Performance Unleaded Gasoline

By Kevin Miller

09.04.2009

trick_logoI’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.

Filling up with TRICKThe 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.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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10 Comments

  1. Until very recently, Sunoco stations in my area sold 94 octane gas at the regular pumps (years ago, they sold 86, 87, 91, 93, and 94, I believe, then eliminated 86, and later seem to have eliminated 94). Nowadays every station here in Pennsylvania offers just 87, 89, and 93. 89 is aparently for the wishy-washy people who can’t decide between regular and premium. I’ve never used it in my life.

    Sadly, my Cadillac’s ECU – designed for 87 octane – doesn’t seem to even care if I put 93 in it – everything seemed the same to me, so I get my 304 horsepower on the cheap stuff. $8.45 a gallon is outrageous, but I’d still do it once in a while for fun if it actually worked in my car.

  2. I go to the local airport and get “avgas”. Expensive but worth the temporary thrill.

  3. I guess you can’t exactly call this “cheap thrills” but it probably gives you good fun for the deal as long as you’re pushing your car hard enough to get your money’s worth.

  4. $8.45 a gallon??? You’re CRAZY. I understand if you’re going to “race car school.” But just to drive around in Seattle traffic? That’s just nuts.

  5. I’m wondering how you can even tell how much horsepower you’re gaining. Unless you have a dyno in your garage. It can’t feel that different just driving it around on the street.

  6. Here in Singapore, the lowest grade we get is 92, and even that is rare and almost phased out. Most people pump either 95 or 98 octane here. Interesting how different the octanes are for different countries. I believe it’s higher here because we are a major petroleum refining centre.

  7. Too pricey for me, even if it was just a tankful to go sporting about with as a test. I have a feeling I would just be disappointed after it was over.

  8. $8.45 a gallon??? You’re CRAZY

    European fuel prices in America today? 😉

  9. How about a little E-85 to boost that octane it works in my taurus to give it a little shot in the arm kind of like a energy drink…..

  10. The difference in price between the racing gas and premium used to be less. I wonder what has changed because the price difference now is huge.

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