By on October 22, 2019

Once a fancy feature reserved for legitimately sporty or luxurious vehicles with ample power to generate grins regardless of electronic intervention, “sport mode” is now nearly ubiquitous. It appears in tepid (but efficient!) economy cars. Your mom’s crossover probably has a button, dial, or shift lever position that fiddles with shift points, firms up the steering, and makes the accelerator pedal touchier than a friend whose long-term relationship just went south.

Auto journos quickly make use of the feature when hooning an automaker’s latest and greatest, but does it ever serve a purpose to you, the owner?

While sport mode, increasingly seen in the presence of wheel-mounted flappy paddles, might seem strange and out of place in, say, an off-lease Lincoln MKX, it does have its perks. For one, it’s a great way to calm a tempermental transmission that never stops hunting for gears. In a world where autoboxes are shifting more than ever, this is not an uncommon gripe. Also, by holding lower ratios longer and locking out the uppermost cogs, less-than-swift vehicles can suddenly come alive — or at least gain a weak pulse — in a generally unsatisfying way.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to give your overboosted, loosey-goosey steering a shot of Cialis to firm things up, thus cutting down on unwanted wandering. Sport mode can do that for you. Maybe your vehicle is one where sport mode can firm up your vehicle’s suspension, too, thus paring down your car’s body lean while high-tailing it home to watch a debate.

If snow and ice is a concern, or if steep inclines dog you each and every day, it’s possible you use sport mode to gain access to a manumatic shift function or just to hold a lower gear. Not all so-equipped vehicles require one to shift into “S,” but many do. Puttin’ ‘er in Low is your ticket to flappy paddle bliss in other vehicles, though it’s not necessary to instigate a downshift. Every manufacturer goes their own way in this regard.

As much as this feature can reduce the unpleasant symptoms of a less-than-stellar automobile, it stands to reason that if you feel you need to use it, you probably wouldn’t have bought that car in the first place. Thus, you probably don’t own a vehicle that requires sport mode to be activated to get your kicks.

And if your commuting buddy is a thrifty economy car, it also stands to reason that you’re interested in MPGs, not reducing the life of your low-drag tires.

In a decently-powered premium sedan, you’re probably fine leaving it in default “normal” or “eco” mode, knowing full well there’s power on tap to pull off that passing maneuver, if needed. And your steering is likely just fine already; nicely weighted, precise, and not in need of further firming. Even in your Mustang or whatever, how often would you call up the prettier gauge display and red lights in your day-to-day life?

Let’s put the question to you, B&B. If your present vehicle came equipped with sport mode, do you ever use it?

[Image: Ford, General Motors]

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109 Comments on “QOTD: Do You Ever Bother With Sport Mode?...”


  • avatar
    thegamper

    I recently picked up an Accord 2.0t with 10 speed auto. Sport mode really transforms this transmission into rapid fire mode and holds revs in all situations. It also supposedly adds some weight to steering and changes the brake feel, the boost guage is also a nice touch but I use it primarily for the transmission. It is pretty dramatic difference to the point you wouldn’t want to just cruise around in sport mode all the time. So, when I think I want a little spirited jaunt or know I’m going to be doing hard acceleration, I will usually turn it on.

    Most cars I’ve owned, it wasn’t really worth it and would very rarely bother.

    • 0 avatar
      3800FAN

      I have a 2015 Accord V6 with the 6 speed automatic. Sport mode will basically get it to hold low gear so you’re always between 2800-3800 RPM while speed is constant. The v6 makes about 80% of it’s torque by then so when you give it any throttle the response is instant go.
      In sport mode it will also downshift hard when you start to break. That’s something the 6AT does in D too but in S it’ll drop 2 gears and quicker making engine breaking harder. If you tap the break just right you can downshift at will.

      Funny thing about the 4,5, and 6 speed honda automatics is that they don’t use planetary gears. They’re basically a manual transmission that’s added a torque converter and a clutch pack on each gear so it just engages and disengages clutch packs to shift. To save space they went planetary gears in the new 10 speed.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        You can tell that the shifting itself is a little different on the 10-speed than previous Hondas.

        That transmission in my Accord Touring 2.0T is damn good. It’s usually in the correct gear, and it’s seamless in operation!

        I’ve used Sport mode sparingly, as the car has enough grunt in normal driving. One thing that I would actually add if I could without adding other aspects of a tune (if it was safe for the powertrain) is for the transmission to bounce off a rev-limiter in Sport mode, as it will upshift on its own if you hit redline while in manual-lock using the paddles. I’ve not tried that with my car; I presume that running the engine in that way might lead to damage.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          I have found the 10 speed to be pretty good on it’s on in normal mode but not great at transitions from braking to acceleration. I have found that sport mode eliminates any hesitation or lag in shifts. I’ve been pretty impressed with the transmission overall but sport mode really brings it alive.

          • 0 avatar
            3800FAN

            That breaking to acceleration hesitation is probably more to do with turbo lag at lower rpms. Sport mode relieves that by holding lower gear keeping rpms up to a range where rhe turbos not spooling up.

            Side question, hows the 10 speed behave in casual driving? Is it constantly shifting up and down?

