A variable-compression ratio, direct-injection diesel engine (VCR) has been designed and assembled at Southwest Research Institute with the intention of examining the current procedures for rating the ignition quality of diesel fuels and the meaning of ignition delay as an indicator of ignition and combustion quality. Using a slightly modified ASTM D 613 procedure, the engine has been used to rate the ignition quality of 43 different test fuels. The ratings obtained in the VCR engine are compared to the corresponding rating obtained using the standard cetane rating procedure. Some of the problems associated with the standard procedure became apparent during these experiments. The experimental results are discussed in terms of the problems and the advantages of a proposed VCR-based rating procedure.