LS-Based 16 Cylinder Engine Takes Marine World By Storm; Will Show Cars Be Next?

XVI didn't want to add length to the engine so modified the K&N filter to house the throttle

K&N filters are mounted inside custom covers on both ends of the motor

If a cast aluminum 854 cubic inch V16 engine based on the Chevrolet LS architecture seems like an extreme way to generate big horsepower, you need to take a look at the work of the engineers at XVI Power in Detroit, Michigan.

Initially designed for powerboat applications, the crew at XVI Power said that they’d love to see the engine mounted in a few street rods or custom cars. Despite the fact that the engine has four more cylinders, it’s only a foot longer than a Viper V10

The concept behind the motor is that as high-end boat V8 engines are beginning to reach 1,600 horsepower, they’ve become near-race motors with all the maintenance and durability issues related to developing over 200 horsepower per cylinder. And while race teams understand and plan for the kind of abuse a race engine sees, boat owners, perhaps a tad unrealistically, expect these heavily-tweaked motors to provide reliable, long-term service.

The alternative, as XVI Power saw it, was to reduce the load on any single cylinder by increasing the total number of cylinders. Therefore, a cylinder that was expected to produce the stressful 200 horsepower now delivers a more rational 100 horsepower per cylinder, according to XVI team member, Tom Robinson.

XVI wanted to use as many LS components as posible, to make repairs and upgrades easy

The V16 engine in all its glory, the LS design basis is clear even from this view

The XVI Power team chose the Chevrolet LS architecture as the basis, and Caleb Thomas designed and developed a single cylinder block for all 16 cylinders. The A356-T6 aluminum block is cast and machined by a firm in the Detroit area that does a great deal of prototype work for the auto industry so the quality is high. One variation for the LS engines is that the dry sump oil and two-stage water distribution begins and ends at the center of the block for more even distribution. This was a lesson learned by Thomas when he was program manager on the Cadillac V16 show car of 2003.

That gap in the cylinder bore allows for the use of Chevrolet LS cylinder heads, from mild to wild, at the owner’s discretion. In fact, many parts come directly from the LS design, with the only major parts coming from XVI Power being the engine block, crankshaft (supported by ten main caps machined into the oil pan and using big block bearings), the oil pan itself, and the gun-drilled single piece camshaft. Duramax bearings are an option for supercharged or turbo applications. Valves, lifters, rockers, manifolds, many fittings, gaskets, and seals, are all standard Chevrolet items so when any maintenance is required, the parts are close by the marine repair shop.

Here you can get a good view of the piping on the water-cooled headers

Here you can get a good view of the piping on the water-cooled headers

Despite the perception of the V16 being a large engine, a great deal of attention has been focused on making it as compact as possible. All drive ancillaries are kept tucked tight, as are the exhaust manifolds. Even the heat exchangers are low and tight to the block and the throttle bodies have been tucked inside modified K&N E-3514 filters to make sure the induction package didn’t extend past the ancillaries. The mounting hardware is the same as used for a big block. In essence, the installation of the XVI engine is about the same width and length as a Chevy big block-based motor.

Performance is staggering. The basic engine runs with the ignition firing every 45 degree, making for a very smooth running engine regardless of output. And that range of output starts at the basic 900 horsepower and moves up through to a 1,400 horsepower model, all normally-aspirated. Forced induction will be offered latter with a 1,600 horsepower supercharged version and 2,000 horsepower with a quad turbocharger setup. We can’t wait to see the first show car with an XVI engine.