Petronas Dagangan has launched the mystery fuel teased some time back – the PRIMAX 95 Xtra was officially introduced last night in a short launch ceremony during the Twin Towers @Live 2011 open air concert at KLCC Park.

The RON 95 fuel was unveiled at the event – in conjunction with the unveiling of the “All The Way” brand tagline – by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The new gasoline, which the company says is inspired by Formula One technology and is proven to deliver superior power as well as greater kilometres per litre, replaces the existing PRIMAX 95 at the pump and is now available at over 950 Petronas service stations nationwide.

“Today’s launch of the PRIMAX 95 Xtra showcases the importance of continuing research and improvement to the PRIMAX line of products in growing our retail business, as we believe that growth cannot only be in terms of the number of Petronas service stations we have, but also in continuously improving the quality of our fuel,” Petronas Dagangan’s managing director and chief executive officer Amir Hamzah Aziz said.

A quick trivia aside: Ford Fiesta owners should be chuffed – the car features in the ad campaign to usher in the new fuel.

Two years in the making, the Euro 2M-rated fuel features an advanced multifunctional additive package, headed by a robust mix of advanced combustion improvers and friction modifiers to deliver efficient combustion and reduce internal friction, resulting in maximum work achieved for every drop of fuel burned.

Besides the usual demulsifier and anti-corrosion bits, there’s a new synthetic detergent as part of the package to provide a superior cleaning edge and maintain engine cleanliness for optimum performance. Which makes the Xtra great value for the consumer, given the higher costs in having such a comprehensive additive package in the product (the additive package offers around 10% improvement in fuel economy over a base fuel).

On the whole, the promise with this one is that it delivers more power, offers better acceleration and enhanced fuel economy compared to the typical Malaysian commercial gasoline, so it goes.

In use, a sampling run with a full tank of PRIMAX 95 Xtra ahead of the official launch proved that the claims are pretty much nailed. Previously referred to as the Mystery Fuel (with a different pre-launch Experience to Believe tagline), several blind tests were conducted among the public, media as well as Petronas Dagangan’s employees ahead of Xtra’s introduction.

As part of that exercise, I was given a tankful of the fuel to try out, though I had to wait for the second fueling weekend for that to happen, since I had coincidentally tanked up with the now-replaced PRIMAX 95 a couple of days before the first session.

Despite no reference to the octane number grading at point of test, it wasn’t too hard to figure out the new fuel was very much a 95, albeit a very well masked one. Having been persistent in my use of RON 97 even with the introduction of 95 into the market and despite the ever increasing rates, there’s a definite sensitivity to changes brought about in certain aspects of performance (and for sure, fuel consumption) on my Ford Focus 1.8 Zetec manual that makes it easy to spot the characteristics of how 97 and 95 differ.

That I had just switched to 95 the fill before the sampling on the ride after six years of running 97 on it – with the odd 95 fill to keep abreast of things – had a reason; the car is being sold (alright, no disparaging comments now). So, it was rather timely and helpful that the control fuel for comparison was PRIMAX 95 Xtra’s predecessor.

Now, the reason I don’t run 95 is because there’s a certain roughness about its behaviour that doesn’t appeal, as well as working on the basis that more is more (where the higher the octane rating, the more energy is required to ignite a substance, but with the increased energy required for ignition there is also the product of more energy being released).

Going with 97 isn’t an issue cost-wise for me because it takes about two to three weeks to finish a tank cycle. I figure that when the new ride arrives soon that I still wouldn’t use 95, and PRIMAX 95 in outgoing form wouldn’t have convinced me otherwise in any case.

PRIMAX 95 Xtra, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. It’s intrinsically smoother than the old one, though still not quite into 97 territory. Standouts include a decent upswing in acceleration, especially in the low to midband area, though what’s most impressive about the new Xtra is its linearity when the car is pushed hard.

Throttle response is also a fair bit better, and about the only downside to having the increased performance is that the engine does get more raucous when you hammer it along, a by-product I think most will have little to complain about.

Equally impressive too are the consumption returns, at least with this single fill calculation to work on. I do however have to bite my lip about whether the 12.7 km per litre consumption obtained is a consistently repeatable achievement (my average with a competitor’s 97 hovers between 11.7 to 12.2 km per litre per fill, which translates to around 600 km or so per 50 litre fill, daily urban cycle; I’ve been logging every tankful for six years now!), but am intrigued enough to see if it is (provided the Focus stays long enough to do so!).

So, better than your average 95 in terms of performance and as good as any fuel in the market in terms of fuel consumption, if the sampling is any indication, PRIMAX 95 Xtra looks like a significant step forward, one that promises motorists more returns for every Ringgit and establishes a new benchmark for the industry. X, in this case, does mark the spot.