When Chevrolet introduced the Gen III LS platform in 1997, no one knew what to expect. This was a new design for the small-block Chevrolet that replaced the Gen II LT powerplants. And while the performance numbers for Chevrolet’s latest small-block were off the charts compared to the engine of late, we were all curious to see what could be accomplished with the support of the aftermarket, and now we know. This engine has been an enormous success and is now available in just about any cubic-inch and horsepower level requested.
During this time, GM’s rival, Ford, didn’t have a good answer for the LS engine until 2005. They released the 3-valve engine in the Mustang rated at 300 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque which crept up to the Gen III LS output, but GM was on the move with the Gen IV LS with the introduction of the 6.2- and 7.0-liter engines. These 6.2s were rated at 380-430 horsepower, while the LS7 came with 505 horsepower. A far stretch from the Ford 3-valve engine. But Ford was working on a new platform that would level the playing field.
Enter The Coyote
In 2011 Ford released their latest weapon, the Gen I Coyote. This engine showed promise as the 5.0-liter dual overhead cam combination cranked out 360-444 horsepower in the ballpark of GM’s 6.2 numbers. But in 2014, GM would strike again with their Gen V LT program upping the horsepower once more with direct injection, among other improvements. So in 2015, Ford answered the call with its Gen II Coyote engine and then repeated the process in 2018 with the Gen III Coyote.
After 20-plus years, it’s safe to say that both GM and Ford possess the best engines that they have ever produced. So the only question is, which one is better? And the answer to that question is, it depends.
Auto Guild does a great job of breaking down GM’s Gen V LT and Ford’s Gen III Coyote engines in the above video. They lay out all of the differences between these engines, and there are many of them, from the size to the engine’s different configurations.
One of the most notable differences between the two engines is their physical size, even though the Coyote has considerably fewer cubic inches than the LT. What makes the Ford engine so massive is the use of dual overhead cams. As a result, the Coyote measures 28.5-inches tall and 29-inches wide. The LT comes in at a much more compact 25.5-inches tall and 25-inches wide. With the LT being the smaller of the two, it’s certainly easier to swap between the two powerplants while fitting between the fenders of more cars and trucks with less effort. Another factor is the weight between the two engines. The LT engine fully dressed with exhaust manifolds, accessories, and a flexplate comes in at 465-pounds. The Coyote crate engine without accessories weighs in at 445-pounds which means it’s around 500-pounds dressed like the LT.
It’s All In The Heads
When it comes to heads and flow, the Coyote is the clear winner here, or is it? According to Auto Guild, the GM LT 5.3-liter engine offers a valve intake area of 2.99-inches while the 6.2-liter is 3.56-inches. The Coyote, on the other hand, is 3.44-inches. And even though the size of the 6.2 is larger, the big intake valve is not as efficient as two smaller intake valves. Another advantage of the DOHC design is lighter valves which allow the Coyote to rev higher, create more power, and offer better throttle response.
From Intake To Exhaust
The exhaust manifolds on the LT are an excellent design and offer something comparable to an equal length header. The Coyote exhaust manifolds are an interesting design that looks like a Tri-y setup. This type of exhaust is traditionally used when trying to extract more torque from an engine that the Coyote needs with its small cubic inches. And while the Tri-y doesn’t look as good, it works well getting the Ford torque values in the 400 lb-ft. range with only 5.0-liters of displacement.
Another significant difference between the two powerplants is the injection. GM moved to direct injection (DI) with the LT platform, which has mixed reviews from mechanics and engine builders alike. With this design, the valves are prone to carbon build-up since the fuel no longer sprays directly on the valve, which cleans them. In our opinion, Ford got it right with its design on the Coyote by running multi-port injection (MPI) in combination with DI.
Another advantage to using DI with MPI is the tunability, especially when it comes to power adders giving tuners options. Unfortunately, DI on the GM side has proven to be the Achilles heel for the LT, leaving power on the table for many high-performance applications. The fix has been to add an aftermarket MPI to these engines, which Ford did from the factory with its Gen III Coyote. Aso, we have to note that GM’s LT5 engine is the only LT that uses DI and MPI. So, hopefully, we will see more of this combination in the future from GM.
Displacement And Block Options
The LT is the clear winner in this category, offering various engine combinations with iron and aluminum engine blocks. You can get the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter engines with aluminum blocks or a 6.6-liter with an iron block. With the Coyote, you only get two offerings, 5.0-liter and 5.2-liter powerplants, both with aluminum blocks. And here’s the big problem with the Coyote, bore spacing. Since Ford places the cylinders so close together, there’s no way to get more cubic inches out of the Gen III Coyote unless you add more stroke with the crankshaft.
If you look at the prices between a used LT and Coyote engines, you will notice a stark contrast. While you can easily find a complete LT on Facebook Marketplace in our area for $1,500 for a 5.3-liter, we can’t say the same for the Coyote. Prices for the Ford engine are high. We have found several long blocks starting in the $5,000 range. The engine’s availability causes the price difference. According to Auto Guild, GM has produced 1.2 million units. These powerplants were available in several vehicles, including Camaros, Corvettes, CTS-Vs, Silverados, Sierras, Yukons, Escalades, Suburbans, Express, and Savana vans. On the other hand, Ford has only produced 221,000 Coyote engines since 2011 in the Mustang and F-150. The low production numbers make these engines hard to find, which drives the price up over a readily available used LT platform.
Power Per Liter
Things get interesting when we break down the horsepower per liter between the engines. Much to our surprise, GM’s largest engine, the 6.6-liter, comes in last with 61 horsepower per liter when compared to the other engines. The 355 horsepower 5.3-liter LT does a little better with 67 horsepower per liter. The 6.2-liter came in second for GM with 80 horsepower per liter. The supercharged LT5 engine took top honors for the LT with 121 horsepower per liter.
While the GM numbers don’t sound bad at first, they do when compared to the Coyote. Even the smallest Ford engine in this comparison, the 5.0, blew the GM 5.3-,6.2-, and 6.6-liter engines out of the water with a 96 horsepower per liter rating. Only the supercharged LT5 did better. Ford’s 5.2 stretched the gap even more with 101 horsepower per liter. As expected, the supercharged 5.2-liter Coyote takes the gold with 146 horsepower per liter. These numbers show you how good the DOHC combination is and is one reason a stock Coyote can rev to 7,500 rpm, 900 more rpm than the LTs.
In our opinion, aftermarket support for these two engines is pretty similar since companies have started to produce high-performance components and accessories for both platforms. Unfortunately, LT performance development has taken a back seat since the LS still reigns supreme, but that could change any day as people look to the LT instead of the LS.
And The Winner Is…
Whether you’re a GM or Ford fan, you can’t deny that the LT and Coyote engines are something special. As far as a winner goes, it’s too close to call. While the Coyote does have the advantage in horsepower per liter, the LT makes up ground with the ability to add more cubic inches and an iron block. But the lines between the two get even more blurred with forced induction and aftermarket engine blocks. One thing’s for sure, the GM/Ford rivalry has certainly heated back up over the past couple of years thanks to these two high-tech powerplants.