builders and shops. In addition, a few of the LS2 variants lasted a few years longer, like the L77 that lasted until 2017. While most opt to go with its successors, the LS3 and LS7, the LS2 is definitely still a solid motor.
The LS2 Variants
In addition to the LS2, GM also released three variants: the L76, L77, and L98. These were similar in design to the LS2, but had improvements like Variable Valve Timing, flex-fuel compatibility, and/or Active Fuel Management – depending on the specific engine. These lasted until the 2017 production year for the L77, and were primarily designed for use in the Australian market by GM’s former subsidiary Holden,though some have also been used stateside.
Chevy LS2 Engine Specs
|Engine||LS2, L76, L77, L98|
|Family||GM Gen IV Small Block|
|Displacement||6.0 L (364 cid)|
|Fuel||Petrol; E85 (L77)|
|Compression Ratio||10.9:1 (LS2); 10.4:1 (L76/77/98); 9.4:1 (L76)|
|Bore and Stroke||4.0 in x 3.62 in|
|Valve Train||OHV (16V)|
|Fuel System||Sequential Multi-Port Fuel Injection|
|Horsepower Output||300-400 Horsepower|
|Torque Output||360-400 lb-ft of Torque|
Chevy LS2 Engine Vehicle Applications
LS2 Vehicle Applications
- 2005–2007 Chevrolet Corvette
- 2005–2006 Chevrolet SSR
- 2005–2008 HSV Clubsport R8
- 2005–2006 HSV Coupé GTO
- 2005–2008 HSV GTS
- 2005–2008 HSV Grange
- 2005–2008 HSV Maloo R8
- 2005–2008 HSV Senator Signature
- 2005–2006 HSV SV6000
- 2005–2006 Pontiac GTO
- 2005–2006 Vauxhall Monaro VXR
- 2006–2007 Cadillac CTS-V
- 2006–2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS
- 2008–2009 Saab 9-7X Aero
L76 Vehicle Applications
- 2006–2010 Holden Commodore
- 2007–2013 Chevrolet Avalanche
- 2007–2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
- 2007–2009 Chevrolet Suburban 1500
- 2007–2009 GMC Sierra 1500
- 2007–2009 GMC Yukon XL
- 2007–2009 Pontiac G8 GT
- 2008–2010 Holden VE Ute (automatic only)
- 2008–2010 Holden WM Statesman/Caprice
- 2020 Ginetta Akula
L77 Vehicle Applications
- 2010–2017 Holden Caprice
- 2010–2017 Holden Commodore SS
- 2010–2017 Holden Sportwagon SS
- 2010–2017 Holden Ute SS
- 2011–2017 Chevrolet Caprice PPV
L98 Vehicle Applications
- 2006–2009 Holden Calais
- 2006–2010 Holden Commodore
- 2006–2009 Holden Statesman/Caprice
- 2006–2010 Holden Ute
Chevy LS2 Engine Design
LS2 Similarities and Differences With the LS1
The General Motors or Chevy Gen IV small-block LS2 is based on its Gen III small-block predecessor, the LS1. It has a relatively simple pushrod OHV, 2 valve per cylinder design, featuring an aluminum block and head. Compared with the LS1, the LS2 engine has a higher compression ratio at 10.9:1, higher lift cam, 15% better intake flow, and 20% better exhaust flow. Power was improved from 350 to 400 horsepower, and torque jumped too from 365 to 400 lb-ft (in the Corvette).
The LS2 was also bored out to 4.00″ from 3.898″, for a bore and stroke of 4.000″× 3.622″. This results in a total displacement of 6.0 L, an increase over the 5.7 L LS1. The LS2 retains the six-bolt main caps, 4.40″ center bore, and deep-skirt case from the LS1. Both had steel crankshafts and sequential multi-port fuel injection, with the LS2 having 34 lb/hr flowing injectors.
In the Corvettes, the LS2’s aluminum block weighs 15 lbs less than the LS1 block. This weight reduction is courtesy of a thinner-walled exhaust manifold, smaller water pump, and a smaller oil pan. It might sound alarming that the oil pan requires a full quart less oil than the LS1, but it’s not. The pan has completely redesigned baffles to keep oil flowing through the pickup and is wingless instead of “gull-wing” design. Again, this revised oil pan was just for the Corvette version of the LS2.
The coil-near-plug ignition system was redesigned from the LS1. From 2005-2006 it had a 24 tooth reluctor-wheel setup, but that was upgraded to 58-tooth system in 2007. Taken from the LS6 for the LS2 was the PCV system.
LS2 Cylinder Heads, Sensor Relocation, and Throttle Body
The LS2 cylinder head is aluminum with cathedral ports, like the LS1 and LS6, and is very similar to the LS6. The valves are steel and measure 2.00″ for the intake and 1.55″ for the exhaust – like the LS6. The LS2 has a drive-by-wire electronic throttle control that controls a 90 mm throttle body. The exhaust manifold walls are 1mm (30%) thinner than the LS1, but it weighs less and flows 4% better.
