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Old 06-08-2009, 10:44 AM   #1
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Default The Asphalt Jungle: Coffee, Tea or Premium - by Arthur St. Antoine

I thought this was an interesting publication in Motor Trend Magazine.

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The Asphalt Jungle: Coffee, Tea or Premium
Make Mine Heavy on the Octane, no Whipped Cream, Please
By Arthur St. Antoine

You're a driving enthusiast (don't deny it-your T-shirt says, "Cruise Control Is for the Captain'* Table"). But would you give up your coffee habit to prove it?
This is a rhetorical question if you're a bona-fide kar kook, the guy who dresses his dinner salad with vinegar and Pennzoil and thinks foreplay is the NASCAR prerace show. If you had to, you'd sell your house and put a doorbell on your Corvette. But the rest of us, even those of us in the car-testing business...we play the priorities game. Are the new high-performance summer tires worth a sacrifice elsewhere (yes)? The chrome-plated rear wing (no)?
What about premium fuel? Judging by the letters we receive, for many of you a "premium only" sticker on a new car might as well say "radioactive." "No way I'd buy a car that runs on premium," some write. "Who do you think I am, Bernie Madoff?"
Such responses baffle me, because often the cars that use premium -- say, those with turbos or high-compression engines -- are also the most entertaining. And aren't we, as enthusiasts, ever in search of -- and willing to pay for -- maximum driving delight?
Not all of my colleagues agree with me. Last year, during our "Familial & Frugal" midsize-sedans test (August 200, heated words traded airspace as we debated the top two, the Hyundai Sonata SE and the VW Passat Turbo. Several quarreled that the Sonata deserved the victory, in part because it runs on regular unleaded. No, countered I and a couple others, the Passat Turbo wins -- never mind its premium-fuel requirement. "The VW is a gold-medal athlete," said I. "More expensive to run than the Hyundai but what the Motor Trend reader wants. The Hyundai is simply a nice transport appliance."
Well, my side won that argument, but not without grumbles. "I need to get the name of St. Antoine'* investment advisor," wrote the story'* author, our staff'* ingenious "Mr. Wizard" and an avowed member of the Premium Resistance (I'm too much of a gentleman to mention his name, but it rhymes with "Tim Reynolds").
Now back to those priorities. You see, "Tim" loves Starbucks like Romeo loved Juliet. In fact, he'* almost never without a barista-crafted java beverage near his supercomputer (during one desert-based comparo, Tim even called-in the Starbucks Sikorsky to air-drop hot venti lattes to our test site). Cost is no object amid Tim'* caffeine ardor. Starbucks, where art thou?
Let'* do the numbers. According to Department of Energy figures, regular gas in the U.*. now averages $2.05 per gallon versus $2.28 for premium. Say you drive 15,000 miles per year, and you're looking at two cars that each get, say, 20 mpg. It'd cost you $172 annually to enjoy the high-compression premium version -- just 47 cents a day. You can't swig Chock full o'Nuts for so little.
What if we dramatically widen the premium gap? You're comparing a "sensible" car that runs on regular and gets 25 mpg versus a high-output enthusiast'* model that requires premium and gets just 15 mpg. Still driving 15K miles annually, say regular costs the same $2.05 a gallon but premium jumps to $2.50 per. Your enthusiast-car levy: about $3.50 per day -- which, conveniently, is roughly what it costs for just one large white-and-green cup of Seattle latte.
Those priorities again. You'd trade maximum vehicular pleasure for a daily quaff of overpriced, arabica-flavored hot milk? Say it ain't so, Joe.
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Old 06-08-2009, 12:04 PM   #2
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Funny but it didnt even cover the main points of premium. First it you have a high compression or boosted engine, the extra cost is negated by higher MPG. This is so evident in a GXP, it only takes a tank of each and a glance at the DIC to see the diff. LEt'* not forget running regular routinely in a high compression engine is likely to cause early engine failure, possibly a hole through a piston. Sure antiknock sensors work, but after the KR is already happening, and their pulling back timing only hurts your wallet with poor MPG. Throw the Starbucks out the window and run 93. It'* worth the extra.

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