By on December 19, 2013



In recent months I’ve driven a couple of cars that were considered sporting enough by their manufacturers that the letter S was part of the package. One was the Audi A7 TDI with a sport equipment group and a S Line badge on the fender. The other was a Chrysler 300S AWD and it, too, had a badge with the sibilant letter between R and T, in its case on the trunk lid.


The Audi had a TDI engine with 428 lb ft of torque and the Chrysler had a Hemi under the hood so both cars’ were indeed sporting and each has enough get up and go to get there very quickly with little effort. Both cars’ allow you to change dynamic settings so you’re actually getting something besides a badge that says S for your money. The problem is that both cars make you use the infotainment system to put the car into a more sporting dynamic mode. On the A7 that makes a little bit of sense because there are three basic settings plus the option for custom settings, something that can’t be accomplished with a simple button, but I suspect that most enthusiastic drivers like your humble correspondent won’t mess with the custom settings and just want to see that S light up in the instrument panel.

It seems to me that not putting a dedicated switch on the console or steering wheel to activate sport mode is a needless bit of cost cutting and that people who buy a S model want more than a badge on the outside, they want a button to engage warp mode on the inside as well. If  you want to fine tune things, okay, so use the computers, but what’s wrong with a button? Both the Audi and the Chrysler let you deactivate stability control or turn it back on with just the press of a switch, why not the sport mode too? Also, it seems to me that there’s a safety issue at play. A simple button on the console or wheel can be activated or deactivated without taking your eyes off of the road. While the Audi MMI system is controlled from the console, you still have to look at the info screen to use it. So what sayeth the Best & Brightest? If you’re buying an S model, do you want to use the infotainment system to change dynamic modes, or do you want your S buttons too?

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34 Comments on “Ronnie’s Rants: Give Me My “S” Button, Please!...”

  • avatar

    My problem with the “SPORT” button on my 300SRT is that I must use the touchscreen to activate it. The 5-speed doesn’t give you access to all the HEMI power unless Sport mode is on. Then the automatic fully comes to life and dips into gears 2, 3 and 4 to accelerate in torquey roars.

    Gas mileage suffers considerably in SPORT mode but you need to use it to make the car lively on the highway.

    My JEEPSRT is the same way.

    Speaking of bad button choices:

    WHY do they put ESC buttons so close to the PASSENGER???

    • 0 avatar

      Chrysler product planning at its finest: performance engine, rental car transmission.

      It’s funny, though, when you think about it: hobbled by that slushbox, you struggle to keep up with a Genesis 5.0, never mind a real performance sedan. No wonder you like to race four-cylinder Camrys…

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      In a word: cheapness. Although it’d be logical to place an actual button on the console, why commit to one when you can just bury it in the infotainment menu somewhere? And Chrysler Group isn’t the only company doing this, either…

      • 0 avatar

        I’d like the Seat Climate button, the steering wheel heater button and the Sport button to be phsycal buttons.

        The odd thing is that the steering wheels in the new Chryslers could have had a Sport button and heated wheel button, but have what I feel is a redundant or unnecessarily cluttered layout for the cruise controls and EVIC.

        Uconnect is the most intuitive system on the market.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          New steering wheels…do you mean the ones in the 2014 Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Durango? Because I’d have to agree with you…

          • 0 avatar

            The new steering control layout is weird. I see no reason to have the track seek buttons or volume ON THE BACK of the wheel.

            The Cruise Control /Adaptive Cruise Control buttons could have been done better. My Jeep’s wheel is only a little better laid out, but the volume/seek is still on the back.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Chrysler has been putting the volume buttons on the rear of the steering wheel for a long time. But they shouldn’t have put more buttons back there…

  • avatar

    I suppose it depends on how much adjustability is in the system? If you can configure things like steering feel, level of traction control, stability control and launch rpm then setting this up in the infotainment system is great but it would be nice to access this customized feature with a button in the car rather than fumble with the infotainment system when you want it.

    Actually a couple bottoms would be nice, one to cycle through factory presets and one to cycle through user programmed setups.

  • avatar

    Why are the OEMs routing every secondary vehicle control through the touchscreen these days?

    Give me physical buttons. At least I can feel them without having to look down.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford seems to be going to other way with some functions. They are correcting for having way too many controls only routing through MFT. Give me a click wheel or button for heated seats and buttons and knobs for the HVAC system. I couldn’t tell you how to turn the traction control off in my C-Max though. I remember it was a pain in the butt on the regular Focus to turn traction control off. The ST just has a physical button.

      • 0 avatar

        Do any of these systems allow for a one button or one touch control for an operator preference? What I want is a single button that makes my wife’s car change the seat settings, suspension, shift points, climate control, and infotainment to my preferences.

        • 0 avatar

          No, but I think Lincoln will eventually get there. Its just a matter of time before a manufacturer has the memory seat setting button, or something similar, do all that. Either that button or separate proximity keys for different drivers. I would be a big fan of that too.

          They already have the Ford MyKey that limits speed, radio volume, and other things when someone drives with a specific key.

        • 0 avatar

          Buy a BMW – all that stuff is tied to the key. One key for you, one key for her, you each get things set the way you want them.

          Personally, I just find Sport buttons mostly annoying, whether they are physical or virtual doesn’t matter. Pushing Sport on my Abarth does three things- allows more boost so you get 160hp instead of 130hp, reduces the steering assistance, and quickens the throttle response curve. The problem is all I want is the 160hp! The throttle becomes WAY too twitchy, and the heavier steering doesn’t really do anything – I want it light on an autocross course! irritating to no end. So I pretty much always drive the car with sport mode off, 130hp is plenty anyway. I turn it on when I am in a hooning mood.