The LS2 knock sensors are outside of the cylinder banks to allow for more precise readings. GM also moved the cam sensors to the front timing cover from behind the intake. The new pistons, which are still hypereutectic cast aluminum, have full-floating wrist pins to reduce pistons slap.
Some versions, like the Corvette, are connected to transmissions that utilize Computer Aided Gear Shifting (CAGS). This allowed Chevy to avoid the gas-guzzler tax on most LS2 equipped vehicles, because CAGS necessitates shifting from 1-4 at lower RPM. The LS2 also has a 500 RPM higher redline than the LS1, at 6,500 RPM.
The Vortec LS2 Variants: L76
There are several variants of the LS2 engine, namely the L76/77/98. These were marketed by Chevy as VortecMax engines and are very similar to the LS2 on which they are based. The main difference between the LS2 and the L76 is the introduction of Active Fuel Management (AFM). AFM, also known as displacement on demand fueling, is a feature that disables half of the engine’s cylinders at low-loads to promote fuel economy and reduce emissions.
AFM is controversial among many enthusiasts, because it requires a lower design camshaft that hurts performance. Also new for the L76 over the LS2 was the introduction of Variable Valve Timing (VVT) for the camshaft. VVT allowed for better fuel efficiency and tuning for power than non-VVT engines. This partly helped negate the effects of the lower profile cam, but the L76 was still under powered compared with the LS2. The L76 intake manifold was from the LS3 in the Corvettes, and has better flowing rectangular-ports rather than the cathedral style head.
There are several differences between the truck and car L76 engines. Much of this had to do with the engine size, as the larger truck bays could accommodate it better. The cars had lower-rise intake manifolds, intakes, and exhaust manifolds, all to accommodate the smaller bay. L76 cars have a 10.4:1 compression ratio, while trucks have a lower 9.7:1 ratio. The same fuel injection system was kept from the LS2, but with different sized injectors: 42 lb/hr @ 58 psi for cars and 30 lb/hr @ 58 psi for trucks.
The L76 lasted in production until 2010, and Chevy put it in their Suburbans, Avalanches, and Silverados. Chevy rated the L76 for cars at 355 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, and trucks at 367 horsepower and 375 lb-ft.
The L77/98 Vortecs
The L77 is basically a flex-fuel version of the L76 that can run ethanol blends in addition to petrol. Besides that the engines are incredibly similar to each other, as well as the L96 iron-block version. It also has AFM but does not have VVT. The L77 was primarily used by former GM subsidiary Holden for the Australian market, though it also made it into the Chevrolet Caprice PPV.
The L98 is very similar to the L76 and L77, but does not have AFM and is not flex-fuel capable. Both the L77 and L98 use the L76 intake and exhaust manifolds, as well as PCV and oiling systems. The most powerful versions of both the L77 and L98 are rated at 362 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque, slightly higher than the L76.
You might be thinking, if the L76 is an LS2 without the AFM, and an L98 is an L76 with the AFM removed, is an L98 just an LS2? The answer: Yes, kind of. Overall, they are largely the same engine.The main differences are still the L98’s rectangular port heads and lower camshaft design – though that’s more aggressive than the L76. Some people actually argue the L98 will perform better than the LS2 – with similar cam profiles – due to the higher flowing rectangular port heads.
Chevy LS2 Engine Common Problems and Reliability
If there is one thing you can say about the Chevy LS2 engine, it’s that it is reliable. The entire LS-series is pretty much bulletproof in any respect, and there are really no significant problems with them. The LS2 will easily go past 200,000 miles if taken care of and with proper maintenance. At the 100,000 mile mark, these things are really just getting broken in.
Now, with that being said, there are a few things that some LS2 owners have had issues with. While we definitely would not call them common or likely issues, these have popped up for more than a few LS2 owners. The main issues are oil starvation, rocker arm bearing failure, and harmonic balancer failure.
The oil starvation issue was more related to early LS2 builds from 2005-2006. Some early C6 Corvette owners complained about oil starvation issues resulting in thrown rods. It’s not entirely clear what caused these, but it seems to have been a relatively isolated issue and the Corvette soon moved on to the LS3.
Rocker arm bearing failure is another somewhat complained about issue on the LS2. As we mentioned, the LS2 employs a pretty old-school and simple OHV pushrod configuration. Pushrods mean rocker arms, and unfortunately the rocker arms on the LS2 are prone to premature wear and failure. Stronger bearings usually fixes the problem for good.
Harmonic Balancer failure is the final issue we’ll go over on the LS2. Harmonic balancers help reduce excessive vibration from the crankshaft. For whatever reason, the LS2 harmonic balancers have attracted several complaints for premature failure. Going with an upgraded harmonic balancer kit is the best way to solve the problem.