          • 0 avatar
            thegamper

            It behaves very well. I’m sure it’s shifting alot but I don’t really notice it in normal driving mode. It’s definitely a shift lag from braking to hard acceleration. My only other gripe is very low speed stop and go. Can be a little jerky. Otherwise, I’m really impressed.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            It’s a little rough when cold, but that’s characteristic of Honda automatics — once things are warmed up, it’s all smooth.

            I noticed that when the temperature dropped for the first time a couple weeks ago, it was a little rougher, but that’s seemed to have corrected itself.

            A minor concern is whether there will be any increased wear just from all the shifting the transmission does. Perhaps, in normal driving, if the transmission would wind up the engine to 3,300rpms or so before each shift, instead of short-shifting at 3,000, it might be better long-term. You can’t really feel all the shifting, but the engine note and the (virtual) tachometer give enough feedback.

            But at 80mph, in 10th-gear, I’m pulling 1,800rpms, which is right around where my 2013 V6 would be at the same speed! ;-) (Sport mode drops the transmission into 9th, but even at 2,200rpms, there’s no boost on the gauge! You can manually upshift to 10th with the paddle.)

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Late in responding to the rest of the comments, but the hesitation in downshifting a gear or two in the transitions you describe, such as when the light ahead turns green as you’re coasting down to stop, or especially if you do a rolling stop, is also a typical Honda quirk in the transmission programming. It seems a little less bothersome on the 10-speed, perhaps because of the number of gears, or that the transmission may double-downshift in those situations.

  • avatar
    Urlik

    Regularly, but my ride is a Golf R.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    The only vehicle I have with a “button” is the Town and Country. But rather than “sport” my button says “eco” and the only time that button ever gets pushed is on accident. When I see the bright green light next to the little leaf I immediately turn it off.

    Is it because I hate the Earth and its leafy green goodness? No! I just hate lugging the crap out of my engines. As it stands now, I already think the Chrysler’s transmission is a little too eager to get into the higher gears.

    Beyond that, all my vehicles are locked into permanent “sport mode” courtesy of the loose nut behind the wheel who lives his life a quarter mile at a time…

  • avatar
    PM300

    My first car with a “Sport Mode” was a 2012 Focus (grave mistake) and I used it constantly as it made the DCT respond better. Also used it all the time on my Chrysler 300S I just traded in a few months ago. My Chrysler actually had 2 different “Sport” modes, turning the dial on the rotary shifter made the transmission behave better in traffic (quicker downshifts and would hold a higher gear for engine braking). I rarely ever pressed the Sport mode on the dash as that made the throttle overly aggressive IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I had a 300S briefly and remember the transmission-selected sport mode would also keep AWD engaged at all times and would lock the flappy paddles of they’d been used. I tried both a couple times, but typically let the car do its thing. That 8 speed was one of the best I’d ever driven.

      I recently let my manual go after much back and forth. The CX-5 I got has the sport switch, but I don’t use it. I’m not afraid to use all of the pedal travel.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I use sport mode about once a week. I use the paddle shifter or +/- gate nearly every day though. Some people that have taken the Stinger to the dragstrip have said there’s a .7 second difference between the ‘comfort’ & ‘sport’ modes.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Anecdotally I seem to recall during the Nissan CVT crisis when one’s transaxle gave up the ghost you could switch it to sport mode which somehow worked at least for awhile.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Of course I use sport mode all the time, I love to hear the sweet melody of the LS3 TR6060 working in concert to effortlessly shove me forward in my SS sedan.
    I only use tour on long stretches of road to make the ride very soft and comfortable

    I reserve performance mode for the twisties, or when throttle response times demand it.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Aren’t those Tour/Sport/Perf buttons just the mag shock settings?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        They adjust throttle response, exhaust loudness, mag shocks as you say, steering wheel tightens on performance mode as well, it also adjusts the traction control iirc on performance And for sure on track mode. I’m sure I’m missing a feature or two.

        Put the car into track mode and you can initiate launch control feature, among other features.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    On most of the cars I’ve driven, the Sport button is kind of a novelty.

    Most.

    The one exception being a 911 GTS with PDK. Turn the knob on the wheel to “Sport +” and the car is transformed! Holy hell what an incredible car.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Of the cars I’ve owned 3 have/had some sort of mode button.

    2007 Legacy GT Wagon has SI Drive. I have modified the car and used an out of the box tune and the difference between the modes is very noticeable. I usually drive in the lowest setting but I really enjoy putting is in S# which is the highest, it makes it a very fun car to drive. My wife had an unmodified 2009 LGT and I had a hard time telling the difference between the modes.

    2016 Regal GS had a GS button and a sport button. I could not tell the difference between any of them and never used them.

    2019 IS300 AWD has a sport setting and I can tell that it holds the gears more but I rarely use it. It doesn’t change the car’s dynamics enough to make me want to use it.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    When I can feel a legit improvement, heck yeah. On some cars it really makes a difference.

    On that Fusion ad, LOL at the “in cabin sound” – dumbest thing ever. Hitting the Sport button should change the ACTUAL exhaust sound, and enough of that will migrate inside. I’ve driven them and those FOUR PIPES are darn near silent.

