Monday 14th November 2005


99 octane to pep most motors: we test it


Tesco is in the process of rolling out a new 99 octane petrol -- PH has tried it and it seems to work.

Made by petroleum wholesaler and blender Greenergy Fuels, which specialises in 'green' fuels, the new petrol is already being sold in a handful of Tesco forecourts up and down the country but the number is expanding all the time, according to Greenergy boss Andrew Owens.

It's designed to compete directly with Shell Optimax and BP's Ultimate. A Tesco spokeswoman said that it fitted in with Tesco's strategy of selling goods at the value end and at the high end. However, Owens also said that Tesco plans to sell 99 for a premium of 4p/litre over its standard fuel -- about half the premium charged by Shell and BP for their equivalents.

It's also set up to be in line with Government policy of increasing the amount of bio-ethanol in petrol with the aim of reducing harmful emissions -- Tesco 99 is five per cent bio-ethanol.

We tested it

PH went to Prodrive's Warwickshire test facility near Kenilworth to check out the company's claims -- which are undetailed -- that the petrol offers more grunt than standard petrol. Just how much more, Owens wouldn't say. "Testing costs a lot and there's no baseline petrol to compare it to as they're all different," he said. "It's just better."

This sounded amazingly vague, so with BS detectors on full alert, we thraped a pair of Subaru Imprezas and a pair of Ford Fiesta STs round the test track. One of the Scoobies was filled with 97RON fuel -- the minimum recommended by Subaru -- and the other with Tesco 99, while one of the STs was brimmed with 95RON, the other with Tesco 99.

It was a blind test -- we didn't know which car had which fuel, yet your reporter was able to distinguish between them by their performance alone.

The main effect was increased low-down torque. While we had no measuring equipment, the 99-filled Fiesta would spin its front wheels exiting corners under power at the same point on the lap where the other didn't; it also felt more torquey. With the Scoobies, the difference was less marked -- as you'd expect given the lesser difference between the two fuels in the two cars. However, it did feel more perky in the lower end of the rev range, before the turbo kicked in, and we were consistently travelling slightly more quickly at the end of the main straight.

The conclusion you’d have to draw is that a high performance car will experience less improvement using Tesco 99 as it's more likely to be running on a higher octane fuel anyway. But all modern cars with an anti-knock sensor and electronic ignition management should be able to benefit from it, according to Owens, not least because it also contains engine cleaning agents similar to those in Optimax.

So if your car needs high octane fuel, your wallet could benefit from using 99 too.

Photos by Angus Taylor

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