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Shell V-Power Nitro+ vs supermarket fuel: Which is better?

Does Shell V-Power Nitro+ make your car faster? Or are you better off sticking with bog standard, no-name unleaded? We got our mits on a dual-fuel car that could handle both the ordinary stuff, then the stuff with the fancy name and huge marketing hype, to see which was best.

V-Power vs regular power: Which is best?
V-Power vs regular power: Which is best?

What is this fancy V-Power Nitro+ petrol anyway?

All top fuel companies produce a cheap, relatively affordable petrol brand aimed at the masses. Some, however, will also sell high-end fuels that are more expensive, but allegedly better for your engine while offering superior performance. Shell V-Power Nitro+ fits into the latter category.

So you’ve tested it?

Shell let us sit in while it tested its dual-fuel car, a Volkswagen Golf, to see for ourselves how V-Power Nitro+ compared to a no-name fuel. The setup was pretty elaborate – the car was fitted with a pair of external fuel tanks, one for the ‘acme’ petrol (an unnamed premium 97RON fuel) and one for the ‘good’ stuff – V-Power Nitro+ rated at 100RON.

The engine, meanwhile, had its spark plugs removed and replaced with alternative plugs fitted with sensors that could monitor the amount of pressure in each of the car’s cylinders, and relay this information to off-board computers. The wheels were removed and the car hooked up to a dynamometer.

How did the test work?

First, Shell’s science bods fired up the engine with the no-brand petrol and drove at a steady 70kmh in fifth gear. During this time they took pressure measurements in the cylinders to get an idea of the level of torque and power being produced in each cylinder during the combustion process.

Next, the scientists closed the taps containing the standard petrol and opened the V-Power Nitro+ taps. They then ran the car for several minutes in order to ensure the previous fuel had burned away, then ran the car at the same 70kmh speed in the same gear, taking measurements all the way.

The 'ordinary' petrol.
The ‘ordinary’ petrol.

So was V-Power Nitro+ better?

So it would seem. When running V-Power Nitro+, the Volkswagen Golf test car produced between three and eight per cent more pressure in its cylinders, indicating those cylinders were producing between three and eight per cent more power and torque.

Why is it so much better?

It’s mainly to due with the octane rating, which is the standard measure of the performance of a motor fuel. The higher the octane number, the more compression the fuel can withstand before it ignites. Modern engines can automatically detect the higher RON rating and adjust their ignition timing so they fire the spark plugs and detonate the fuel earlier in the cylinder, allowing for a bigger, more powerful explosion, which pushes the pistons through the cylinders more forcefully.

V-Power Nitro+
V-Power Nitro+

So is V-Power Nitro+ worth buying?

That depends on how much you value the extra performance, and whether you think you’ll notice the modest increase in power and torque. If you drive a modern sports car and want to extract every last drop of performance, then we recommend it.

Doesn’t Shell V-Power Nitro+ also clean and protect my engine?

It does indeed. V-Power Nitro+ Unleaded is spiked with a formulation called Friction Modification Technology (FMT) which, as far as we can tell, is fancy science talk for ‘lube’. This particular ingredient smears itself over the moving parts of your engine, reducing friction between the piston assembly and cylinder wall by coating them with a protective film. This, in layman’s terms, helps your engine turn more freely, putting less strain on the moving parts.

Does V-Power Nitro+ deliver better economy?

We weren’t able to test this, but it could. Most fuels break down over time, leaving carbon deposits on the fuel injectors. These deposits clog your car’s injectors like a snotty nose, meaning not enough fuel flows into the cylinders. The deposits can also absorb fuel like a sponge, meaning some of it goes to waste. Since V-Power Nitro+ can clean these deposits away and prevent them forming in the first place, there’s every chance you’ll get further on every litre of fuel.

Will V-Power Nitro+ work on every car?

You’ll see the best results on modern cars that are able to alter their ignition timing based on the fuel you put inside them. You’re probably wasting your time on older cars. That said, the Friction Modification Technology (lube, remember?) can help protect older engines and may help increase economy.

Should I buy it?

Shell V-Power Nitro+ does have extra bells and whistles, but that’s not to say ‘ordinary’ fuels don’t. Most of the petrol and diesel fuels sold in the UK are formulated to clean and protect your engine – even the stuff sold at supermarkets, although it’s hard to imagine supermarket fuel being given as much love by as many scientists as V-Power Nitro+. Ultimately, if you value performance and economy, and you can afford the extra outlay, there’s no harm in investing in Nitro+. As fuels go, it’s excellent.  

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