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    My 2017 Lexus RX350 has 3 modes, normal, eco and sport. When starting it up, it defaults to either normal or eco depending on where it was when shutting down. Won’t ever default to sport, however. Bummer because I use sport all the time.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Yes, often. When I had a Charger R/T with active exhaust, I’d use it whenever the kids were in the car and we drove through a tunnel. They really got a kick out of it.

    During regular drives I’ll sometimes use it for ripping roundabouts, tight driving situations where gear holding is beneficial. Pretty much for the jollies.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      On the Charger, Challenger, and 300 the reason to use sport mode with the Hemi would be to turn off the cylinder deactivation.

      (I’ve heard anecdotally that cylinder deactivation systems from all manufacturers tend to have a few issues as the miles pile up. Turning them off when you can seems like a good idea.)

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        There’s no need. There’s a lot of misconstrued/anecdotal information out there. There’s no specific longevity issue with the MDS on the Hemi. Use it without fear for fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I’ve been getting used to my Challenger GT awd. I only have 110 miles on it but the couple of times I used the sport mode you can feel the throttle and suspension settings change.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I wish I had a sport mode in my vehicle and I’d be happy if it just adjusted throttle response. For the GS Regal there is normal, sport, and GS – most reviews claim they can’t tell the difference. Ironically the Lacrosse with the right option packages had a “sport” button.

    Wife’s Terrain has an “eco” button and mostly it just makes the transmission lazier. I’ve used it a few times when I was driving because IMHO that thing is a thirsty pig for its size and naturally aspirated 2.5 4 cyl.

    • 0 avatar
      Blackcloud_9

      Dan –
      I have a 2017 LaCrosse Premium with all of the options (except 4wd). It is the Dynamic Drive package that has the Sport Mode selectivity. It is because the option package includes Continuously Variable Real Time Damping Chassis. So, when you hit the Sport button, the suspension firms up the ride, etc.
      I do really notice a difference in the ride and handling. The transmission shifts are more crisp and steering is firmer. Throttle response is a tad more aggressive.
      The downside to the Dynamic Drive package is the 20″ wheels. While the P245/40R20 tires do improve handling, it comes at the expense of a smoother ride.
      I’m torn, if given the choice, I would get this package again. I love the way the larger wheels/tires fill the wheel arches of the car. It really enhances the way the car looks. But the ride as a whole is a tad more jittery and road noise from the wide tires is increased.
      I use Sport mode only if I know I’m going to be negotiating a lot of curves.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        It’s only ironic to me because the things that Buick gave the Lacrosse that they didn’t apply to other parts of the lineup.

        Like paddle shifters in the Lacrosse while denying them to the Regal, even the GS model.

        Or giving the Envision a large prominent “start stop” disable button but denying it to the rest of the lineup

        It just isn’t logical.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “I have a 2017 LaCrosse Premium with all of the options (except 4wd). It is the Dynamic Drive package”

        Nice car.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    Probably 75% of the time. Heavier steering feel and better throttle response makes me grin. 2013 MINI Cooper S 6MT

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I think “Sport” mode makes little difference in most cars, but it *definitely* does in my A3, which has a DCT. If you want to go fast, Sport mode’s the way to go. There’s also a launch control feature that you can only access with Sport mode.

    On the flip side, I don’t use Sport in traffic or parking lots – you get a fair amount of “jerkiness” – nothing like a Focus, but not *seemly.”

  • avatar
    NoID

    Only when I want to rip sweet skip-shift and/or rev-matched downshifts in company vehicles so equipped, especially when I’m slowing down to enter my neighborhood and passing by the house with the guy (and his kids) who appreciate it.

    Notice me Senpai!

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    Use it all the time in our 2015 A6 2.0T. It helps reduce the hesitation off the line when you are trying to quickly jump into traffic. You flick the stick back to go into sport and again to go out. Manual mode is a move of the stick to the side or using the paddles.
    In our 2013 TSX I only use it when I want full on manual control. You can down shift anytime you like with the paddles in drive. After a few moments of cruising it will change back to auto on it’s own.
    The A6 will also let you shift like this with the paddles while in drive but with 8 gears you have to down shift 4 or 5 times for any real effect so it is better to put it in sport first.

  • avatar

    I take a press car out of Sport also. I want to see the standard driving dynamics, not those forced via a setting which most customers will not use.

    My car resides in Eco permanently, it seems. Not sure the difference of the other two modes.

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    I had a sort of sport mode on my 2015 F150 5.0L and maybe used it once. Truck was plenty capable without it.

    On a rental C300, I also “tried” the sport mode, but generally kept it in the normal setting.

    If I had sport mode on my daily use vehicle, I don’t think I would use it much to be honest.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    All of the good systems leave the car in sport or performance or what not when you turn the car off.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    In older cars sport mode was the O/D button. In my grand marquis turn O/D off and it does the same thing my accord does, hold low gear so you’re always in a better spot on the power band. My dad’s crv with an O/D button did the same thing.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    2011 BMW E90 M3 ZCP (Competition Package). The suspension settings and sport/throttle mapping setting (labeled with the misnomer “Power”) are different buttons. The difference is considerable. I leave it in default (soft, non-sport) mode while warming up as I drive out of the neighborhood, and leave it there when the wife & kids are in the car. Otherwise, I pick a more aggressive mode once the temps are up. The configurability is a huge selling point for this chassis – wouldn’t recommend an M3 for DD duty without it!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    In my 19 Ioniq EV, about I use sport mode about once a week.

