Performance Unleaded Gasoline
By Kevin Miller
I’m a car guy, and as a car guy there are some things I’ll do that don’t make sense to normal people. I’ll wash my car in the rain if I’m headed out to a meet. I’ll wash my car immediately before I leave on a road trip (much to the irritation of my wife) so that I can make the trip in a clean car. Besides laboring over the car’s appearance, I deliberate over which tires, oil, carwash, wax, leather treatment, and everything other thing that goes into the maintenance and operation of my car.
That said, I always use the premium fuel recommended for my turbocharged, five-cylinder Volvo V70R. While the highest octane unleaded generally available in the Pacific Northwest is 92, there’s a little station in the town of Auburn, just down the hill from Pacific Raceway, where Trick Racing Gasoline’s 101 Octane Trick Performance Unleaded is sold. As I’ve discovered, the higher octane fuel I put into the Volvo, the closer it gets to producing it’s mythical 300 HP rating.
I got hooked on Trick about a year after I got my R, when I went to a performance driving school with some other Volvo R owners. A couple of them had tried the 101 Octane Performance Unleaded in their cars, and recommended stopping by the station on the way to the track to top off the tank.
The reason my turbocharged Volvo comes alive with the higher-octane fuel is because the engine management system is programmed to use European premium unleaded gasoline, which typically is minimum 94 octane. Mixing about 10 gallons of 92 octane Premium Unleaded with about 8 gallons of Trick Performance Unleaded gets a mix with an octane rating approaching 95. That allows the Volvo to generate a maximum amount of power from its 2.5 liter five-cylinder engine.
While I haven’t timed the car or put it on a dynomometer either on 92 octane or higher, the car is noticeably quicker (and quicker-revving) with the higher-octane fuel. It allows the car to live up to its promise of performance, which so often it cannot deliver because of a combination of lower octane and elevated ambient temperature.
Of course, Trick Performcnce Unleaded is not easy to find, and it is expensive to buy. I happened to drive right by the station in Auburn, which is about 40 miles from my home, enroute to a business meeting. It had been about two years since I’d used the performance unleaded. Upon arriving at the station, my Volvo’s fuel gauge indicated that I had just over 1/2 tank left, which meant it would take about 8-10 gallons. While I’d previously paid around $5.50/gallon for it, this time the fuel cost $8.45/gallon. The half tank of fuel cost almost $70. With premium unleaded costing around $3.25/gallon around here at that time, that is a significant price increase to increase the octane.
While most vehicles don’t require premium fuel, cars designed for it may not return rated horsepower or economy when operated on a lower fuel grade. If you have a car that uses premium fuel, especially if that car is turbocharged or its engine management system can alter the performance program based on octane, splurge on a higher octane fuel when you’ll be able to use and enjoy the added performance. It’s a way to get a little extra enjoyment out of your performance car.
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