Holden Engines – The Beginners Guide

Since we have been doing more and more Holden upgrades we have found plenty of people who are getting confused by the terminology and jargon associated with the different Holden engines available. Most enthusiasts don’t know an LS2 from an L98 and all they want to know is that they have enough power to waste the Ford in the other lane. Here is STM’s beginners guide to what’s what in the world of Holden engines.

What the hell is an LS?

From 2001 Holden adopted the LS range of engines from their big brother General Motors. The LS is the only V8 engine used in GM’s RWD cars and trucks and is produced in a wide variety of specs. The LS engine developed from the famous ‘Small Block Chev’ although it doesn’t share any parts compatibility. Physically these engines are very compact and with an all-alloy construction they are also light.

With a good mix of strength and reliability coupled with a huge selection of aftermarket parts, the LS engines have become a very popular base for modification.

5.7 Litre LS1 Holden Engine – VT-VZ Holden/HSV

The LS1 displaces 5.7 litres and produces anywhere from 220 kW (VT Commodore SS), through to 285 kW (VYII HSV). A special Callaway modified version known as the C4B was produced in limited numbers for the HSV GTS and produced 300kW.


  • With these cars dropping in price now, you are getting a lot of bang for your buck
  • Expect an extra 50 kW from our Stage 2 upgrade with a MAFless tune


  • Restrictive MAF sensor costs power in stock form
  • Lacks torque and power compared to the LS2/L98/LS3

6.0 Litre LS2 Holden Engine – Late VZ and VE HSV

The LS2 takes capacity to 6.0 litres and is found in the last of the VZ (297 kW) and in the E Series (307 kW). With an increased capacity, the LS2 offers a tidy improvement in torque and power while also improving fuel economy.


  • Great power increase for a modest outlay. Expect around 340 kW with our stage 2 upgrade
  • Factory fitted headers are fine for moderate upgrades so save your money


  • Uses ‘Cathedral Port’ cylinder heads which don’t flow as well as the L92 heads

6.0 Litre L98 Holden Engine – VE Commodore SS

The SS Commodore in the VE range inherited the L98 engine instead of the LS2. While the L98 is very similar to the LS2, it is fitted with better flowing L92 cylinder heads. The L98 is offered in a low state of tune, producing 270 kW, but with the right upgrades they offer better potential than the LS2.



  • Fitted with restrictive cast iron exhaust manifolds – These need to go

6.0 Litre L96 Holden Engine – VE Commodore SS with AFM

The L96 engine is found in the SS commodore running Active Fuel management (AFM). Essentially the engine is identical to the L98 with the exception of special lifters which allow the ECU to disable four cylinders at cruise. The L96 is rated at 260 kW, 10 kW less than the L98.


  • Optimising the AFM with our Stage 0 Upgrade Package offers improved fuel economy and power


  • Can sound horrible with an aftermarket exhaust system in AFM mode
  • Requires substantial work to upgrade the camshaft

6.2 Litre LS3 Holden Engine – VE HSV (2008 onwards)

To step up the power and stay ahead of FPV, HSV moved to the LS3 6.2 litre engine to their E series in 2008 with the 317 kW (Clubsport) and 325 kW (GTS) options. We found the LS3 uses a nasty torque management system to close the throttle and restrict power – Fortunately we can disable this feature.


  • Disabling the factory torque management with our Stage 0 Upgrade gains over 40 kW in the midrange
  • Uses the superior L92 cylinder head


  • Severely de-tuned in stock form

16 thoughts on “Holden Engines – The Beginners Guide

  1. Theres a school of thought that suggests the LS1 is basically a copy of the 6 bolt mains V8`s made by Mercedes in the 80`s which were / still are hugely popular … but then the Ford guys swear that motor was a copy of the FE series from the late 60`s.

    • Don’t you guys mean the L76 not the L96 in this article – I own a 2010 Calais V with the L76 AFM 6.0L and I haven’t heard of the L96 engine before, can you please clarify? Thanks’

      • Hi Jono,

        At the time of written this which was sometime in 2011 the L76 was not as common however you are correct in thinking your car has the L76 engine. The early SS Commodore’s without the AFM etc were actually a L98 engine. Hope this clears things up.

    • The LS7 produces 375 kW and comes out in the US spec Corvette ZO6. They are a hand built 7.0 litre engine with titanium rods and a dry sump lubrication system. These are the same engines fitted to the new V8 SuperTourers.

  2. Hi guys. I’m in the market to buy a 2008 L98 Calais. It has 138,000km on the clock. It has perfect service history and looks like it has been very well looked after. Is 138,000km too much? What sort of longevity would you expect from these engines, on average of course? I might do about 6,000 km per year, so when would I be looking for a rebuild?


    • Hi Nick,

      Provided the car has been well serviced, 138,000 km shouldn’t be an issue. You may need to consider a freshen up around 180,000-200,000km however some LS engines have travelled over 200,000 km without needing major work. The key is to use good quality synthetic oil and keep up with a regular maintenance schedule.

      • Thanks Andre.

        I’m going in today to get the ball rolling on paperwork etc, so I plan to have the terms an conditions subject to an RACQ inspection. I want to make sure the compression tests come back ok and that all cylinders have even values (within an acceptable tolerance of course) across the board. The car itself comes from a certified Holden dealer, ie with 3 year warranty, so provided the engine report comes back good, the stat warranty will sort out any little things.

        What would a ‘freshen up’ cost in general and what would it entail, a full rebuild or just some valve reseating etc? Would it be worth adding a couple of goodies, like upgrade cams during a refresh?

        Thanks again


  3. hi guys,need ur expertise and tips as my 2007 holden ve omega which have a 3.5 v6 engine in it,,, the engine has been driven roughly now to 270k. I am now at a stage where I need to look in building the baby of mine and I don’t want to get rid off it. I would like to know if I can convert a 3.5 v6 engine to to 5.7 v8 engine from a vz model and do I need to fit a vz model gear box as well. thanks pls rply.

    • Hey Reg,

      Sorry for the extremely late reply as we had overlooked your comment.

      We use Motul H-tech 5w30 on all Ls engines through our workshop.

      We also have this in our webstore if you require any.


  4. Hi mate just Bought a new VE calais wagon and I want to get some work done to it cam exhaust extractors colder intake diff gears but it a family car to so don’t want it to loud but when you put your foot down it go’s and sounds nice what cam size should I get and exhaust

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