    It helps me beat the other guy from a particular stop light that merges into one lane up ahead. *More* instant torque…

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      EVs are underrated stoplight warriors. I once got dusted in my old Jetta – which had the 1.4T and a manual, and wasn’t slow by any means – by an i3. Ouch.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        At least in my Bolt, the challenge is to avoid one-wheel peel and the resulting traction control activation, which leaves you dead in the water. Not many ICE cars can beat me from a light if I keep both wheels hooked up.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    All of these people talking about their pathetic automatic appliances with SpOrT ModE make me sick.

    The two cars I’ve had with this feature were my Abarth Cabrio and my M6, both with all 3 pedals of course, and I only ever drive with Sport/M on because they otherwise restrict 20% of their power output. A ford explorer has no business with a “sport mode” and I’m tired of the unwashed masses thinking they have anything close to a pure driving experience with their 2-pedal conveyances because of sPOrT MOde.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      One could just as easily say those are impure because a truly pure driving experience shouldn’t require pushing a button or changing a driving mode to get all the power you paid for.

      There’s no ‘sport mode’ in a Viper because there’s no reason it would ever be turned off.

      • 0 avatar
        IBx1

        I would agree that the “sport mode” for both of these cars should be the default, with an optional “eco mode” for people who care about such things in a performance car. I’m honestly not thrilled with having variable suspension and steering settings either, as I would prefer to trust the engineers to give me what they consider ideal for the car.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          I’ve driven a 500C Abarth. It’s a different car if you forget to hit the button every drive. The reason for the useless default setting is because that’s how it was run on the EPA’s fuel economy and emissions loop. It wouldn’t count if you could defeat it once and forget it.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            That’s the way I look at it. In the cars where Sport Mode makes a difference, it really should be labeled “Normal Mode” or “Final Calibration.” And the default should really be labeled “Compliance Mode”.

          • 0 avatar
            IBx1

            Agree with both of y’all, it’s a shame that emissions standards are just as strict on high performance limited-volume models.

  • avatar
    haroldhill

    My car, dunno, I’ll have to go search and see if I can find one. My wife’s MINI, it’s so buried in her life’s detritus that if I searched I know I wouldn’t find it.

    Both cars (manuals) are a lot of fun to drive, as is. Truth is we adjust to our machines fairly quickly and, unless there’s something intrusive like a hesitation or a steeering dead spot, fun is fun. Sheesh, I used to have a ton of fun on a Vespa!

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    I use it every day on my E39 M5. It’s an MT, but the throttle response is completely different with it on. Most aftermarket tunes turn it on by default at startup, which would be nice. I don’t see why two settings exist for this car.

    When I rent various commuter blobs I usually turn it on, especially if I’m renting in the misnamed “intermediate” class ( usually Elantras or Sentras). These cars are dogs without it, even if the Elantra sport mode does hold gears forever after I’m done accelerating.

    Some of the adjustments on newer fast cars seem silly to me. On a recent M3 competition I never could tell much difference in the suspension settings.

  • avatar
    bogardus

    I have a 2017 Accord Hybrid in which I use sport mode fairly often, but usually only for a moment. It has a Sport button and an Eco button, both of which seem to affect mainly throttle response; there is no change to steering or suspension as far as I know, and the car doesn’t have a transmission in any conventional sense. Strangely, it is possible to engage Sport and Eco at the same time, but I haven’t figured out what the result of this is.

    In any case, the car is reasonably quick in any mode (212hp and instant torque). The problem is that, in Normal mode, there is a hesitation between putting your foot down and acceleration. Sport mode lessens the hesitation (in part, by keeping the ICE running most of the time). So, I engage sport mode whenever I am trying to turn onto a busy road or otherwise think I might need to accelerate on a moment’s notice. Otherwise, I keep it off as it decreases fuel economy. I virtually never use Eco as I’ve never noticed any economy benefit from it, though it does somehow reduce the intensity of the HVAC, which is occasionally useful.

    My BRZ has only a stability-control sport mode, which I also tend to use just for quick accelerations, particularly while turning, to make sure VSC doesn’t neuter response.

    While driving my wife’s 2010 Fit, I use sport mode mostly to enable the paddle shifters for engine braking or gear holding. Occasionally I will engage it for hard acceleration, but there is no setting that will make that car quick.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’ve rented Camaros and Mustangs for track days, sport mode is very nice for track use.

  • avatar
    jtk

    I’ve never had a car with sport mode. I do have a manual shift mode (using the shifter, not paddles) that I’ve used one time in 85,000 miles, and that was to save brakes while driving over mountains.

  • avatar
    Joe K

    I use it in heavy high speed traffic or when I need to get past someone driving way too slow quickly. Ive been known to use it in hilly non highway roads as the transmission seems to be hunting for the right gear. Otherwise I just leave it in drive.

  • avatar
    don1967

    I would use a sport mode on our S80 if it would eliminate the premature upshifts and constant gear-hunting. Alas, none is offered.

