WHAT IS SPORT MODE IN A CAR?

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Sports mode is a setting that changes the settings on your car to maximise its performance. With one simple button press, you can boost the power and response of your car.

SPORT MODE IN A CAR – WHAT DOES IT DO? 

When sports mode is activated it changes how the engine, transmission, and suspension perform. And the whole driving experience will feel very different.

The vehicle’s throttle will become much more sensitive and if you’re driving an automatic you’ll notice the transmission allows revs to run much higher before changing gears. All this means you will have a lot more power at your disposal.

The feel of the steering and suspension will change. You’ll find the car is clinging to the road with a hard suspension to allow it to corner at greater speeds. 

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT DRIVING MODES?

If you've purchased a new car recently you may have noticed it came with a range of driving modes – NORMAL, COMFORT, ECO, and SPORT. Normal is your regular driving experience. Comfort provides a more comfortable drive. Eco conserves fuel and limits performance for an economical journey. And, Sport boosts performance at the expense of comfort and economy.

WHAT DOES SPORT MODE DO IN A CAR?

bmw sports car

The sport mode alters the settings of the car to change performance and make the car more sporty. Pressing the SPORTS button sends a message to the car's computer unit, the ECU, and tells it to change how it works to prioritise high performance.

1: BOOSTS ENGINE PERFORMANCE

The first thing that happens when you engage Sport mode is the change in engine performance. The ECU will begin by telling the car to pump more fuel into the engine. More fuel being burned in the engine means increased power. 

As the driver, you will notice a better throttle response when you press on the accelerator. If you have a turbocharged or supercharged engine you may notice it operates a little differently as these technologies run in a slightly different manner. 

These types of cars see big jumps in performance once sports mode is activated. The jump in power in a naturally aspirated engine will be more modest. Either way, the horsepower of the car will step up a level.

2: BOOSTS TRANSMISSION PERFORMANCE

If you are driving an automatic transmission you are going to notice a huge difference in the car's transmission. Once the Sport mode has been activated the car will allow the revs to go to very high levels before shifting up a gear.

This high rev mode means maximum power and torque are being applied by the engine to the wheels. As a driver, you will notice your acceleration has improved dramatically and you will hear and feel the car growl at you as it allows high revs before shifting through the gears.

The biggest change you will notice however is just how quickly the car accelerates. If you step on the accelerator when sports mode is activated you will feel the true power of the car as it bolts out of the blocks like a racehorse. You will find the biggest changes in cars with turbocharged or supercharged engines.

3: LOWERS SUSPENSION PROFILE

Sport mode also alters the suspension settings. It adapts to the suspension characteristics of a sports car. The ECU will adjust your suspension height level and lower the car closer to the ground. 

The distance the car drops varies from model to model but it is typically somewhere in the region of half an inch to one inch. If you are driving an SUV with a sports mode you can expect a significant drop. A lower suspension increases the handling capabilities of the car. 

A car that sits lower on the road produces more downforce and sticks to the asphalt. It will hold the road better and it will increase its cornering capabilities. 

It will also 'harden' the feel of the suspension. You will feel every twist and turn along the way. So, fasten your seat belts, you can expect a bumpy ride. On the upside, you will feel much more 'connected' to the road.

3: SHARPENS THE STEERING

When you activate sports mode you will suddenly notice a change in how the steering feels. It will become much sharper. This will allow you to have much greater control over the steering of the vehicle. 

The difference in the steering is felt more in high-performance cars than you will notice in regular cars that have just been fitted with a sports mode. But either way, you will feel the difference and have much more control over the vehicle in terms of steering.

You will find the car responds incredibly well as you turn the wheel from side to side. This is designed to increase the responsiveness of the car as you will be traveling at greater speeds. A greater level of steering control will be required while the car is operating at an increased performance level. 

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF SPORTS MODE?

So, all this sounds great. Why don't we just drive in sports mode all of the time? Are there any downsides? Yes, there are. And, they're significant. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of driving in sports mode.

PROS OF SPORTS MODE

PERFORMANCE

Performance is key when we talk about Sports mode. You're going to get a higher performance level from your car. If you want to push your car to the limits and drive it at full power – Sports mode is what you're looking for.

TRANSMISSION

The increase in performance is going to have a big impact on the transmission of the vehicle. When you step on the accelerator you will notice a big boost in power and aggression. And, if you're driving an automatic you will notice the car is hitting much higher revs before changing gear.

LOWER SUSPENSION

The car suspension will be lowered. A car that sits closer to the ground has greater downforce. This means it clings to the road better and can be driven at greater speeds. It increases its cornering ability.

SHARPER STEERING

The steering will become sharper and more responsive. This will mean you have much more control over the vehicle. 

CONS OF SPORTS MODE

UNCOMFORTABLE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

When Sports mode is engaged on a car the suspension tightens up. The car feels stiff and you will feel every bump in the road. It can lead to an uncomfortable driving experience. 

It's best to use Sports mode occasionally and switch back to Comfort or Eco loosen up the suspension and have a more comfortable journey.

HIGH FUEL CONSUMPTION

Sport mode boosts engine performance and power output. To achieve this it burns more fuel. You can expect to get through about 30% more fuel while driving in Sports mode. 

All this is going to hit you harder in the pocket. So, you need to think about when and how often you want to fire up your Sport setting.

INCREASED WEAR & TEAR

Driving in Sports mode increases the toll and stress you are placing on the engine and its support systems. Prolonged use of sport will shorten the life cycle of many car parts. 

And, these will need to be replaced when they get worn out. Parts that you can expect to take the biggest thrashing are the engine and transmission. 

But the Sport feature will also wear down the tyres, suspension, and shock absorbers much more quickly compared to the other driving modes. Pushing your car to the limit comes at a cost. That's why most people prefer to drive in the Eco and Comfort profiles.

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