CR Tests Show No Advantage In Premium Gas

Consumer Reports recently tested a 2016 Nissan Maxima V-6 and a 2105 Acura TLX 4 cylinder. The manufacturers of both say that premium fuel is recommended for their cars. But does using regular gas have any effect on performance or mileage? According to CR, the answer is no. Fist, both cars were driven until nearly empty. Then they were filled with regular gas and driven until almost empty again. Then and only then were they filled with regular so the testing could begin.

premium gas vs regular gas

Consumer Reports takes is testing very seriously. “All tests were conducted following our stringent fuel economy test protocol, with consumption measured through an inline fuel meter,” it says. “At the end of their testing regimen, here is what they found.
“Both sedans achieved the same fuel economy when tested with regular fuel as with premium. During this testing, the cars felt and sounded the same; we did not experience any engine pinging or knocking noise in either car when using regular fuel.

“The owner’s manuals indicate that you might notice a decrease in performance when running on regular, but our test results say otherwise. The 0-60 mph acceleration times were identical in the TLX and Maxima on regular and premium gas.” Premium gas costs significantly more than regular — when gas was selling for $2.00 a gallon recently, premium was often 50 cents a gallon more. Talk about a premium!

Both Nissan and Acura recommend but do not require premium gas. Acura says in the owner’s manual to use “top tier detergent gasoline.” That can be regular, mid-grade, or premium fuel, Consumer Reports says. The Acura owner’s manual states, “Use of lower octane gasoline can cause occasional metallic knocking noise in the engine and will result in decreased engine performance.” But in testing, Consumer Reports says knocking was not an issue and performance was the identical.

A spokesperson for Nissan said in an e-mail to Consumer Reports that “it is possible for the same performance to be realized using non-premium fuel.” The e-mail went on to say that there could be some conditions where performance — including fuel economy — might be compromised on extremely hot days. The e-mail reiterated that Nissan recommends using premium fuel to guarantee advertised performance.

CR notes that so long as the owner is in compliance with the fuel requirements stated in the owner’s manual, the manufacturer’s power train warranty will not be affected by using good quality regular gas. If, however, the manufacturer requires the use of premiu, fuel, the owner must abide by that requirement.

As of the date of its report, May 27, 2016, Consumer Reports says the average price difference in the US between regular and premium is 47 cents a gallon. That means using regular could save drivers hundreds of dollars a year with no performance or durability penalty. How much you save depends on the average fuel economy of your car. Here at the results that CR calculates:

Fuel Economy Savings Per Year
30 mpg $188
25 mpg $226
20 mpg $282
15 mpg $376

Consumer Reports says there is no downside to using regular instead of premium if the higher grade fuel is merely recommended, not required. The only difference the vast majority of drivers will notice is more money in their pockets. CR also says, “It is key to note our car reliability data consistently show that the most dependable cars tend to be those running on regular fuel.”

Source and photo credit: Consumer Reports


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.