          • 0 avatar

            Perhaps that’s deliberate, precisely in order to get you to stick to the lower-power setting most of the time?

            Either as just a nanny-knows-best move on Fiat’s own part, or could this possibly be calculated into their CAFE figures?

  • avatar

    What would be ideal is to use the touch screen to set the customizations for the button, and have the button so you can implement the settings quickly and easily. And have it SAVE these settings.

    But since cars are designed for people who like iPhones better than driving, they spend way too much time making a touchscreen do things than they do thinking about what a driver actually needs.

    • 0 avatar

      This. Cars that have a long list of driver adjustable settings need a programmable hot key. Better yet, You should be able to set it up on your phone, use a one time password to import it to the car, and then access it with a slap of the button on the fly withhout looking anywhere but outside the car. If I wan’t sport mode to change the colors in the dash, turn on the HUD, change traction control, throttle, steering and suspension that’s my button. If I want it to black out the tail lights, open the NOS, and strobe the driving lights at the push of a button call the police… Nah, they’re already looking for me.

      • 0 avatar

        Doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to do what you suggest. Anything they can code into the touch screen should be able to saved to a button, perhaps not with phone integration but I am OK with that. I could see a row of buttons, maybe 5 or 6, nothing crazy, with user-programmable options to do whatever we want it to do. Build in a little safety, so we can’t set one up to automatically roll the seat all the back while the car is moving or something stupid, but why not give us best of both worlds? Even make them semi-capacitive, so we can manage the label that is displayed, but with a satisfying “click” when they are pushed, not just “touched” like those dumb Ford buttons.

    • 0 avatar

      BMW M3 (and probably all m models?) have this. Choose your settings through idrive and they are all programmed to the M button on the steering wheel. The performance settings also have individual buttons on the console if you only want to access one parameter.

  • avatar

    Yes, a button, and I think it should rather be a “calm down” button.

  • avatar

    I seem to remember that BMW provides an “M” button on some of their performance series of vehicles. It does a number of things like changing settings of the suspension, throttle response, and so forth.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    The hilarity is that the ‘raciest’ look would really be to get some industrial aftermarket switch and take a cordless drill to the dash, no real tooling cost at all.
    Of course a capped button on the shifter or something would be cool too.

    The point is, nobody starts the cold car in their driveway wanting the tweaks, we want it on the fly. Touch screen menus are the antithesis of instantaneous.

    That said, how’s about voice recognition, where the driver just says “KITT, I need Super Pursuit Mode!”

  • avatar

    I believe the AMG Mercs have the “AMG” button, which you can assign suspension and transmission settings to a certain preset. I wouldn’t mind the touchscreen controls if the car stayed in those settings between ignition cycles. Otherwise just give me a “max attack” button so I can feel like a fighter pilot deploying afterburners.

  • avatar

    Ronnie, Audis have had an easily selectable “go faster” mode, that doesn’t require any use of the MMI screen forever. They had it long before their cars had screens or MMI. PRNDS. What do you think the “S” mode is for?

    • 0 avatar

      My GTI with DSG has the S in PRNDS mode too, it doesn’t change the suspension though obviously, only the boost and shift mode.

    • 0 avatar

      Audi Drive Select isn’t just the gearbox though — it’s steering, suspension and throttle.

      The S4 and S5 use two physical buttons to rotate through comfort, auto, dynamic and individual, and then MMI to program the individual settings.

  • avatar

    Could it be a liability issue? Does an easy access button make it too easy to go fast? I mean, from a trial lawyer’s perspective, of course.

    I love the S button on my 650i. It’s on the console right below my thumb on the shift knob. There are a lot of times where I need a quick change to S mode for instant throttle response and braking to change lanes, get around stopped cars in city traffic, sudden curves, etc. For what I use it for most, I need a quick change. The normal mode has a laggy fuel-saving character that lags and then downshifts when you give it the berries. It’s much harder to use in busy traffic situations unless I just want to sit in my lane and relax. It’s not as safe on winding roads where you need responsive accelerations. I never get in my car and think “hmm, I feel like Sport mode today” then set it and leave it. I want the higher mileage in straight cruising sections and I want the dynamic response as situations demand. Having to screw around in computer menus would be distracting and would just plain suck.

    I do have one rule for it: never touch the S button after I’ve had a few drinks. It’s too much fun. I can self-discipline. But if I could not, I suppose that having to screw around in multi-level menu systems would be a deterrent to joyful over-exuberance.

  • avatar

    I had a ’95 Saturn with a physical sport button down by the shifter. But you can’t get one with a brand new $50K+ Audi?

  • avatar

    If the “S” button goes bad, it’s just a button that has to be replaced. If any part of the infotainment system goes bad, half of the car doesn’t work any more, and it has to be repaired, no matter what the cost.
    The best thing to do with a car with that setup is to not buy it in the first place!

  • avatar

    The Sport button makes sense to me. In techy cars, use the MMI/info screen to decide what the sport button means… And have it stay that way unless you physically change it. I think Audi may do this with Driver Select? I have 3 cars and all have something. In my Audi Q5, it’s PRNDS where the S is for sport, but really just seems to change the tranny gear selection, maybe throttle response? My Mini Cooper S has a simple S button, must be pushed every time you start the car… Can’t really feel what it does except for maybe throttle response. My wife’s Mercedes ’06 CLS has a Comfort/Sport button that affects gear selection, I.e. starts in 1st; and a suspension setting button which remains in the stiffer setting (yawn).

  • avatar

    I’d like a button that makes the car in front of me go away.

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