Sport Mode In Cars – What This Button Really Does

by Conner Mckay

Have you purchased a car and you are seeing a sport mode button and you are asking yourself what does a sport mode in cars really does? If that is the case, then you are at the right place because we are going to cover a lot when it comes to the sport mode and other modes in general.

Modern cars these days come packed with tech that can sometimes confuse us. There are a ton of options and modes that you can pick from and adjust everything up to your liking. Sometimes this can be really exhausting for people that are not into this stuff and do not want to bother with these things.

And we understand you well. Since not everybody wants to have a ton of options and gets confused at the end with all these modes. There are Eco, Normal, Sport, Supersport, tons of different names that we don’t even understand what they are doing in the background. But, you shouldn’t worry because we are going to help you out.

In this article, we are going to cover what is sport mode in cars and then we will learn what it does in reality. Then we will compare the sport modes of different types of cars to see if they are equal. After, we are going to discuss the pros and cons of the sport mode. Lastly, we will focus on other modes in cars and explain what they are doing. So, buckle up and follow along.

What Is A Sport Mode In Cars?

A sport mode in cars is a button that was created specifically for this purpose. And that is to alter the normal settings of the car and turn them into sportier settings.

This mode is one of the few modes that are available to car owners. There is the Normal mode, Eco mode, and also the Comfort mode on some cars. The choice of modes greatly depends on your vehicle and the carmaker that produced it.

Many car companies are introducing a ton of modes that in reality don’t do much at all. They just want to hop on the bandwagon and promise an unforgettable experience with some red interior bits and a red cluster to accentuate the sportiness of the vehicle. When I see SUVs with sport modes I don’t know if they are serious or not. But this doesn’t always have to mean that this mode is for show.

Sport Mode In Cars

It also depends much on the car manufacturer on how much they have invested into these systems that are changing the settings of the vehicle. So, if you are on the market and you want to get a car that truly has sport mode in it, you need to test it out. Give it a good run for its money in regular settings and then in sport settings to see if there is any difference.

If there is, then excellent. You got yourself a nice ride, or if it doesn’t, you can go on and move to the next car. But what the sport mode in cars really does in reality? Let’s find out in the next chapter where we will elaborate on this in detail.

What The Sport Mode Does In Reality

When you see a sport button, you probably think that if you press the button the car will somewhat turn into a transformer or something special like a race car. If that is the case, sorry, but you have a wrong assumption. What sport mode in reality does is that it alters some of the regular settings of the vehicle into sportier ones.

These settings are designed for performance in mind and aim to deliver a thrilling experience to you the driver. But how does this work?

Remember that cars are fully computerized and regulated by a car computer or also known as ECU or ECM. This unit basically runs a map that tells the engine how to work to deliver the best experience. So, if you tell the engine to work differently, it might deliver a better experience for you as a driver.

As we said everything when you sit in the car is tweaked for maximum comfort and fuel economy. So, if you press the sport mode in cars, you will alter these settings and switch the computer to a new setting. This is also a factory setting but this setting is designed for delivering performance to the table. And the car will run in this setting until you release the sport mode in cars and switch back to comfort mode.

Or you simply shut off the car and when you start the car again, the car will get back in its normal settings and you don’t have to worry about anything. These settings are so newbie-friendly that you will not have to worry about anything. But what are the systems that are affected by the sport mode in cars? Let’s see.

1. Better Engine Performance With The Sport Mode

Sport mode in cars when pressed affects the engine performance. It alters the standard program and tells the engine to pump more fuel into the engine. More fuel in the engine results in better performance out of the straight line and a more responsive engine overall. As manufacturers claim, they sharpen the throttle response of the engine.

This will result in an increase in horsepower compared to the standard engine and peppier engine. Some engines that are turbocharged or supercharged and have a sport button may act differently.

These engines will improve the throttle response, but also add some boost to the engine to deliver a better performance. More boost means more air sucked into the engine. More air equals more horsepower.

Sport Mode In Cars

That’s why boosted engines are much more tunable by this sport mode in cars. In a naturally aspirated there isn’t much to tweak to get performance from the engine like in turbocharged or supercharged engines that could deliver significantly more power when the sport mode is selected.

So, if you have a naturally aspirated engine, the performance benefit will be marginal. But if you have a boosted engine, then there is a high chance that you will see quite more horsepower onto the table. That’s why if you are on the market for a new car with a sport mode, make sure that you get one that is not naturally aspirated. That’s how you will see the most out of it in terms of performance when selecting the sport mode in cars.

But what are the other benefits of this mode in your car? That’s what we are going to cover in the following chapters.

2. Sharper Shifting Of Your Cars Transmission

If you are using an automatic transmission, having a sport mode in cars will greatly affect your drive quality. Especially if it is a modern DCT or torque converter automatic. But what selecting the sport mode in cars will mean for your transmission?

The biggest change will be the speed of shifting. The speed with greatly improve and you will feel a better response for the transmission. This will be specifically noticeable when you step on the gas abruptly. The car will go through the gears at a higher speed than in normal settings when it is set up to be in Eco or Normal mode.

In addition to this, the transmission will also allow you to go up to the rev limiter. Imagine that your engine has a 7,000 RPM rev limiter. This means that it will shift the gears at 7,000 RPM when there is peak horsepower and torque.

The difference between the regular mode and the sport mode when it comes to the transmission will be night and day.

Also, if you have a launch mode for launching your car from 0 to 60, this sport mode will be of great aid. Shifting fast and late at 7,000 RPM will give you these factory 0 to 60 numbers. And sometimes the numbers that you can produce are even better than the factory spec.

Just add some good slick tires and you can deliver quite a performance on your local drag strip or on the track if you are tracking your car. Overall, when selecting the sport mode the transmission turns into something really good and will give you a good run for its money.

3. Racy Suspension Performance

When selecting the sport mode in cars, you will also feel that something strange is going on with your suspension. These are the effects of running a sport setting. The car simply is turned into a sports car and inherits these characteristics. The biggest change when selecting the sport mode in cars is the change in the suspension.

After you press that magic button the car starts to come down by half an inch or an inch in some instances. Depending on the vehicle that you are running, usually SUVs go much lower than other cars.

Sport Mode In Cars

Also, not to forget, if you use this setting on the highway on your SUV, you can feel an improvement in fuel economy. Since the vehicle ride height will be lower and there will be less air drag. Less air drag equals better performance, lower road noise, and also better fuel efficiency. We all want to save a few dollars here and there and this can be the place where you can squeeze a few more miles on your SUV.

A lowered vehicle also helps when it comes to handling. The car simply produces more downforce and sticks to the asphalt. If you are tracking your car, you will see a big difference in how the car handles with and without the sport mode. When this mode is selected the car lies lower and basically sticks to the road.

But the best thing when you select the sport mode in cars is that with this mode you feel more connected with the road. Once you press that button, you will start to feel every small bump and unevenness on the road. Altering your driving experience to the max. That’s why sport mode is so good in some cars.

4. Sharper Steering Wheel With The Sport Mode

When you select the sport mode in cars, your steering wheel will also start to feel much sharper than it is in normal mode. This can depend from car to car. But if the car is performance-oriented, you are going to feel a great improvement in the sharpness.

You will have much better control over the vehicle and better control overall. The car will handle like it’s on rails and will go whenever you take it to. But make sure that you don’t take it outside of the road.

Many inexperienced drivers are pushing the car too much and the car will simply don’t want to go where they are taking it to. It doesn’t matter if your steering wheel is sharp if you have a rear-wheel-drive sports car and you press on the throttle. The rear end will start to go sideways.

And this is no good. You could end up in a ditch beside the road or rollover. Something that can have fatal consequences. That’s why it doesn’t matter how good is your steering wheel if you press too much on the gas. You should know to hit the right balance and make sure that you don’t get yourself hurt.

When it comes to track use, your car will like these suspension and steering settings. It will be a day and night difference when it comes to handling and catching corners. You will be able to brake later and get a good time around the circuit in your car. Thus improving your driving skills immensely. But you got to have the right car, preferably a sports car to feel the difference when it comes to performance on track use.

5. Red LED Lights And Fake Noise In Your Car

In addition to these features that improve the performance of the vehicle when you select the sport mode. There are also some features that are intended for you to think that you are driving a performance machine when you select this mode.

The number one would probably be the red accents that are shown on the cluster and the dials change into something more aggressive. The ambient light that some cars have also changed into a reddish color to show that you are driving in performance mode.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio exhaust white

Another thing is the fake sound, this sound was introduced by some carmakers. So, when you step on the throttle a fake exhaust noise is heard from the stereo system. This is created to fool you to think that this is the noise from the exhaust. But it’s actually not. Even though it sounds cool and I don’t mind it at all.

We have covered the sport mode in cars in detail, now let’s see what are the pros and cons of running this mode.

Pros And Cons Of The Sport Mode

Since we covered the sport mode in cars and what it represents. Now it is useful to cover the pros and cons of running this mod on your car. Since not everything is sunshine and rainbows when it comes to this performance mode.

Pros Of Running Sport Mode In Cars

First, we will cover the pros of running this mode and see what are the benefits of using this mode. So let’s begin.