    My Yamaha MT09 is another story. Sport mode (“A Mode”) is a throttle mapping setting that turns the bike into a neck-snapping wheelie machine. Useful for John Wick chase scenes and not much else.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    My 2014 Fiat 500 (non-turbo) had a Sport Mode button on it and, believe it or not, you could feel the difference. Oh, it ran fine without SM turned on, still quick-accelerating and agile while getting near 40mpg average but when you clicked SM, the acceleration torque just ‘felt’ higher and it held each gear slightly longer for quicker overall acceleration. Moreover, the suspension seemed to tighten a bit as she would respond more sharply to steering input. This on a 101hp micro-car that could easily out accelerate full-sized pickups out to a quarter-mile (despite the claims of 10-second 0-60 reviews.) (I know because several such pickups used to try and keep up with me on acceleration and they didn’t catch up until I let off the gas at 60.)

  • avatar
    Terry

    2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature(turbo). I use Sport Mode- -and Manual Shift Modes—quite regularly. sport locks out top gear(6th) and lets the engine reach higher rpm to access more power in each of the other 5 speeds. Great fun on a 2-lane backroad, not so great for fuel economy. If you’re a rider with a steering wheel in front of you Sport Mode is probably never used. If you’re a driver that wants just that little bit more control it’s useful.
    I asked my brother if he ever has used Sport Mode in his ‘18 Mazda CX-3. “Never” was all he said with a look of fear.

  • avatar
    MBella

    It makes many of today’s cars driveable. Without it, the throttle isn’t sensitive enough to do anything quickly and the transmission holds an excessively low gear.

    • 0 avatar
      warrant242

      Blanket statement but…pretty accurate.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I had a 5-speed manual in my Saturn Vue; kept hunting for sixth gear.
        I had a 6-speed manual in my Jeep JKU Wrangler; kept hunting for seventh gear.

        When you’re cruising, you simply don’t need a higher rpm to maintain speed. Both of those would have cruised nicely about about 1750 revs instead of the 2K revs they were both configured to.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Don’t use anything but Drive unless I am driving uphill and need to shift into Low. Just gave my last manual transmission vehicle to my nephew–shifting an automatic is just not as engaging and fun as a manual.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @Jeff S: I’d have to say that’s somewhat dependent on the vehicle… some let you manually ‘notch’ the shift lever backwards or forwards to auto-shift up or down while older automatics forced you to carefully try to stop at the detent you wanted. My Colorado (no Sport Mode per se) has me pull down into Low, then click a rocker button forward or back to manually chose the desired gear. Personally, I prefer rocking the entire shifter instead.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I drive my C7 in Sport mode 90% of the time. Of course in the Corvette it actually does make a BIG difference between the 4 drive modes (weather, tour, sport & track) due the mag-ride and performance exhaust. Also the steering, throttle response, traction control, limited slip, HUD, digital dash, etc all change so it very noticeable.

    I’ve rented a few car where I can’t tell a lick of difference between modes. On most it seems to firm up the steering a touch and hold gears a little bit longer.

    On my wife’s Infiniti Q60 it downshifts more aggressively in Sport mode but nothing else really changes.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    On the rental Focus Sportbreak I had a month or so ago I did use the Sport mode on a nice twisty road and it certainly helped keep the 1.0 Ecoboost making its peak torque. Unfortunately it didn’t do anything noticeable to the steering and of course the car doesn’t have adjustable dampening at that price point. I couldn’t notice a real difference between normal and ECO though.

    On my MKZ I do use the Sport Mode occasionally but I normally leave it in Comfort Mode since most of the driving of that car is commuting in traffic on crappy roads. It does make a very noticeable difference in the ride and steering. I’d be fine with the steering staying in sport mode, but definitely not the suspension. Since it is a Hybrid you don’t notice a dramatic difference in transmission behavior like I did in the Focus.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Constantly in sport mode.

    Eco modes are dangerous, in that they never have the ability to quickly pull away when you need it. Eco modes need to shut off at 50% throttle.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Eco mode in my Highlander Hybrid, at least, gives you the same result as normal mode with the pedal on the floor. You just have to push harder to get the same result at part throttle.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I have two totally non-sporty cars. In both of them, all Sport mode does is sharpen throttle response. I don’t like the feel of a hair-trigger throttle so I never use it. If I want rapid acceleration, I’m perfectly capable of pushing the throttle farther.

    I drive the Bolt in “L” mode (max regen) 100% of the time, though. It reduces use of the friction brakes and noticeably improves miles/kWh.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      We leave our Volt in “L” and generously use the regen paddles on the wheel–it’s been enough to get in the high 60’s for city mileage on the battery alone and once in the 70’s.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    I use “sport” mode daily as it’s side effect of holding gears gives a few advantages in the grind of stop/go Seattle traffic:

    – Prevents hunting for gears
    – more compression braking which is easier to regulate speed
    – fewer times to hit the brake pedal, which means fewer brake lights to cause the timid drivers of our modern times to hit their brake lights

    I also use the sport mode in full manual on track days. No, it’s not setting any track records, but it also doesn’t break down on track like my Evo IV did every.single.time…

    2018 Mazda6 GT (I also prefer the 6-speed transmission over the insanely narrow-power-band 8, 9, 10+ speed transmissions)

  • avatar
    Ryannosaurus

    I have a 2015 F150 that has multiple transmission modes. I live in a rural mountain dominated area, so have had lots of opportunities to experiment with the different settings. You can put it in manual and use the up/down shift button which is useful on roads changing elevation rapidly, or you can lock out upper gears which is great when descending long grades because you can choose a gear that holds your speed. The tow/haul mode is fantastic! Reduces gear changes by holding gears and will downshift as you apply the breaks to aid in slowing you down. It will also downshift/upshift to maintain your downhill speed you after you lift off the throttle.

