It’s been a long time coming but good things, as they say, come to those who wait. We know you’ve been chomping at the bit to see how these motors stack up against one another, and we’re finally ready to share the results from the Coyote dyno session of the LS3 vs Coyote Budget Shootout.
But before we dive into the details, let’s have a look at the shootout criteria and how the Ford motor came together within the constraints of the shootout budget.
We first posed the idea of a modern Chevy versus Ford small-block build-off last summer, and the response we received made it obvious that this was a head to head battle that needed to happen.
Ford’s overhead-cam modular small-block V8, particularly in its most recent 5.0-liter iteration, and GM’s ubiquitous pushrod small-block V8, which is especially tasty (and yet financially accessible) in 6.2-liter LS3 configuration, are two modern V8s that have been instrumental in the modern musclecar resurgence, which makes them obvious choices for this head-to-head matchup. The concept was to build hopped up versions of both engines while not getting too extreme; something you can install into a daily driver for 50,000+ miles without issue. The block, heads, and intake manifolds needed to be OEM counterparts but from there it was up to us to build it with the best parts for under ten-grand.
Both of these engines make plenty of horsepower and torque right out of the box; with literally millions of engines like these already produced not only for use in cars like the Camaro, Corvette, and Mustang, but also for the full-size pickups and SUVs produced that wear the Bowtie or the Blue Oval as well, these powerplants are quickly becoming engine swap favorites for hot rodders, whether they’re building up an old Falcon or an NB Miata.
Despite the 1.2-liter difference in displacement, in stock form the LS3 and Coyote are closely matched rivals, with just a handful of ponies separating the output of the two as they come from the factory. The pair have been the subject of endless bench racing for years, with speculators proclaiming one engine to inherently outperform the other with only a bolt-on here or an ECU tune there.
We’ve decided to let the numbers do the talking with this test series. But rather than just throw any combination of parts available at these mills, we wanted to take a real-world approach that replicates the kind of build you might take on in your own garage:
- $9,999 or less parts budget
- Naturally aspirated
- Stock displacement
- Near 11:1 compression
- Run a production style intake manifold
- Street car friendly – no wild cams
- Hydraulic roller camshafts
- Factory PCMs
- 91 octane and VP unleaded race gas
That budget essentially covers raw materials to put these engines together – additional costs for machining, assembly, external components and other incidentals weren’t included in the tally. Both powerplants are of the all-aluminum variety, and both were put together on the same day at local engine builder L&R Engines. From there we took the pair to Westech Performance for dyno testing. In case you missed it the first time around, you can check out the data from the LS3 build dyno session here.
Now let’s take a look at the components that went into the Coyote build.
As we mentioned in the Coyote build feature, making the math work with the Ford motor proved to be a bit of challenge. Ultimately there was no way to build a performance-oriented Coyote engine using a brand new block and stay within our $10,000 shootout budget criteria, so some ingenuity was required.
The solution we landed on was to pull a 5.0-liter long block out of a wrecked 2012 F150 pick-up and start our build from there. Considering the fact that the components that distinguish the F150’s engine from the Mustang’s – the pistons, rods, camshaft profiles, and valve springs – are all parts that we knew we’d be replacing with aftermarket pieces during the build anyway, there’s essentially no discernible difference between the two configurations for the purposes of this shootout.
Starting from the bottom up, we used the Coyote’s stock crankshaft along with a set of Manley Performance connecting rods (PN 14042R-8) and forged pistons (PN 598010-C). We also decked the block, resulting in a slight increase in compression (11.1:1) and given that the LS3 ended up with an 11.3:1 compression ratio, these minor alterations more or less even each other out.
On the top end we used the stock Coyote cylinder heads and installed a Comp Cams Stage 3 XFI NSR camshaft set (PN. 191160) and valve spring kit (PN 26113CY-KIT), a Boss 302 intake manifold (PN M-9424-M50BR), Aeromotive billet fuel rails (PN 14130) and a stock 80 mm throttle body.
Our top priorities for both of the motors used in this shootout were reliability, top end power, and street-friendly manners. Like the LS, the Coyote develops a nice, flat torque curve throughout the mid-range while horsepower continues to climb all the way to just below 7,000, and only drops a few ponies on its way to 8,000 rpm.
“Basically once we got our fueling where we wanted it to be, from there you can just move the camshafts around to get to the peak power,” explained performance tuner Ryne Cunningham of Cunningham Motorsports. “We started with a Boss 302 baseline tune and went from there. With the Comp Cams camshafts and Boss intake manifold it has a lot more advance in the mid-range to take advantage of the short runners on the intake. The scaling is also a bit different because the motor revs higher — it has more parameters to allow for adjustments at higher rpm.”
