For the last 3 months I’ve filled both of my cars with Shell’s new wonder fuel, V-Power Nitro+. You may have spotted the bright red signs on Shell forecourts but if you’re not familiar with the fuel you can read about the day I spent with Shell’s engineers learning what it’s all about.
By running Nitro+ in both cars I’ve been able to test both the petrol and diesel versions, and after a combined total of more than 3,500 miles it’s time to look at the results.
2010 Nissan Note 1.4 Petrol
The little Note isn’t the ideal candidate for testing this fuel. Promises of improved performance are all very well if you’ve got a few hundred horsepower at your disposal but when you’ve only got 86bhp to start with you’ll be struggling to notice any increase.
Sadly, even with a tank of Shell’s finest, the needle on the little Note’s speedometer still took the same 13 seconds to work it’s way around to the 60mph mark. There was perhaps a sharper response from the throttle but that might have been my imagination.
However, one thing we did notice is that the Note seemed happier on cold mornings. You can’t blame it for a little grumpiness after being stuck out in the frost overnight but with Nitro+ it was less hesitant when pulling away.
As far as economy goes there was no noticeable difference. Normally the Note returns 41-42mpg and that’s exactly what it continued to do.
2008 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCI
The bulk of my V-Power testing was done in the Focus, with just over 2,700 miles covered on the new fuel. The results were interesting.
As far as performance is concerned there was no difference at all. Throttle response remained the same and there were no noticeable effects on power or delivery. The Focus drove in the same clattery way as it always does.
However, the Nitro+ did have an effect on the particulate filter. My Focus’s DPF is nearing the end of its life, having covered 67,000 miles of the 75,000 miles that Ford predicts in the service schedule. The regeneration cycles, where the engine squirts diesel into the filter to raise temperatures and burn off the trapped soot, are now coming rather frequently, a sign that the filter is on its last legs. Typically it will travel 130-140 miles between cycles but when it was new that used to be nearly 500 miles.
With Nitro+ in the tank I noticed that the regeneration cycles were less frequent. The Focus was travelling around 40 miles further between each cycle, suggesting that Shell’s fuel produces less soot when burnt. Fewer regeneration cycles mean you’re wasting less fuel and putting less strain on the filter and that can only be a good thing.
Typically the Focus returns around 55mpg in winter, down from its summer average of 59mpg, but while I’ve run it on Nitro+ this winter’s average has been a respectable 58mpg. That seems like a big improvement until you factor in one of the mildest winters in memory. So the difficult question is how much of that increase in mpg is down to the fuel and how much is thanks to the lack of a proper winter?
As was explained to me when I went to see Shell’s engineers, many of the benefits of Shell’s fuel are only visible from the inside of the engine. Having neither the time nor the ability to crack open an engine I can’t tell you whether the Note’s or Focus’ fuel injectors, pistons and cylinders are in better condition now than they were at the start of this trial.
Having said that, Shell gave a very convincing demonstration of the long-term benefits of using V-Power and I’m inclined to take their word on it.
At the time of writing a litre of Shell V-Power Nitro+ is 137.9p for unleaded and 145.9p for diesel, which compares to 129.9p and 137.9p for regular Shell. Meanwhile, my nearest supermarket is churning out their own-brand fuel for 127.7p and 134.7p.
So there’s a significant overhead to switching to Nitro+. If you’re running your car on a tight budget you will undoubtedly think twice about adding £5 to a typical 50-litre tank.
On the other hand, you should consider the long-term benefits of keeping your engine’s internals clean and healthy. The effects on my diesel’s particulate filter were also worth noting, as clogged DPFs are a notorious source of problems on modern diesel engines.
Personally I’ll be making the switch to Nitro+. Maybe not on every fill up, but that’s as much to do with the location of my nearest Shell station as it is to do with saving pennies. I know there are those who shout ‘snake oil’ when talking about wonder fuels like this, but I’m inclined to believe Shell’s scientists and their very convincing demos.
When it comes to the long-term health of your car, isn’t it worth a few quid extra to keep it in its prime?