Do Sports Cars Really Need Premium Gas?

Do Sports Cars Really Need Premium Gas?

Premium gas is the fuel of choice for many luxury car owners. Many manufacturers also recommend using high octane gas on their sports cars, but do you need it?

One of the reasons why premium gas is better than your regular fuel is because of its higher octane rating. Premium gas contains a mix of hydrocarbons that have lower combustibility than those found in regular or mid-grade unleaded fuel. 

Because of its low combustion, premium gas can prevent preignition, which is the leading cause of engine knock. This engine problem often produces a pinging sound and an erratic rattling from your car’s hood.

Preignition happens before you start the engine. Often, the gas mixture in your engine ignites prematurely because of the pressure that the piston exerts on itself. These smaller and less powerful explosions can potentially damage your engine and decrease its efficiency over time. 

Does Premium Gas Make a Difference for a Sports Car? 

Several studies have found out that using premium gas can significantly affect the performance of your sports car. However, it usually only makes a difference for engines that run on a high compression ratio. 

Sports cars get more power because of their high compression engine, but they also run the risk of detonation before the spark plug even gets ignited. For this reason, luxury cars need fuel that doesn’t efficiently combust because of pressure. 

Marco of Youtube channel Marchettino, tested if premium gas makes a difference. He took his Nissan GT-R for some dyno runs at Romero Ferraris. He then loaded different premium gas with varying octane ratings. Here are the results that he got:

Premium GasHorsepower (hp)Torque (Nm)
Octane 95486 612
Octane 100511665
Octane 102501632

While the jump in horsepower and torque are quite notable, it will be hard to notice during the actual drive. For example, using high octane fuel usually results in a faster 0-100 kph acceleration, but only by a split second. 

If you want to squeeze out every advantage, you could get out of your sports car, then do use premium gas. However, you also have to pay a “premium” to the tune of 50 cents to a buck per gallon. 

RELATED: Why Do Sports Cars Have Large Wheels?

Benefits of Using Premium Fuel 

Several automotive experts have said before that it’s difficult to separate the benefits of premium gas from the marketing hype. For example, it’s hard to determine if premium fuel is cleaner than its regular counterpart. 

Part of the benefits of premium fuel comes not because of its superior quality. Instead, they are more compatible with the car’s engine. Below are some of the known benefits of using premium fuel:

  • High resistance to knocking, which enables the engine to run efficiently
  • Prevents damage to mechanical components because of preignition or early detonation
  • Significantly increases engine performance in terms of power and torque output
  • High octane fuels were found to have fewer pollutants

RELATED: Why Do Sports Cars Have Large Wheels?

10 Sports Cars that Can Run on Regular Unleaded Gas

Not all sports cars need premium unleaded gas to achieve its optimal performance. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), numerous car models can run just fine on regular and mid-grade gasoline. 

These sports cars are installed with engines that are not Below are EPA-certified sports cars that can run just fine on regular unleaded gas.

1. Audi A3

Available in cabriolet and subcompact sedan variants, the A3 comes with a 2.0-Liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A regular -grade gas works OK, but a premium gas can release its 220 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque potential. 

2. Audi TT

This two-door coupe slash roadster runs on a 2.0-Liter turbocharged direct injection (TDI) engine that produces 167 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque. It has a top speed of 226 kilometers per hour (kph) and can accelerate from 0-100 kph in 7.5 seconds. 

3. Cadillac ATS

Contrary to popular belief, the larger engine of the ATS can run on regular-grade gas. It’s 3.6-Liter V6 engine spurts 335 horsepower and 386 Nm of torque. However, its smaller engine, the 2.0-Liter turbocharged engine, can only take in premium fuel. 

4. Cadillac CTS

Cadillac’s executive midsize premium sedan shares the same engine with its smaller sibling, the ATS. The third generation of this car model, the CT5, is now built on the Alpha 2 platform. The CTS-V held the Nurburgring record for a production sedan until July 2009. 

5. Chevrolet Camaro

While the rest of the line of the Camaro requires premium fuel, the base model is quite different. Running on regular fuel, the entry-level Camaro packs 335 horsepower and 385 Nm of torque. That’s plenty of power to launch it from 0-100 kph in just 4.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 290 kph. 

6. Dodge Challenger

The Dodge Challenger is known for its massive V8 engines, which makes this two-seater coupe a legitimate road monster. Some of its top-variants are even equipped with engines that run on premium gas and can supply 840 horsepower. However, if you don’t want the gas guzzler models, you can go for the V6 engines, which run on regular-grade fuel. 

7. Dodge Charger

The base model of the seventh generation of the Dodge Charger has a 3.6-Liter V6 engine that produces 292 horsepower and 353 Nm of torque. Its American automaker also brought in a new 8-speed automatic transmission. 

8. Ford Mustang

One of the most iconic sports cars in the world also comes with a variant that runs doesn’t run on premium gas. The original pony car comes with a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine for the standard variant and a 5.0-liter V8 for the GT version. Both drivers can run on regular unleaded fuel. 

9. Volkswagen Golf GTI

As the second most powerful variant in the Golf model, the GTI is equipped with a 2.0-Liter turbocharged inline-four engine. This small engine can bring out 296 horsepower and 380 Nm of torque. This sporty car can reach up to 249 kph and can accelerate from 0-100 kph in just 5.1 seconds. 

10. Volvo S60 

This compact luxury sedan is equipped with a 2.0-Liter inline-five engine, which provides 161 horsepower and 240 Nm of torque. The model line also comes with the gutsy T8 variant with a 0-100 kph in 4.4 seconds. 

Sports cars with high compression ratios work great with premium gas. Meanwhile, most vehicles with low compression ratios usually don’t need to be loaded with premium gas to run smoothly. 

RELATED: This Is Why Sports Cars Have Low Suspension

Should I Use Premium Gas for My Sports Car?

If you look into your car owner’s manual, it usually tells you whether the car manufacturer “recommends” or “requires” premium gas. Just because they recommend using high octane fuel, it doesn’t automatically means that you still can’t go for regular unleaded fuel. 

Often, cars that are simply recommended to use premium gas can still run on regular gasoline. For example, some luxury cars like the 2009 Lincoln MKS and the Cadillac STS are built to use ordinary unleaded fuel. 

Using regular unleaded gas, however, may affect the engine output quite a bit. According to conservative estimates, the performance drop is anywhere between five to ten percent. So, if you are not racing in your sports car or going for a time trial, then go for regular gas.  

Furthermore, most modern engines are equipped with knock sensors. These devices detect signs of preignition, such as vibration and rattling within the engine’s cylinders. It then sends signals to the Engine Control Module (ECM), which then adjusts the engine’s timing to limit or prevent the knock. 

However, if the owner’s manual requires explicitly premium gas, then there is no going around it. 


Most sports cars need premium gas because they can bring out the full potential of their engines. However, there are quite a few exceptions that can run on regular unleaded gasoline just fine. Before you consider using regular unleaded fuel, check first with your car owner’s manual. 

Related Questions

What are the different premium grades of fuel in the US?

Octane rating or Anti-Knock Index (AKI) is the measurement used to describe the knock resistance of different unleaded gas. Other countries, such as Australia, use Research Octane Number (RON). In the US, the rating uses AKI metrics and goes as follows:

  • Regular Octane Fuel (87)
  • Mid-Grade Octane Fuel (88-90)
  • Premium Octane Fuel (91-94)

When should you switch to higher octane fuel?

There is still a possibility that your car’s engine may experience knocking even if you are using the recommended octane rating for your fuel. If this has ever happened to you, consider switching to a higher rating premium gas. 

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