LS1 vs LS2 Engine
| | | |

LS1 vs LS2 Engine Comparison

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.

The LS1 vs LS2 debate has long raged amongst Corvette and GTO fans since the LS2 succeeded the LS1 in 2005. Some claim the newer LS2 is a more capable motor, while others prefer the older but still powerful LS1. Previously, we’ve looked at the LS1 vs LS3 and LS2 vs LS3, but today we’re going to tackle the LS1 vs LS2 debate.

There really is no right answer, but we’re going to compare everything between the LS1 vs LS2 to see what the differences and similarities are. First, we’ll look at the LS engine history, technical specs, and car applications, before moving on to the differences in engine design, reliability, performance, and top mods. Let’s get started.

LS1 vs LS2 Engine
Credit: VettePros/Youtube & United Auto Brokers in Marietta, Georgia

Gen III/Gen IV LS Technical Engine Specifications

FamilyGM Gen III Small BlockGM Gen IV Small Block
Model Years1997-2004 (domestic)2005-2009
Displacement5.7 L (346 cid)6.0 L (364 cid)
AspirationNatural AspirationNatural Aspiration
Compression Ratio10.2:1 (10.1:1 advertised)10.9:1
Bore and Stroke3.898 in x 3.622 in4.000 in x 3.622 in
Valve TrainOHV (16 valve)OHV (16 valve)
Fueling SystemFuel InjectionFuel Injection
Head/Block MaterialAluminumAluminum
Horsepower Output305-350 horsepower300-400 Horsepower
Torque Output335-365 lb-ft of torque360-400 lb-ft of Torque

LS1 vs LS2 Engine Design Basics

The LS1 is a 5.7 L V8 engine with an aluminum block and heads. The bore and stroke are 3.898 in x 3.622 in, and it is an OHV, 2 valve/cylinder, 16 valve, pushrod-actuated engine. The LS2 uses the same OHV design and also has an aluminum block and heads like the LS1, but is bored out to 4.000 in x 3.622 in, for a total displacement of 6.0 L.

The LS1 was rated for 305-350 horsepower and 335-365 lb-ft of torque. Comparatively, the LS2 was rated higher for 395-400 horsepower and 390-400 lb-ft of torque.

GM/Chevy advertised compression on the LS1 as 10.1:1, but in reality, it was 10.25:1. 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.

The LS2 retains the six-bolt main caps, 4.40 in 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 vs the LS1 30 lb/hr injectors. As you would expect, the LS1 is going to make better fuel economy than the LS2 due to its smaller displacement.

In the Corvettes, the LS2’s aluminum block weighs 15 lbs less than the LS1 Corvette block. This weight reduction is courtesy of a thinner-walled exhaust manifold, smaller water pump, and a smaller oil pan. 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.

Gen III/Gen IV LS Cylinder Heads and Other Differences

Both the LS1 and LS2 have the LS-cathedral port cylinder heads. The LS2 cylinder heads outflow the LS1 heads by a decent margin and is often used as an LS1 mod. GM/Chevy made the LS2 heads very similar to the LS6 heads which as we mentioned was a high-performance version of the LS1. Starting in 2001, GM/Chevy gave the LS1 the LS6 heads. The LS2 is the only Gen IV motor to use the cathedral heads, as all other ones use the superior flowing rectangular-port heads.

LS2 exhaust manifold walls are 1mm (30%) thinner than the LS1, but weigh less and flow 4% better. The LS1 uses two different methods for throttle control, drive-by-wire in the Corvette and drive-by-cable in all other applications. All LS2-powered cars use the drive-by-wire throttle system. The LS2 also has a 500 RPM higher redline than the LS1, at 6,500 RPM.

The LS2 knock sensors are outside of the cylinder banks to allow for more precise readings, which was an improvement over the in-bank LS1 sensors. GM also moved the cam sensors to the front timing cover on the LS2 from behind the intake on the LS1. Both the LS1 and LS2 pistons are hypereutectic aluminum, and the LS2 pistons have full-floating wrist pins to reduce pistons slap – which was a common issue on the LS1.

LS1 vs LS2 Engine Reliability

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, If there is one thing you can describe the Chevy LS engine series as it’s reliable. The entire LS-series is pretty much bulletproof in any respect, and there are really no significant widespread problems with them. A stock LS1 and LS2 will easily go past 200,000 miles if taken care of and with proper maintenance.

However, with that being said, neither the LS1 nor LS2 is completely free from minor problems, including when modified. For the LS1, the main issues are piston ring seals, water pump failure, bent pushrods, piston slap (oil consumption), and oil pump failure.

While this might sound like a lot of issues for a “reliable” engine, these are not very widespread and do not affect a huge amount of LS1 cars. Still, they’re important to mention. Check out our LS1 5 Most Common Problems Guide for an in-depth breakdown of each of these issues.

The main issues with the LS2 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 and was fixed for later years. The rocker arms on the LS2 are prone to premature wear and failure after 100,000 miles. The LS2 harmonic balancers have attracted several complaints for premature failure, too. Check out the Common Problems and Reliability section of our LS2 engine guide for a more in-depth breakdown.

Overall, both the LS1 vs LS2 have pretty much the same reliability, though the LS2 did fix the piston issues from the LS1. Both of them are excellent power plants for starting any build, and can definitely be counted on for reliability. They are both widely used in “LS swaps” into various vehicles and for big power builds.

LS1 vs LS2 Performance and Mods

Now let’s get into the fun part, LS1 vs LS2 performance and mods. Stock, the LS2 makes a lot more horsepower and torque than the LS1, but both engines can easily be upgraded over factory power levels. The larger displacement of the LS2 will ultimately allow it to make more power, and the block is also known to be stronger.

If you plan on modding an LS1 or LS2 the upgrades are pretty similar. Actually, pretty much all LS engines can be built using a similar build plan, which we’ll outline below. With these mods, you can expect to put yourself in the 450-500 horsepower range, which is about as far as a naturally aspirated LS engine will go. If you really want to make above 500 horsepower, you’ll have to add a supercharger or turbocharger. Check out our LS2 Supercharger upgrade guide for more info on a forced induction LS build.

Top LS1 and LS2 Mods

  • Cold Air Intake
  • Long-tube headers
  • Larger throttle body
  • Camshaft Upgrade
  • Cylinder Heads Upgrade
  • ECU Tuning

Both Engines Are Strong Contenders

Overall, both the LS1 and LS2 are two very capable motors that are capable of some gargantuan performance. The LS1 preceded the LS2 by nearly a decade, and both of them are considered some of the top engines in the entire LS series. The LS2 makes more horsepower due to its larger displacement, but the LS1 is more fuel efficient while still being very capable of making similar power.

GM/Chevy put the LS1 and LS2 into some of the most memorable Corvettes of the late-’90s and early 2000s, where they made some pretty good power numbers. The Gen III LS1 and Gen IV LS2 were also massive improvements over their Gen II predecessor in pretty every way possible.

Which LS series engine do you think is the best, the LS1 or LS2? Let us know in the comments below!


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *