Using Your Vehicle’s Sport Mode For Beginners – Don’t Miss Out On The Fun

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Your new car very likely has a great Sport Mode. Here is how it works and why you’ll love it.  

2019 Honda Civic Sedan

Sport Mode – What Does It Do?

The sport mode in your vehicle is able to change some of the vehicle settings. The most common thing that sport modes change is the transmission and engine settings. This is true whether you have a V8 muscle car, a hybrid, or an electric car. Sport mode ups the ante a bit and the engine and transmission become sharper and more assertive. You will notice the RPMs rise if you have a car with a tachometer. In practice, you will find that the vehicle becomes more responsive.

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More expensive vehicles and vehicles that are intended to be sports cars will have other settings that can change. These include the throttle sensitivity, exhaust note, the steering weight or feel, the steering ratio (how much turn of the vehicle you get for a given turn of the wheel), and the suspension settings. In addition to being able to just turn these individual aspects to a pre-set “sportier” mode, some vehicles allow the driver to customize the settings and then lock them in as a personal favorite or even a couple personal settings. High-performance vehicles will even have multiple levels of sport mode, typically called sport+, track, and sport sharp that will disable or modify the traction control and stability control of the vehicle. These are primarily for race track use.

Sport Mode – How Do You Make It Work?

The first part of making the sport mode work for you is to find it. Every automaker hides it in a different location. The Honda Civic at the top of our page is one of our favorites. The driver simply pulls back the gear selector one more notch and sport mode is on. To turn it off, the driver nudges the selector back to “drive.” The Lexus UX has one of the most novel sport mode selectors.  It is operated with a twist in either direction and also a push. Lexus hangs off the side of the gauge cluster shroud. That may seem weird, but it worked great for us.

Some advanced sport mode systems are in more than one place. For example, the switch may be on the center console near the shifter, or even on the steering wheel. To change the settings to a custom pre-set the infotainment system is used. Please don’t let us make this sound difficult. On 90% of the vehicles we test, sport mode is a switch next to the shifter and there is just one setting.

Downside To Sport Mode

You may find that when you actuate sport mode the car feels better when you want to blast up an on-ramp, or drive a twisty mountain road, but feels worse if you are trundling along in rush hour traffic. The drone of the engine, louder exhaust note, and the stronger engine braking due to the higher RPM settings are the opposite of what works best in traffic. Which is why there is always an easy way to turn sport mode on and off. It is not intended to be used in all situations.

Sport Mode Resets

In all mainstream vehicles, the sport mode is turned back to “normal mode” when you turn the vehicle off and on again. So you don’t have to worry about the next driver getting in and finding the car all revved up and itching to go racing.


John Goreham

John Goreham

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