At this point, more than two decades after General Motors first unleashed them on the public, the LS-series of small-block V8 engines has reached legendary status. They are widely known as being durable, reliable, and capable of producing gobs of horsepower and torque. One of the earliest LS engines that GM released was the 6.2 liter LS3 engine, which was the successor to the LS2. The LS3 lasted from the 2008–2017 model years, and Chevrolet continues to manufacture and sell it as a crate engine today. Depending on the model, the LS3 made a whopping 426-436 horsepower and 420-428 lb-ft of torque.
Most prodigiously, Chevrolet used the LS3 inside the C6 Corvette from 2008–2013, including in the reborn Corvette Grand Sport from 2010–2013. Chevrolet also used a slightly detuned version, the L99, inside 2010–2015 Camaro SS with automatic transmissions. In addition, there are also the Vortec 6200 engines, the L92/L9H/L94, of which GM originally based the LS3 on. Read on to find out all about the LS3’s history, specs, vehicles, design, common problems, and of course, best mods.
LS3 Engine History
In 1997, GM released the first of their third generation small-block V8s with the LS1 engine. They quickly followed this up with the LS6 in 2001 and the fourth generation small-block LS2 in 2005. In addition to the LS-series of small-blocks, they also released the mechanically similar Vortec small-blocks. For the most part, Chevy called the performance engines inside models like the Corvette, Camaro, and Firebird the LS-series. In contrast, they called the smaller displacement, iron block, and less powerful motors inside the SUVs and trucks the Vortec engines.
Interestingly, the LS3 is somewhat of a hybrid fourth generation small-block Vortec and LS-series engine. This is because GM based it on the Vortec 6200 L92 engine. GM introduced the L92 Vortec 6200 in 2007 in various GMC and Cadillac SUVs and trucks. They then took the block and put on a performance intake-manifold and better flowing cylinder heads, and created the LS3. From 2008–2013, the LS3 served as the base power plant for the C6 Corvette. From 2008–2009, Chevy put it inside the Z51 Corvette, and from 2010–2013 inside the Corvette Grand Sport which replaced the Z51 option.
For 2010, Chevy also created a detuned version of the engine which they designated with the L99 engine code. Chevy only used the L99 inside the Camaro SS from 2010–2015 when equipped with an automatic transmission. The manual transmission Camaro SS from 2010–2015 used the standard LS3. From 2014–2017, the Chevrolet SS also came with the LS3.
Use in Holden Vehicles
In addition, Chevrolet’s subsidiary Holden also used the LS3 inside a few models from 2009–2017. From 2009–2013, they put it inside the high performance HSV E-Series to replace the LS2, and from 2015–2017 the VF-series Commodore used it. The Chevrolet SS was a stateside version of the Commodore (VF). Additionally, Vauxhall used a version of the LS3 in their VXR8 GTS from 2009–2013. The VXR8 GTS was a rebadged HSV E-Series that Vauxhall sold in Britain.
As you can see, the LS3 has a rich history that has taken it literally all across the globe. American production ended in 2015 (except the Holden-based Chevy SS), while international production continued through 2017. Today, Chevrolet still sells the LS3 as a crate engine, and they have several different variations.
GM LS3 Engine Specs
|Gen IV small-block V8 (LS)
|6.2 liters (376 cid)
|Bore and Stroke
|4.065 x 3.622 in (103.25 x 92 mm)
|16-Valve, OHV, 2 valves/cyl
|Electronic Fuel Injection
- 2008–2013 Chevrolet Corvette
- 2008–2013 Corvette Base
- 2008–2009 Corvette Z51
- 2010–2013 Corvette Grand Sport
- 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP
- 2010–2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS (Manual Transmission only)
- 2009–2013 Holden HSV (E-Series)
- 2009–2013 Vauxhall VXR8 (GTS)
- 2014–2017 Chevrolet SS
- 2015–2017 Holden Commodore (VF)
Technical Engine Design
As we mentioned, the LS3 engine is part of the fourth generation of small-block V8 engines. It is a 6.2 liter (376 cid) V8, and GM based the block on the Vortec 6200 L92 block, which they introduced a year before the LS3. Unlike most Vortec blocks which are cast iron, GM makes the 6.2 L92 blocks from cast aluminum, like LS-blocks. It has a bore and stroke of 4.065 x 3.622 in (103.25 x 92 mm), and it is much stronger than the LS2 block it replaced in the Corvette.
When making the block, Chevy engineers focused on durability and strength. They claim it is just as strong as the LS9 block, which makes more than 600 horsepower from the factory. The bottom is made to be very strong and can take a serious beating. Compression is relatively high at 10.7:1, though the engine is naturally aspirated.
For the cylinder heads, they are based on the L92 heads but are even higher flowing. According to Chevy engineers, for their time, the heads flowed the most air of any production small-block heads ever made. They had 168 grams/second of intake flow and 123 g/s of exhaust flow. Chevrolet made them from aluminum and they used rectangular D-port style exhaust ports.
Internally, the LS3 was very robust. The pistons were flat-topped, hypereutectic cast aluminum alloy, with full-floating wrist pins, polymer coating, and an asymmetrical skirt profile. In addition, engineers anodized the top groove of the piston rings for longevity.
