Driving Modes Explained: What are They?

15th Nov 2022

By Kenny Longdon

What is a driving mode?

If you find yourself driving a fairly new vehicle, there is a strong chance it has multiple driving modes available within it.

This is thanks to the evolution of the automobile and the needs and wants of your average driver. Such is the constant development of technology, many cars can feature multiple driving modes, but what actually are they?

Essentially, a driving mode tailors the characteristics and driving dynamics of a car and is selected by the driver to match their mood or make the car easier to drive in certain conditions, or on varying terrain.

What does a driving mode change?

M5 Comp

A driving mode can change all sorts of parameters and can help the car do a number of things. Stripped back, driving modes can alter:

  • Throttle response - more or less sensitive
  • Suspension stiffness - softer or stiffer
  • Gearbox sharpness - faster or slower
  • Ability (automation) - sets the car up automatically to deal with a specific terrain or road surface
  • Electric input - put the car into full-electric (PHEV cars)
  • Ground clearance - SUVs, luxury and supercars can alter their ride height for performance or ease of use

Popular driving modes

Disco Wading

Many cars feature driving modes with the same name, but not all do the same thing exactly. The driving mode will depend on the manufacturer and nature of the car in question. That said, popular driving modes include:

  • Normal mode - usually the car's default setting
  • Eco mode - ensures the car is in its most fuel efficient configuration
  • Comfort mode - makes the car as comfortable as possible
  • Sport mode - puts the car in a more aggressive setting, usually enhancing throttle response, whilst in some cars can alter suspension, gearbox and exhaust too
  • Sport Plus mode - an even more dynamic sport mode, usually turns driver aids off such as traction control
  • Track mode - sets the car up more aggressively for race tracks
  • Dynamic mode - essentially another name for sport mode
  • Terrain mode - used in off-road SUVs and sets the car up for better performance on trickier terrain
  • Drift mode - usually found on all-wheel drive cars, it transfers a bias to the rear wheels allowing the car to drift more easily
  • Individual - allows custom set up by driver

Manufacturer Differences

Porsche Modes

Usually manufacturer driving modes are pretty similar, with modes like 'Normal' and 'Sport' being common place in a lot of cars. However different manufacturers use different names to differentiate themselves. Below are just a few examples:

BMW M - Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus

Porsche - Normal, Wet, Sport, Sport Plus, Individual

Ford (Focus RS) - Normal, Sport, Track, Drift

Hyundai (N Models) - Eco, Normal, Sport, N, N Custom

Mercedes-AMG - Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus

Land Rover - Comfort, Eco, Dynamic (along with Terrain Response modes to deal with different terrain, towing, weather etc.

As you can see, 'Comfort' and 'Sport' are common. Some manufacturers opt for 'Dynamic' instead of sport when naming their sports mode, such as Jaguar and Land Rover and whilst Audi also use the term 'Dynamic'.

Are driving modes useful or a gimmick?

M2 Modes

Driving modes are a great way to give the car multiple characters and allow for the vehicle's settings to be perfectly tailored to match a driver's mood.

For example, if you're on a motorway at 70mph, you perhaps do not want a car's exhaust to be loud, like it would be in a 'Dynamic' mode, so the ability to switch into 'Comfort' mode typically puts the car in the most docile setting. Large 6-cylinder engine cars with these settings tend to shut down cylinders to save fuel, along with shutting exhaust vales for a quieter and more relaxing drive at speed.

Alternatively, if you're on a spirited drive and want more volume, 'Dynamic' and 'Sport' modes can include opening exhaust valves and the like for a more involving drive.

Find your perfect modes with a car from Evans Halshaw

Whatever vehicle you're looking for, there's a high chance it will have multiple driving modes.

Whether you want a relaxing drive, a more spirited one, or perhaps you just want the car to be as economical as possible and want to be able to switch when the mood suits, driving modes allow all of these characteristics.

Search our new car deals or used cars to find your perfect car and to learn more about its driving modes. Alternatively, contact your preferred Evans Halshaw retailer.