    As for “Sport Mode”, completely useless. Yes it will hold gears and change the throttle response, but I have found that the chassis/suspension is hopelessly over-matched and cannot keep up with the sudden changes in power and steering input. Why Ford put a Sport mode in a truck as far as I can see, it’s just a gimmick.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’m not sure it’s a ‘sport’ mode but my Outback has paddle shifters you can access by moving the shifter lever over. I think I’ve used it maybe 6 times in 6+ years. The CVT seems to do a better job of finding the power band than I can.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I use the sport modes most of the time in my FX50s. If you are driving normally, it doesn’t change anything aside from varying the steering ratio. When you drive more aggressively, it will downshift more quickly during braking and it will not upshift until the steering wheel has been straight for more than a few seconds. There is a separate Sport button for the suspension that sets it to firm instead of adaptive. On some roads, this works better at keeping everyone from getting car sick. I don’t notice much of a difference in the front, but it definitely locks down the back significantly.

    Obviously, this isn’t a sports car, but it handles pretty well for what it is, and the buttons make a big difference.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    ’17 Fusion 2.0 ecoboost. Yes, I do, in heavy traffic where I need to dart. I know, in theory, the same power is there in normal mode, but I’m not sure what I have to do to get my vehicle to respond with the same verve that it does in sport mode. Regular mode is fine 90% of the time, and sport mode is too aggressive to drive smoothly. But my vehicle definitely feels like it is leaving some HP on the table when in normal mode. I know, it’s probably there, but doesn’t feel like it. I would prefer one predictable mode that responds accordingly to the amount of pressure on the go pedal… like the old days.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    My 2019 Tiguan SEL-P has two different “sport” functions. You can turn the AWD drive-mode dial to “Sport” mode. You can also dip the gear selector into “S” mode. You can do both at the same time. In any event, it doesn’t really transform the Tiguan’s driving; it is a very lethargic, appliance-like vehicle.

  • avatar
    Boff

    F80 M3 here (6MT), and the throttle, steering, and suspension can be fiddled with independently.

    Throttle:
    Efficient (default) really deadens the response, but does have the advantage of not opening up the muffler butterflies so it is better for exiting the parking garage. If I forget to toggle to the my preferred setting I notice within a block. Sport is a great setting that gives much better response but yet is not too abrupt. Sport+ bumps up the throttle response a noticeable degree, at the cost of quite jerky on/off throttle behaviour. This is the only setting that deactivates the rev match feature, which works well but offends my self-image as a competent driver of stick-shifts.

    Steering:
    Comfort in many ways has the best “feel” (and I’m using that term loosely) but it does seem to wiggle around (and not in a good way) in response to road imperfections. Sport (default) has good heft but also dulls the feedback. Sport+ is quite heavy but adds no iota of sportiness.

    Suspension:
    Comfort is quite terrible as the car really moves around a lot, floating and bouncing even on decent roads. Sport (default) tightens things up without being too punishing. Sport+ increases harshness without improving body control over Sport, but isn’t as teeth-rattling as you may have read.

    My “M1” combo that I hit every time I drive the car is Sport+ (throttle) Sport (steering) and Sport (suspension).

    My fun car (ND Miata) has no adjustments at all and is the height of perfection as dialed in by the magicians at Mazda.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I was pretty much always in Sport mode on my Sportwagen TDI. It held gears longer, which meant better acceleration, especially for on-ramps.

    It would also almost eliminate the jerkiness of the DSG at parking lot/low speeds. I had the dealer re-flash when it was still relatively new after complaining about the jerkiness. However, it didn’t make any difference so I just kept it in Sport mode and it was much less jerky until I sold it back to VW.

    My C-Max doesn’t have any such option, so I guess I’m always in Sport mode in that car. Because it’s quite sporty as everyone knows.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    It’s tough to answer this question without laughing because one of our cars is a Prius. “Power,” “Normal” and “Eco,” otherwise known as “Slow,” “Slower” and “Slowest.” There’s no detectable fuel economy difference between “Eco” and anything else, that’s all in how you drive it.

    Our other car is a Corolla with a stick, no button and the level of “sport” is all down to my mood.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      You made me think of my wife’s old Vibe with 5 speed manual. She would granny shift at less than 3,000 RPM and I would run it out a lot closer to redline.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    My vehicle has it and I use it specifically in twisty mountain passes. It makes a difference.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    I took delivery of my ’19 VW GLI almost seven months ago and the car has only been out of sport mode for less than an hour. That was when my wife was driving it and she doesn’t like the stiffer suspension and increased noise. I think one difference is that my GLI has the manual transmission so sport mode does nothing to change shift points. I rent a lot of cars for work and will occasionally put them in sport mode to get a little life out of them but I usually give up as all it seems to do is hold the shift points longer and make the car buzzier.