The connecting rods were made from powdered metal and were I-Beam style. There are two different styles of crankshaft. Most use a cast iron crank. However, the LS3 Corvette Grand Sport used a forged steel crank due to its dry sump oiling system.
Valve Train and Intake Manifold
The LS3, like other LS and Vortec series engines, uses a pushrod-actuated overhead valve train (OHV) with two valves per cylinder, for 16 valves total. Unlike the L92 on which it was based, the LS3 does not use variable valve timing. It has a single camshaft, which is similar to the LS6 camshaft but with 0.25 inch more intake valve lift.
The complete specs are 204°/211° intake/exhaust duration @ 0.050 in, 0.551/.525 inch intake/exhaust lift, and a 117° LSA. Chevy optimized the valve train for balance, and the intake stems are hollow while the exhaust are solid.
Compared with the L92 on which Chevy based it, the LS3 used a lower profile and higher flowing intake manifold. They built the manifold from composite material that is light and smooth, but also durable. It also reduces noise through a textured cover. During peak valve-lift, the intake manifold can flow 155 g/s and has optimized runner lengths for performance.
Compared with the similar LS7 manifold, the LS3 produces horsepower at lower rpm and can flow 90% as well. That might not sound great, but considering the LS7 is 50 cid bigger and makes more than 500 horsepower, it’s pretty remarkable. The LS3 uses a 4-bolt, gold-blade-style, 90mm throttle body.
LS3 Engine Reliability and Problems
Overall, we consider the LS3 engine to be one of the most sturdy and reliable of the entire LS and Vortec-series of small-blocks. Even though they are used in high performance Corvettes and Camaro SS, the LS3 is about as reliable and bulletproof as you can get. In their factory form, they are practically indestructible with proper maintenance and driving. Many engines have made it well over 150,000 miles without issue, and they are very well built.
The only real concerns that people have raised with the LS3 are related to the water pump and very occasionally the pushrods. The main cause of bent pushrods is from mechanically over-revving, either from an improper downshift or from tuned engines without rpm-limiters. It’s not really an endemic problem to the LS3, and can happen on any pushrod engine.
Besides pushrods and water pumps, the LS3 is an amazingly stout and reliable chevy engine. Even when modded at lower power levels, these engines can still last for a very long time and stand up to some abuse.
LS3 Crate Engines, Performance, and Mods
From the factory, the LS3 pumps out 426–436 horsepower and 420–428 lb-ft of torque. The nearly identical L99 in the Camaro SS is less powerful, but still delivers 400 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. Inside the 2011 Corvette Grand Sport, the LS3 produced 430 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque. That was good for a blazing zero to 60 mph time of just 4.2 seconds. The same Corvette also did the ¼ mile in 12.6 seconds @ 115 mph.
Comparably, the 2010 Camaro SS with the L99 produced a solid zero to 60 mph time of 4.8 seconds, and did the ¼ mile in 13.3 seconds @ 107 mph. The LS3 powered Camaro SS of the same year was only slightly faster, with the same zero to 60 mph time, but it did the ¼ mile in 13.0 seconds @ 111 mph. While not quite as fast, the L99-powered automatic transmission Camaro SS still held its own at the drag strip.
Today, though it is no longer in production vehicles, GM still sells crate LS3 engines. These range from 450-533 horsepower versions, and come with a variety of camshaft options. There are also carbureted LS3 crate engines without EFI for builders who prefer the old-school fueling method.
One of the most popular crate engines is the LS376/480 hot-cammer. This crate engine uses a LS Hot Cam, which has 0.525/.525 intake/exhaust lift and 219°/228° intake/exhaust duration. Though there is less intake lift than stock, the longer duration more than makes up for it and allows for a ton of airflow. Together, this combines to produce 495 horsepower and 473 lb-ft of torque.
Bolt-On Performance Upgrades
For those of you looking to get some extra power out of your Camaro SS, Corvette, or other LS3-powered vehicles, we have a ton of great upgrade articles for you. For those looking at basic bolt-ons, we have a Chevy LS3 engine upgrades article, which has information on tuning, cylinder heads, long-tube headers, x-pipes, and camshaft upgrades.
In addition, we also have a specific supercharger guide, camshaft upgrade guide, intake manifold upgrade guide, and a throttle body upgrade guide. The LS3 responds very well to all of these mods, and they can give you gains ranging from just a few horsepower to more than a few hundred.
For those of you with Corvettes, with a specific Corvette C6 headers guide. The LS3 is one of the most moddable small-block V8s out there, and they are capable of some serious performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
The LS3 produces 426-436 horsepower and 420-428 lb-ft of torque inside the Chevrolet Corvette, Camaro, and other vehicles.
The Vortec 6200 L92, L9H, and L94 engines are similar to the LS3 engine but not the same. They have the same displacement but different internals, valve trains, cylinder heads, and more.
General Motors and Chevrolet put the LS3 inside the C6 Corvette, Camaro SS, Pontiac G8, Chevrolet SS, Holden HSV, and others.
Yes. The LS3 is a great engine that produces thrilling amounts of horsepower and torque and has solid reliability.