As we mentioned above, with the sport mode in cars, you will experience increased performance and an overall more racy feel to the car. The car will be more aggressive and will respond much quicker when you press on the gas pedal. Basically, it will turn into a beast. We covered much of the stuff in the previous chapters and we are not going to waste too much time repeating ourselves.

Cons Of Running Sport Mode In Cars

Overall sport mode in cars is a much much better experience than the Normal mode of the vehicle. But everything has downsides and the downsides we are going to cover in the following chapters.

1. Too Stiff To Daily Drive

As you know, the suspension will get a lot stiffer with the sport mode in cars turned on. Which will result in an uncomfortable ride, especially if you live in an area where there are a lot of bumps and potholes on the road.

This can cause you back pain as well. So, it is better to use the comfort or normal mode if you want not to have a problem like this. Driving should be comfortable after all, that’s why this mode should be not always turned on.

2. Higher Gas Bill

Another reason why you should not run the sport mode in cars is that you are going to pay a higher gas bill. Yes, that’s right, if you run this mode quite often, your gas bill is going to explode.

It is highly likely that you will have to pay 30% or more on fuel than you used to when you were running your normal mode.

3. Increased Wear And Tear On The Engine And Transmission

The last con of running this mode more often is the increase in wear and tear of the components. More precisely, wear and tear of the engine and transmission. Other components like shock absorbers and tires are cheap to replace. But if you have to replace an engine, that could cost you a whole fortune to do.

That’s why run your car in sport mode less often to make sure that you don’t damage your engine in the long run. In addition to this, pay attention not to change your mode too soon. Make sure that the car is properly warmed up and the engine is nice and warm. Revving a cold engine will result in engine damage.

Not All Sport Modes On All Cars Are Equal

It is also good to note that not all sport mode in cars are equal. There are cars that are meant for performance that the press of the sport mode button really does something special and turns everything into sport

But there are some cars that simply do this only for show. And running a car with sport mode will not going to make a huge difference. Let’s say that you drive a naturally aspirated car. There is a low chance that you will see some improvement in performance by running this mod except for the stiffer suspension and other components that are not engine-related.

On the other hand, if you have a turbocharged car or supercharged. By using the sport mode, you will experience quite an improvement when using the sport mode. The engine will create more boost and will deliver a better performance.

So, if you have a sport button on your commuter car or an SUV, this button is not going to change a lot. But if you have a sports car that is track-focused, then after pressing the sport button will be a day and night difference.

Other Driving Modes In Cars

We have covered the sport mode in cars and it is worth noting that there are also other modes as well. These modes depend much on the vehicle that you have, but besides the sport mode. You can also find the Eco mode.

The Eco mode is specifically designed to reduce the fuel economy and get you the most miles for your money. How this mode works is that it adjusts the throttle response. As well as in some vehicles that have this ability allows to shut down some of the cylinders on the engine.

In addition to this, there is also a Comfort mode. This is probably the mode that you will prefer since it offers the best of both worlds. Perfect for highway cruising.

Understanding Sport Mode: What it is and How it Works

  1. Sport mode does not add more horsepower to your engine, but rather changes the relationship between gas pedal travel and throttle openings.
  2. Sport mode can be found in many cars with electronic throttle control and is essentially a second, more aggressive throttle map.
  3. When you press the Sport button, the computer controlling the engine dumps more gas into the engine earlier in the gas pedal’s travel, which squeezes more power out of the engine.
  4. Some cars with automatic transmissions also change their shift logic in Sport mode, favoring higher RPMs to keep the engine closer to the power band.
  5. Some cars with active suspensions that can change the stiffness of their dampers will firm them up in Sport mode, causing the body to roll and bounce less.
  6. Some vehicles will change the amount of assistance from the power steering system in Sport mode, making the steering wheel feel heavier and the car more substantive.
  7. A few cars with brake-by-wire systems like the BMW M8 can even change the mapping for the brake pedal in Sport mode.
  8. Prior to electronic throttle control, the accelerator pedal was directly connected to the throttle via mechanical means.
  9. Engineers could change the relationship between the pedal and throttle position through linkages and cams, making the car feel peppier with less force on the gas pedal.
  10. Sport mode does not hurt the engine in any way, it just makes the car feel more responsive and zippy in everyday driving.


In this article, we have covered a lot when it comes to the sport mode in cars. First, we learned what is the sport mode in cars. Then we learned what it does.

We learned how this mode alters some of the settings of the vehicle in order to improve the performance and deliver a sportier feel to the driver. All this was made possible by tweaking the drivetrain as well as the suspension.

After, we have covered the downsides of running this mode. Since not everything is sunshine and rainbows. There are also some downsides to this like an increased chance for engine damage. Lastly, we took a look at other modes that are there. Namely, Eco and Comfort.

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