    Seven months in and the honeymoon is still going strong. The GLI is one of the most fun cars I’ve ever owned.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    I drove a Jaguar XF at a track day event in England last year and I tried both sport and normal mode. I took it out of sport mode and kept it in normal because sport gave full throttle opening at half the pedal travel and I found it too hard to control the power.

    Leaving it in normal gave me all the power I could handle, and was actually more controllable. Granted, this was already the sport model and had a number of improvements over the base model, so perhaps it has a different sport mode calibration than a standard car?

    The button did have a checkered flag on it, so perhaps fair to call it track mode? Even on the track, I found it too much.

  • avatar
    thekevinmonster

    I either drive my mk7 GLI in Manual mode (usually keeping the revs around 2k to cruise and letting it wind up before upshifting) or I drive it in S mode.

    D mode is terrible. When you are accelerating and give it a little more gas, it will upshift. It keeps the revs between 1.5 and 2k unless you step on it pretty hard. Total garbage in D. In S, it’s pretty good but the engine braking downshifts are kind of clunky. In M, I can just do what I want.

  • avatar

    I get a demo car from the dealer I work at and use the sport mode daily. I live off a rather PIA on ramp and appreciate sport mode for merging but generally go back to comfort once on the highway.

  • avatar
    CrystalEyes

    Many of the vehicles in my car share co-op have this feature, and I’ve found it a hit and miss sort of gimmick. Mostly it just changes the throttle response, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. I drive what I would describe as ‘briskly’, but my main goal is always to maximize ‘smoothness’, and sometimes the sport mode makes this difficult or impossible. Case in point is the FR-S – it makes the car too jerky around town, but is definitely worthwhile on the highway. Most of the vehicles are pretty plebian and it doesn’t much matter, but the FR-S and the CR-Z, both of which alter more than just throttle response, are definite exceptions. The CR-Z, for example, is almost undriveable in eco mode, not much better in whatever ‘normal’ is called, but becomes genuinely fun in sport mode. Of course you have to re-engage it every start, and more than once I thought something was wrong with the car until I remembered I had to push the button.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    I’ve got that in my LS 430 but after trying it a couple of times, i’ll be dipped if I can tell what it does.

    Probably burns more gas or something. I guess i’d better dig up the manual and find out what to expect.

  • avatar
    FThorn

    I have a small ish engine with CVT and it does not have sport. I use ECO, and set my cruise at a low speed, stay in my lane. But, when I go to a track day, and drive other people’s cars… I go wild. Whatever is the most fun, w/o risking it. At the Lamborghini hosted Huracan roadster RWD drive at Pebble Beach, I was in full track mode, but at the top of the misty mountain/hill top, when the 3 times my house car got a bit too squirrelly, I reached towards the bottom of the steering wheel and clicked it UP on notch. Similarly with the Supra, GT350, etc, I still leave some protection in place, because it’s not my car.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I leased a 2015 BMW 320i for three years and felt like sport mode really transformed the car. To me, it felt like it had more than it’s rated 180hp. Super fun for cutting and thrusting through city traffic, and excellent for 2 lane highways. In regular mode, the car would turn 38-40 mpg running 80 mph on cruise, so it was like having your cake and eating it too.

    While I wouldn’t want to own one out of warranty, I’m kinda missing it now that I’m talking about it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Vulpine–Maybe you are right but I found driving a manual transmission more engaging and it gave me more awareness of my driving. I shift so seldom with an automatic but I do like being able to shift to a lower gear a few times when I feel I need to. Since my newest vehicle addition has a hybrid system I pay more attention to how I accelerate and brake to get the full benefit out of the hybrid. The vehicle is so quiet and smooth.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Personally, I expect when my wife decides to trade in her Renegade, she’s going to buy a Tesla or some other BEV. Her work has been adding chargers to stay just ahead of employee ownership of BEVs so there’s always a charger open over the course of the day to plug in at Level 2 charging rates (so each charger handles 2-3 vehicles per work shift.) She, too, enjoys shifting but she always had trouble with starting on an uphill grade once stopped, something the automatics and the BEV have eliminated.

      As for me, I truly do enjoy a manual but as I live in a high-density suburban/urban environment, the enjoyment fades when you’re manually shifting 2-3 gears between every stoplight (about ⅛ mile apart and even closer in some cases.) Granted, I still achieve 100k+ miles between clutch plate replacements (have been told I’m not a clutch-rider like some drivers) but for me the fun is when you have full control of the torque when it’s needed, not when you have to shift so much just to get to work or the store or the doctor’s office, etc.

      A manual for me today is for my toy car, if I ever manage to buy a true toy again. The fun for me is not in how aggressive I can be but rather how smoothly I can drive to reach my destination more quickly. For me, driving at 65mph smoothly tends to get me to the destination more quickly and more rested than racing along at 75-85 and having to dodge traffic and get caught up in bottlenecks and other congestion. Planning the route and choosing when and where to eat and refuel/recharge lets me enjoy the trip itself. The vacation starts when I leave home, not when I reach the destination, if you know what I mean.