Chevy LS2 Engine Power Limits
When we said the LS2 was bulletproof we didn’t just mean it lasts a while, we are also referring to its ability to take power. While most builds leave the LS2 naturally aspirated, if you decide to go forced induction you’ll still have some room to play with. It’s widely considered that the LS2 has stronger internals than the LS1, which is already pretty stout itself.
The LS2 is capable of taking more than 800+ wheel-horsepower on the stock block without any issues. There have been many stock LS2 blocks that have pushed into the 900+ whp territory without issues, but that’s a little risky if you ask us.
Past the 550 wheel-horsepower mark you will want to invest in forged pistons and rods, as well as head studs. Again, this isn’t a hard limit like with the LS2 block, as there are many stock LS2 builds pushing well into the 600 and 700+ whp range. For reliability, however, you’re going to want stronger pistons and rods if you’re pushing past 550 whp.
Chevy LS2 Engine Performance and Mods
Now onto the part you’ve been waiting for: Chevy LS2 engine performance and potential mod paths. Out of the box, the LS2 is already a very capable motor. In the 2005 Corvette, it’s capable of blasting from zero to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. It can do the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds @ 113 mph – pretty impressive for early 2000s small-block natural aspiration.
However, if you’re still looking to upgrade there are a lot of potential paths. The top LS2 upgrades are: intake, cylinder heads, long-tube headers, camshaft, and tuning. One of the great things about the LS-series of engines is the compatibility of many of the engine parts. In addition, because of the LS2 long cylinder sleeves, it’s great for swaps and stroker kits. LS-series engines are known for their ability to be swapped into most engine bays, and the LS2 is no different in that regard, either.
The Top 5 LS2 Mods
While it’s going to depend on your specific model for the best intake, we typically recommend a cold air intake as one of the first mods you do. One of the big decisions you’ll have to make is closed vs open airboxes. Generally, open airboxes are more susceptible to heat soak, but they allow for better airflow. Closed airboxes cut off some airflow, but they also mitigate engine heat soak for longer. For upgrading the intake on LS2 powered Corvettes, we recommend the Chevrolet Corvette C6 Vararam LS2 Intake. If you’re looking at upgrading an LS2 powered GTO, we recommend the Pontiac GTO Cold AIr Inductions LS2 Intake.
After the intake, the most important thing to upgrade on the LS2 is going to be the cylinder head. As we mentioned, the LS2 has the cathedral port design, which is much inferior to the rectangular port head design. An easy mod is to swap on an LS3 cylinder head with rectangular ports, which improves flow substantially. It is a direct fit for the LS2 without modification.
Aftermarket-wise, we recommend the Livernois Motorsports LS3 Stage 2 Cylinder Head. The Livernois head is CNC machined and 100% made in America, and is the LS3 rectangular port version. If you’re looking at making big power, the Livernois Stage 2 Head is the way to go.
After the intake manifold and cylinder head, your next mod is going to be upgrading the exhaust. A set of long-tube headers really wakes up the LS2, adding lots of power everywhere. While it will depend on your specific vehicle for exhausts, we recommend the American Racing Headers long-tube C6 Corvette headers. These headers offer the best of both worlds, with performance and reliability both guaranteed. They are 304 SS and can be had with or without cats.
LS2 Cams and Tuning
Our next recommendation after intake, headers, and cylinder head is going to be camshaft. Unfortunately, the LS2 does not have VVT, so the cam benefits won’t be as substantial as some LS-series engines. Still, it is a pretty good power adder on the LS2, and definitely worth the investment.
Our recommendation is the Livernois Motorsports Stage 3 LS-series Cams. With a duration of 224@.050, and lift of 0.612 in, these are definitely meant for adding some real power.
Our final LS2 engine upgrade is going to be ECU tuning. If you’re looking at adding any of the above mods, you’ll definitely want tuning to take advantage of them. With ECU tuning, your tuner can increase parameters like ignition timing and air-to-fuel ratios to adjust for more power. If you’re planning on increasing airflow and fueling, you’ll definitely want to compensate for that with the ECU.
Without tuning, you could be leaving as much as 20% of your power on the table. In addition, tuning helps keep your engine safe with the mods you have installed. Nobody wants to take their LS2 to the drag strip just to have it knock itself to death and melt a piston. If you’re serious about your LS2 build, you’ll want to find a good local tuner and get your car/truck strapped down on the dyno.
Chevy LS2 Engine Legacy
The Chevy LS2 is one of the top GM small-block engines ever created. It is incredibly reliable, boasts outstanding performance, and is prime for upgrades and mods. Whether you have an early 2000s Corvette, GTO, or CTS-V, or you’re looking at an LS2 swap, you’ll be in good hands with Chevy’s 6.0 L power plant.
We’ve taken a deep look at the LS2 today, including its history, specs, vehicle applications, design, variants, reliability, and top mods. While we couldn’t include everything about the LS2, we’ve put in all the things you need to know about embarking on an LS2 journey.
Let us know in the comments below about your LS2 experiences. Do you own an LS2 or are you considering one? Drop a comment below!