Regular Cars that Take Premium Gasoline

Premium_gas_door
It's common to see "requires 91 octane gasoline for best performance" on the fuel door of sports or luxury cars. So, we scratch our heads when we see the same premium recommendation on a family car, hybrid or non-performance car. According to AAA's FuelGauge Report, the price difference between regular and premium gas is 32 cents nationally. Spending an additional $4.80 on a 15-gallon refuel isn't an insignificant amount of money, and you could save it if you buy a similarly efficient car at a similar price that runs on regular gasoline. 
 
Below is a list of cars that you may not guess recommend or require premium fuel. The manufacturer's fuel recommendation from the owner's manual or consumer website is listed alongside each vehicle. 

Truthfully, most cars can run on regular gasoline even when they "recommend" premium. It's the "requires" premium you'll have to watch out for and read the owner's manual fuel requirements carefully.  A modern engine's computer can compensate for lower octane gasoline to run the fuel safely, though there's typically a tradeoff in performance and fuel economy.
 
High-compression engines and engines using superchargers and turbochargers are more susceptible to engine knocking and need higher octane fuel to keep fuel burn in control. Usually relegated to performance and luxury cars, high compression engines and turbochargers are finding their way into more pedestrian cars because in many applications they increase the efficiency of smaller engines. 
 
2013 Acura ILX Hybrid
Owner's manual: "Unleaded premium gasoline, pump octane number 91 or higher. Use of lower octane gasoline can cause occasional metallic knocking noise in the engine and will result in decreased engine performance. Use of gasoline with a pump octane less than 87 can lead to engine damage."
 
Chevrolet-volt
2013 Chevrolet Volt

A GM representative has told us the Volt can run on regular in an emergency, but premium should be used for maximum fuel economy and performance. 
 
Owner's manual: "Use premium unleaded gasoline with a posted octane rating of 91 or higher. If the octane is less than 91, you could damage the engine."
 
2013 Dodge Dart Aero with turbocharged 1.4-liter 
Dodge's most-efficient Dart trim level is the Aero that has a 41 mpg highway rating with a six-speed manual transmission and turbocharged 1.4-liter engine. The Aero has some aerodynamic features that other turbocharged Darts don't, and when running on premium gas, this specific model delivers the 41 mpg estimate. 
 
Owner's manual: "This engine is designed to meet all emission regulations and provide satisfactory fuel economy and performance when using high-quality unleaded regulargasoline having an octane rating of 87. For optimum performance and fuel economy the use of 91 octane or higher is recommended."
 
2012 Fiat 500 (non-turbo)
Owner's manual: "Your vehicle is designed to meet all emission regulations and provide satisfactory fuel economy and performance when using high-quality unleaded gasoline having an octane range of 87 to 91. The manufacturer recommends the use of 91 octane or higher for optimum performance."
 
2013 Lexus GS450h (hybrid)
Owner's manual: "Use of unleaded gasoline with an octane rating lower than 91 may result in engine knocking and significantly reduced performance. Persistent knocking can lead to engine damage and should be corrected by refueling with higher octane unleaded gasoline."
 
2013 Lexus RX 450h (hybrid)
The Lexus RX 450h is a luxury SUV that uses premium – not uncommon – but the non-hybrid RX 350 recommends regular gasoline. 
 
Owner's manual: "Ratings achieved using the required premium unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher. If premium fuel is not used, performance will decrease."
 
2013 Mini Cooper (non-turbo)
EPA's Fueleconomy.gov: Recommended fuel: Premium
 
2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT with 3.0-liter V-6
Owner's manual: "To get maximum performance, premium gasoline is recommended."
 
2013-smart-for-two
2013 Smart ForTwo

The 2013 Smart ForTwo can lose 3 mpg when running regular fuel instead of premium, according to Smart's how-to on maximizing ForTwo efficiency.
 
Owner's manual: "To maintain the engine's durability and performance, premium unleaded gasoline must be used."
 
From Smart USA's how-to on increasing the ForTwo's gas mileage: "The engine in your Smart ForTwo requires premium fuel for maximum fuel economy and performance." "Fuel economy using premium is approx. 3 mpg better than regular fuel."

Related
2013 Dodge Dart Aero Rated at 41 MPG
Does the Chevy Volt Require Premium Fuel? Yes and No
Smart ForTwo: 40 MPG Highway, But it Uses Premium

Comments 

Bowrider

This is interesting information because over the years, consumer advocates have consistently stated that premium fuel does nothing to change the performance or mileage of a vehicle.

Ben

"This is interesting information because over the years, consumer advocates have consistently stated that premium fuel does nothing to change the performance or mileage of a vehicle."

That is true for cars that weren't designed to run on premium gas. Not so here.

J

My first gen Vibe GT REQUIRES premium fuel because of a high compression engine in a compact wagon.

George

Acura ILX has a CVT, so it really doesn't matter if you use regular/mid/premium.
The Volt uses premium in order to stave off AKI decay over time, and for optimized power generation. If I never recharged, I'd use regular.
The Dodge Dart uses a lot of boost, and doesn't have direct injection, stick with premium.
The base Fiat 500 has MultiAir, but no direct injection. If I had a stick, I'd use premium, if I has the automatic, I'd use mid-grade.
Lexus: Both hybrids use IVT, so stick with regular
Mini Cooper: stick-premium, automatic-mid-grade.
Mitsubishi Outlander: If I use the manumatic interface, then I'd use premium, otherwise mid-grade.
Smart: mid-grade

Highdesertcat

All my cars run better on premium unleaded gasoline, and that includes my wife's 2012 Grand Cherokee FFV V6.

Running on premium unleaded means less knocking and pinging in the engine and requires a lot less gas pedal to get the car to move.

Cars run even better when they run on pure-gas, no ethanol!

Fortunately I can still find some pure-gas in my area. Everyone should be so lucky.

Freedom Mann

I've only driven cars that run on premium but the problem is that the oil companies don't always ship premium to their outlets; they've been repeatedly caught at this.

Aura Diamond

I'm looking at the lexus GS450h. What is ivy? Looks like George says use of regular grade fuel is ok. Do others agree?

Aura Diamond

oops, what is ivt...auto correct

timmyy

for mini cooper 2012, according to manual page 187, premium is 'highly recommended' but its okay to use 89 on cooper s and john cooper works, and 87 on cooper. and it says it does not affect on the engine life.

Bert

Was this article written by an oil company shill? Lol. Because it has been proven through many tests by everyone from consumer reports to television stations to fleet vehicle owners to independent labs, that premium has no noticeable improvement on a vehicle's performance UNLESS it is a high performance sports car. Otherwise, anyone driving a regular family vehicle, truck, SUV etc and believes premium is doing anything better for their car is suffering from the old placebo affect. That's a fact.

victor lebron

Placebo affect or effect?

You need to read more dude; premium gas not only protects your engine from high pressure of bad ignition of regular gas fuel; this alone is sufficient to stop using regular gas and switch to premium gas; your computer has to compensate for this issue and it brings down the car performance maybe not noticed by many but I do. I have a toyota sienna 2000 that was knocking all over the place until I used premium fuel it responds better; no knocking and I measured my mpg and it is waaaay better than regular. Believe me you want your engine to be working at 100% without computer interference or delaying cylinder speed then use premium.

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