But it’s here that the budget limit for the shootout seriously hinders the Coyote – its peak numbers fall short of the LS3’s by about 46 horsepower and just under 100 pound-feet of torque. That’s a sizable output gap, and much of that disparity can be attributed to the fact that building a high performance Coyote motor for under $10K puts a lot of limitations on your parts list options.
In contrast, with the LS3 we were able to start with a new performance block and drop in things like an LSA crankshaft and ported LS3 heads, and the LS3’s additional displacement probably didn’t hurt either.
Pound For Pound: Coyote Versus LS3
Ford 5.0-liter DOHC V8:
- Length: 26.08 inches
- Height: 28.89 inches
- Width: 29.05 inches
- Weight: 430 pounds (with accessories)
GM 6.2-liter LS3 V8:
- Length: 28.75 inches
- Height: 28.25 inches
- Width: 24.75 inches
- Weight: 418 pounds (with accessories)
Peak output stands at 510.4 horsepower at 7,600 rpm and 398.4 lb-ft of torque at 5,400 rpm, which equates to about 1.68 horsepower and 1.31 lb-ft per cubic inch, giving a slight edge in horsepower-per-cube to the Ford motor. The LS3 produced efficiency numbers of 1.47 horsepower and 1.32 lb-ft per cubic inch. Coyote averages through the rev range were 419.4 horsepower and 372.9 lb-ft of torque from 4,000 to 7,800 rpm. The modular motor’s averages were only slightly down from the LS which posted 433.1 hp and 459.9 lb-ft average from 3,000 to 6,800 rpm.
“We can pull both engines down to 3,000 rpm and run them both up to 8,000, but effectively the LS is kinda done and we’re going to run into some valvetrain issues up at 8,000. So we had to discuss this and how to fairly compare these two. So we decided to pick this 3,800 to 4,000 rpm range, and in the sweetest spot on both engines — you can’t really compare two engines when one revs 1,000 rpm higher than the other so we had to take what we thought was the best average in the operating range,” Brule clarified.
“Coyotes have always made good power for the size of the motor, though they do lack some torque, just the nature of the engine,” Cunningham pointed out. “Displacement also works against it versus the LS3. On the other hand, tuning this Coyote was easier than tuning the LS3 because the air/fuel never swung, and the LS3 required a lot more reflashes because the stock computer doesn’t support wideband tuning.”
As Mark Gearhart points out in the video, if the Coyote had been equal displacement to the LS3 it would have made 631 hp based on the efficiency. Brule reacts to that projection saying, “admittedly, if the head can keep up that far — there’s no question about it. That four-valve head is superior to a 2-valve head, but it’s suffering cubic-inch-wise, there’s no doubt about that. I’m not sure the viewers realize just how good these late-model engines are, on some of the standard old pushrod stuff, a number I target on a pump-gas engine to say it’s a really good one is 1.25 lb-ft per cubic inch.”
We used an SCT X4 flash tuner to get the Coyote running where we wanted it. The X4 comes loaded with tested and proven tune files, allowing storage of up to 10 custom tunes. It also allows the user to track real time data. With a simple 0-5 volt source you can keep an eye on EGTs, A/F ratios or any other 0-5 volt signal. The X4 doubles as a diagnostic tool along with tuning and data logging, allowing the user to read and clear diagnostic trouble codes. When this engine eventually sees a car, the X4 will allow us to control features like convertor lock-up, traction control, tire size and other useful parameters.
“There’s some merit to the Coyote, it obviously is a four-valve engine, it revs very well and responds to boost in a favorable way — but it’s tough to beat an LS when it comes to packaging. I’m not a Ford, or Chevy, or Chrysler guy but when you take an engine that’s 7/8 the size of that package and you can make 75 more cubic inches in it, it probably weighs a little bit less and it makes more power I think that shows it’s a clear winner all the around,” Brule concludes crowning the LS3 our winner. If you notice our Coyote build included Deatschwerks 95 lb injectors, while not a swing vote in the outcome, they will support more power for future comparison testing.
We’re far from done with both the Coyote and the LS3. Both motors are getting hooked up to the dyno with a selection of intake manifolds, camshafts, and headers to see where more power can be unlocked. Stay tuned! What happens when we apply a little boost to the GM versus Ford architecture?