If you use high octane fuel in an engine designed for low octane fuel, the engine will adapt up, slightly. The knock sensor will allow a small increase in ignition advance and there will be a slight increase in power. Slight.Certainly this adaptation will not produce as much additional economy/power as there would be if they increased the compression ratio and optimised for premium.7. Economic rationalism:
Here in Australia, it’s almost never economically rational to use premium fuel in a car designed for regular. The extra cost of the premium fuel is, in practice, never offset by the slight increase in economy. You’re just blowing money out the exhaust pipe unnecessarily.
8. Marketing premium to the masses:
Point number seven is of course fuel manufacturers talking up the alleged ancillary benefits of premium – such as the spurious claim that premium will also keep your engine ‘clean’. And if you believe that, I’ll sell you the Sydney Harbour Bridge. (Hit me up on the website for that…)It’s such bullshit. They’re not promoting premium because it’s a benefit to you – they’re promoting it because it’s a benefit to them.
9. Overseas octane ratings are different:
If you’re reading owner’s manuals from overseas, bear in mind that octane ratings are not constant around the world. Here in Australia, we use ‘research octane number’ or RON. Same standard as most of Europe. Note: most of Europe.But in the United States and Canada (ie North America) they use the Anti-Knock Index, which is the numeric average of the RON and another octane measurement standard called the Motor Octane Number (MON).Essentially, for any given fuel, RON is about four points higher than the Anti-Knock Index. So 91 here – our entry-level cat’s piss petrol – is about the same as 87 gasoline in the USA and Canada.And if you’re wondering why so many Euro cars demand 95 here in Australia, it’s because 95 is the default, entry-level cat’s piss in Europe. They don’t do 91.
10. The full techo explanation:
Time to go 100 per cent propeller-head: Octane rating is an index of the knock resistance of a particular fuel compared to a laboratory standard kind of fuel called iso-octane. Which is actually 2,2,4 tri-methyl pentane – for those of you who remained awake for carbon chemistry in high school.Iso-octane has an octane rating of 100, and another chemical – n-heptane has a rating of zero. There’s your measurement scale.So, essentially, 91 RON unleaded has 91 per cent of the knock resistance of iso-octane when you run the test in a special experimentally controlled engine with a variable compression ratio, against a standard set of test protocols that is basically a miracle cure for insomnia.(What I’m saying is if you make up a litre of fuel from 910 millilitres of iso-octane and 90 millilitres of n-heptane, it’ll perform the same as 91 RON petrol from the pump, etc.)