QOTD: Do You Ever Bother With Sport Mode?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd do you ever bother with sport mode

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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3 of 109 comments
  • PandaBear PandaBear on Oct 23, 2019

    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.

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Oct 24, 2019

    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.

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Oct 27, 2019

      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.

  • MaintenanceCosts Despite my hostile comments above I really can't wait to see a video of one of these at the strip. A production car running mid-eights is just bats. I just hope that at least one owner lets it happen, rather than offloading the car from the trailer straight into a helium-filled bag that goes into a dark secured warehouse until Barrett-Jackson 2056.
  • Schurkey Decades later, I'm still peeved that Honda failed to recall and repair the seat belts in my '80 Civic. Well-known issue with the retractors failing to retract.Honda cut a deal with the NHTSA at that time, to put a "lifetime warranty" on FUTURE seat belts, in return for not having to deal with the existing problems.Dirtbags all around. Customers screwed, corporation and Government moves on.
  • Bullnuke An acquaintance of mine 50+ years ago who was attending MIT (until General Hershey's folks sent him his "Greetings" letter) converted an Austin Mini from its staid 4 cylinder to an electric motored fuel cell vehicle. It was done as a project during his progression toward a Master Degree in Electrical Engineering. He told me it worked pretty well but wasn't something to use as a daily driver given the technology and availability of suitable components of the time. Fueling LH2 and LOX was somewhat problematic. Upon completion he removed his fuel cell and equipment and, for another project, reinstalled the 4 banger but reassembled it without mechanical fasteners using an experimental epoxy adhesive instead which, he said, worked much better and was a daily driver...for awhile. He went on to be an enlisted Reactor Operator on a submarine for a few years.
  • Ajla $100k is walking around money but this is almost certainly the last Dodge V8 vehicle and it's likely to be the most powerful factory-installed and warrantied pushrod engine ever. So there is some historical applicability to things even if you have an otherwise low opinion of the Challenger.And, like I said up thread, if you still hate it will be gone soon anyway.
  • Carlson Fan GM completely blew the marketing of the Volt. The commercials were terrible. You'd swear they told the advertising company to come up with an ad that would make sure no one went out and shopped a Volt after seeing it!...........LOL My buddy asked why I bought a car that only goes 40 miles on a charge? That pretty much sums up how confusing and uninformative the advertising was.