As first gigs go, it wasn’t that bad. From his secret lair beneath a hollowed-out volcano, SSL’s notorious Jack Baruth asked me to head to Las Vegas for a weekend. As a lifelong oval-track fan, I was on the plane before he had a chance to change his mind and send me to a minivan “first drive” instead. The trip didn’t disappoint; I had a chance to watch Kevin Harvick hammer out his thirty-fifth career Nationwide Series win, I saw and met a variety of celebrities of the NASCAR and non-NASCAR variety (see above photo) and I also attended a presentation on the new Pennzoil Ultra “full synthetic” motor oil.
The definition of “full synthetic” in the US is complex enough to rate its own Wikipedia page (and here it is) but all the information we could find indicates that Ultra is, in some or possibly all blends, a “Group III” synthetic. This means that, strictly speaking, it’s not a head-to-head Mobil 1 competitor. Ferrari has chosen the oil for factory fill, as Porsche did with Mobil 1 some time ago. However, oil formulations differ across national borders, so this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Pennzoil Ultra sitting on your AutoZone’s shelf is exactly the same stuff that is being poured into the 458 Italia.
The most interesting thing about Ultra, from my perspective, isn’t the Ferrari endorsement or the admittedly handsome packaging. Rather, it’s the explicit claim that the use of Ultra can prevent sludge formation and significantly clean existing sludge from engines. They’ve backed this testing with numbers, one oil-forum wonk to state that
“They improved the deposit control and improved the detergent system while retaining the very good Seq IVA performance. Throw in API SN and a Tbn of 13, and I think it’s an impressive oil. At least on paper. Specifications met are a good indication of quality. This oil has quality written all over it.”
As soon as we figure out what that means, we’ll let you know.