Fueling the Debate: Is Premium Unleaded Worth the Extra Dollars?
The eternal debate over whether premium unleaded fuel is worth the extra cost has been a topic of discussion among car enthusiasts and everyday drivers alike. To settle this debate, we took renowned automotive journalist Paul Maric's Ford Ranger Raptor to the VinFast Proving Ground in Lang Lang, Victoria. The goal was simple: to investigate the real-world impact of different fuel types on performance. Before delving into the results, let's first understand what a fuel's octane rating means in practice.
Decoding Octane Ratings
In Australia, the majority of petrol stations offer 91 RON regular unleaded, followed by E10 (94 RON), 95 RON premium unleaded, and 98 RON premium unleaded. The octane rating measures a fuel's resistance to burning. High-performance engines, with their elevated compression ratios, require fuel with higher burn resistance to prevent issues like engine knock.
Engine Knock and Performance Impact
Putting a lower octane fuel in a car designed for a higher octane rating can result in engine knock, where the fuel ignites prematurely, potentially causing damage and increased wear over time. Even if no damage occurs, using a lower octane fuel can impact the performance of your vehicle.
To gauge the impact of different fuel types on the Ford Ranger Raptor, which is rated to run on regular 91 RON or higher, we conducted a series of tests. First, we fueled the Raptor with 98 RON premium unleaded (Ampol Amplify) and tested its 0-100km/h, 80-120km/h, and quarter-mile times. We then repeated the process with 95 RON premium unleaded and 91 RON regular unleaded.
The differences in performance were indeed noticeable across the three fuel types:
- 98 RON Premium: 0-100km/h in 5.72 seconds, 80-120km/h in 3.65 seconds, Quarter mile in 14.01s @ 156.94km/h.
- 95 RON Premium: 0-100km/h in 5.97 seconds, 80-120km/h in 3.82 seconds, Quarter mile in 14.10s @ 155.73km/h.
- 91 RON Unleaded: 0-100km/h in 6.44 seconds, 80-120km/h in 4.32 seconds, Quarter mile in 14.53s @ 150.98km/h.
The data from our experiment demonstrates that there is indeed a marked difference in performance based on the octane rating of the fuel used. While the Ford Ranger Raptor can run on regular 91 RON, opting for a higher octane fuel, such as 98 RON, resulted in improved acceleration and overall performance. The decision on what fuel to put in your car may come down to your vehicle's specifications, your driving habits, and whether you're willing to pay a premium for that extra boost on the road. What fuel do you put in your car? The choice might be more impactful than you think.