More cars use pricier premium gas

More cars use pricier premium gas
At a time of record pump prices for regular gas, automakers are
introducing more cars that use even costlier premium.
The number of new vehicle models that need — or at least run better on — the priciest gasoline has steadily risen from 166 in the 2002 model year to 282 this year, shows an analysis by Kelley Blue Book at the request of USA TODAY.
CHART: More vehicles prefer premium gas
More may be on the way. Automakers are turning to smaller, high-performance engines, which use premium as a way to boost mileage without losing power.
Being able to boast of a couple more miles per gallon can be a selling point but won't quell the ire down the road of buyers having to put in the glamour gas, says David Champion, auto testing chief for Consumer Reports. "People really, really, really dislike putting premium into their car," Champion says. "You see the cheaper fuel right in front of you, and you can't use it."
Gasoline could hit an inflation-adjusted record this week. On Sunday, the nationwide average for a gallon of premium was $3.708, 33.7 cents higher than regular at $3.371, AAA says.
A range of vehicles require or recommend premium. Examples:
•General Motors. Besides for big engines such as the 6.2-liter V-8 in the GMC Yukon sport utility, premium is recommended for the miserly 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine on the Chevy Cobalt compact and Chevy HHR small SUV.
•Mazda. Premium is recommended on the MX-5 sports car and CX-7 crossover, and it's required on the RX-8 sports coupe and racy Mazdaspeed 3. Failure to use premium in them could invalidate a warranty if it were found to cause a problem, says spokesman Jeremy Barnes.
•Volkswagen. Premium is recommended for even the new compact Eos convertible, along with various versions of GTI, Jetta, Passat, R32 and Touareg. "People who buy VW are looking for a more sport-drive experience," says spokesman Steve Keyes, and premium is part of the "trade-off."
•BMW. While BMW calls for premium across much of its line, regular is OK as long as motorists understand that engine power will drop off 3% to 5%, says spokesman Rob Mitchell.
"Today, in virtually all engines out there, you could drop down an octane rating and probably not notice," says Jack Nerad, Kelley's editorial director. Engine computers adjust to eliminate ping that can come from burning less-potent fuel, but the motor also will put out less power.
There are attempts to avoid premium. The new Cadillac STS has a direct-injection six-cylinder engine with 18% more horsepower that doesn't need it.
Owners manuals are usually the quickest way to find out if a car needs premium.
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