What Is a Drive Mode in a Car? A Basic Primer
There are many drive modes you can choose to tailor how your car drives to suit your preferences.
| | |
There are several available drive modes in many newer cars that can tailor the driving experience to different circumstances. Some cars only have a few modes while others offer half a dozen choices. Note that the names may also change slightly from one car to the next depending on the automaker. We'll cover the most common drive modes, what they do, and when to use each one, as we answer the question: what is drive mode in a car?
What is a Drive Mode?
Drive modes are a quick and easy way of adjusting the driving dynamics of a car to match either current road conditions or your personal driving preferences. Exactly what changes depends on the mode and the car. In general, drive modes alter the suspension, steering, transmission, throttle, and overall performance of a car.
The idea is to adjust these systems on the fly to meet the driver's needs. There's no complicated process for switching between modes. They are activated easily via buttons on the steering wheel or center console, and sometimes on the infotainment touchscreen.
This is the most environmentally conscious mode you can choose. Eco mode in cars isn't focused on delivering performance, but on efficiency. Choosing this mode makes the throttle less responsive. It also changes the gear ratios so the engine doesn't rev as high, which saves on fuel. It may even change how the climate control system works to put less strain on the engine and further improve fuel economy.
This is an everyday driving mode that aims for balance. It delivers better performance than Eco mode, but doesn't push too hard in that direction. The suspension system will likely be softer and more relaxed to improve passenger comfort, and performance will be strong enough to engage the driver without becoming harsh or aggressive. The steering won't tighten up too much and will remain relaxed and easy. This is a great mode for long-distance road trips where everyone just wants to be comfortable.
This mode swings even further away from the efficiency of Eco mode and more toward performance. Sport mode usually makes the suspension system stiffer and increases the steering weight. You may also notice the engine revving higher and the throttle becoming more responsive. Even the sound of the car may change with a louder exhaust note. Fuel efficiency is a secondary concern in this mode, as is passenger comfort. This mode focuses on giving the driver a spirited and engaging drive experience with optimum handling.
Usually found only on performance cars, this mode is for the performance enthusiast who wants the strongest acceleration and best handling the car can deliver. It does the same thing as Sport Mode, but with even more emphasis on performance.
If your car has active bolstering, then it may tighten to hold you in place during high-speed cornering. This mode also turns off traction control systems so you can go sideways during aggressive track driving. That's not something you should do on a public road. This is a mode that should only be used in appropriate conditions, like on a dedicated track or other controlled environment.
Those who drive where winter weather includes snow and ice may find this drive mode helpful. It can help get you out of a situation where you're bogged down, like in the snow. It changes the engine throttle and transmission so that your car starts with less power and torque. That could sound like a bad thing, but it's good in the snow because it helps keep your wheels from spinning and improves traction.
The idea here is similar to Snow Mode and makes many of the same adjustments. It's all about improving traction when the surface beneath your tires is less than perfect. Depending on how your vehicle is equipped, this may automatically engage features including hill descent control and it may raise the vehicle for better ground clearance if it has an adjustable suspension system.
Know Your Drive Modes
Drive modes are designed to tailor the way a vehicle drives to fit the current conditions and the driver's preferences. They run the gamut from fuel-efficient Eco Modes to performance-focused Track Modes with a range of additional options that improve traction off-road and in poor weather. Take the time to explore the drive modes available on your vehicle to make the most of its capabilities and enjoy your time behind the wheel.