  • avatar

    All day.
    The AMG system is Comfort, Sport, Sport plus.
    Comfort is EPA mode. Auto stop is in use, (hate it), and the throttle is full mush. Suspension is pretty soft, the car will pitch. Transmission short shifts.
    Sport tightens up the steering wheel, gives you decent throttle response-turns off the stop/start too. I don’t like the suspension calibration, it rides hard but allows wallow. I’d prefer the opposite, give me the comfort soft shock but keep the sport plus lack of wallow. I don’t get this one.
    Sport + same steering, same throttle response. Holds gears a long time, right for a tight mountain road. Suspension is clearly what the AMG engineers were aiming for, fully intelligent and real time reactive.

    You can toggle suspension through the modes independent of the transaxle/throttle settings.

    My individual mode is programmed transaxle in Sport, Suspension in Sport plus, and Stablility Control in Sport. The regular stability control is a harsh nanny, but sport allows a bit of slide and messing around and individual mode allows this as a memory setting.

    I’d like to split the transmission shift pattern and the throttle response, as a cruise on the highway would best be sport + suspension, sport throttle response, and comfort short shifts, but you can’t split the modes by throttle response/shifting patterns, and the comfort gas pedal is clearly set up to game EPA tests, not actually drive.

    This is a small quibble, I like being able to go Comfort in the suspension or Sport + depending on if I’m driving 30 mph in a city or 70 on the interstate.

    The other cars I’ve driven with this, Porsche, the Cadillac CTS-V, etc also are worth it. Magnaride is a game changer.

    In lesser cars, though, it can be a gimmick with just a faster throttle uptake. YMMV

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    We have a BMW and and Audi here. While neither of our cars have it, loaners we have gotten for service calls over the years have had it.

    I generally drop it into ‘Eco’ and disable the auto-shutoff-at-stops function (which I hate). Maybe I’m too nice, or whatever, but it seems ethically wrong to drive a car that isn’t mine hard.

    I did use the sport mode on the G20 3 series (a 330i)I got as a loaner last month, just for kicks. Mostly because it was the only way that the car came close to feeling like our old E46, or the current E88 convertible.

    The G20 is too long, too quiet, too wide, and too far to the ‘luxury’ side of the luxury/sport mix for my tastes. If you want something like the E46 or E90, get the 2 Series.

    (On a side note, the design of the infotainment is not well thought out. Getting my phone to pair took multiple attempts, as it seems to want you to enter the on screen 6 digit password into your phone within a 1 second window before it tells you it could not connect. I gave up after 4 or 5 attempts. The charging port in the arm rest is USB-C only. The other USB under the radio(USB A)is only to play media or load it into the hard drive as far as I can tell. My phone charging cable got read as ‘invalid’ and wouldn’t charge my phone. And of course, I’m not in the habit of taking the USB stick of music out of my Audi except to add music [The BMW did load and play the USB stick flawlessly when I got home, to its credit]. There was a 12V port…but I haven’t had to use one of those in a loaner in years, so I left the adapter in our car. Has the option to play or upload media from CDs on the infotainment screen, the check mark toggles light/dark on the touch screen, go a ‘no disc’ error message…but no visible CD player on the dash, or in the glove box. No aux line in port for my old school .mp3 player.

    I ended up listening to FM radio. Meh.

    The built in nav system is very good, though. )

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    No “sport mode” in my V6 Mustang with a manual.

    Steering, however, is permanently sent to “Sport” though since it gives more heft than “Comfort” or “Normal” which gives a very loose feel. I’m still not a fan of electronic steering versus the ol’ hydraulic. So little feel.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Vulpine–Agree I drive smoothly avoiding jack rabbit starts and sudden braking unless I have to brake in an emergency. I try to maintain a steady speed of no more than 5 mph over the speed limit on the interstate and on a trip I set the cruise. What you said about driving 65 is true I find that I get to my destination just as quick without all the anxiety and my vehicles require less repairs and last longer. I gave my 99 S-10 to my nephew after 20 1/2 years of ownership and the costs to maintain the S-10 and to drive it that long were minimum–I more than got my money out of that truck in usage and I would still be driving it if it weren’t for buying my neighbors low mileage like new Lacrosse at a very low price. I would not be surprised if that S-10 made it at least another 10 or 20 years especially the way my nephew takes care of his vehicles and the shape it is in. It didn’t use any oil nor did it have any leaks. My nephew is a licensed mechanic and will keep the maintenance up and store it in his building along with his Ram truck, Accord, and father-in-laws antique John Deere tractor once his barn is completed.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Thumbs up for your nephew. He’s got all the advantages; a known reliable truck whose history I’m sure he knows from when it was near-new, along with the knowledge and skills to keep it running.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    On my Prius, yes. I need it when I’m late and need to go through yellow light fast enough. Otherwise I’d use Econ mode.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    The only time I don’t drive my car in Sport mode is in the winter when it’s bad out. I wish it had a “snow” setting to gut the engine power and automatically take off in 2nd gear.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I’ll end up doing that in the winter with my new Accord, using the paddles to manually hold gears.

      Although the car starts out in 2nd in normal mode, I think. 40mph cruise in 7th. Haven’t quite figured out the gearing at various speeds just yet, because as I stated above, the transmission is extremely well-behaved.

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