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The Difference Between Driving Modes Explained

Posted in Motoring Tips

The Difference Between Driving Modes Explained

Different road conditions demand different driving characters of the car. Different drivers have different driving styles. That's why most cars have different driving modes you can choose from. Here are the differences.

How Does it Work

Let's get a bit technical first: the Engine Control Module (ECU) controls the car’s main components such as the engine, transmission, suspension, steering, and brakes. It has different power maps for different driving conditions. Makes sense so far?

Well, the different driving modes can alter these components, like throttle response, suspension stiffness, steering feel, and traction control. Earlier generation cars had the single driving characteristic; with driving modes, you can drive and handle a modern car in multiple ways to suit the conditions.

For example, when on your commute, you may wish to be in the most efficient drive mode setting to ensure the best fuel efficiency. However, on a long journey, you may prefer quicker responses and better performance from your car. Thanks to different driving modes, this is now all possible from just one car. Let's have a look at the most common Driving Modes.

Eco Mode

Eco Mode stands for “Economy Mode”. Some manufacturers also term it as “Controlled Efficiency” (C) mode. The Eco driving mode fully optimizes the fuel consumption. It maximizes the vehicle’s fuel economy by adjusting the engine and transmission’s operating parameters. The Eco mode improves the car fuel usage for both city and highway travel with a slight decrease in the power output. With highly optimised efficiency, this driving mode delivers the eco-friendly driving experience and great fuel economy.

While driving in the Eco driving mode, you can expect to get the best fuel efficiency from your car, but the throttle is not very responsive in this driving mode. So, even if you press the throttle hard, the actual response will be slower. Thus, it helps you save fuel, as the engine power will increase slowly, but make sure to not use it when you actually need some extra power like when overtaking or driving off-road.

Comfort Mode

This mode is ideal for routine drives and long journeys. Your Comfort mode is the most balanced of the driving modes and provides a good balance between Eco and Sport modes. It also minimizes the steering effort for the driver with lighter steering and offers a smoother suspension feel.​

In Comfort mode, the vehicle will soften the suspension and lighten the steering feedback, resulting in a plush ride with easy steering. In other words, it’ll give you that “floating-down-the-highway-on-clouds” kind of feeling.

Sport Mode

The Sport mode is for an extra thrilling & aggressive driving experience. Sport mode gives a quicker throttle response for a sporty drive, meaning the car accelerates more readily. In addition, more fuel is introduced into the engine to increase the available power.

The suspension stiffens up and the steering becomes firmer or heavier for better feel.

By shifting the car into Sport mode, the car will add weight to the steering, initiate a more aggressive throttle response, and remap its shift points so that the car will hold onto gears longer and maintain optimal torque performance and high RPMs. This mode is typically used for more spirited drives where you want optimal performance.

Sport+ or Track Mode

Once Sport+ or Track mode is activated, not only will it do everything “normal” Sport Mode does, but it will also tighten the front seat side bolsters (to make sure you don’t slide out of your seat), the active exhaust will open up (allowing you to hear that heavenly engine note), and turn off all traction-related systems (so the car won’t cut power when you’re going sideways) But, as the name suggests, such modes should only be used in a safe environment, like on a track. Of course this mode is only fitted on actual sport cars that are fitted with these options and can accommodate the performance levels.

In some cars, the suspension can stiffen to such a degree that it reduces the action of the car’s traction control. Again, it is these really potent Sports mode variants that are more suited to track performance and should not be used on normal roads.

4X4: Snow, Sand, Mud or Rock Mode

In many 4x4 that have different driving modes available you'll find four different options: Snow, Sand, Mud or Rock. As the name implies these modes are to be used on the different terrains, helping to improve the safety of driving in these challenging conditions and assisting you where necessary.


In Snow mode for example the throttle input is usually lowered, and braking power becomes gentler, to help provide the stability you need in snowy conditions. Traction control becomes more active to increase grip, and automatic transmission cars will select the highest gear possible to help stabilise the car.

This essentially keeps engine revs low to help prevent wheel slip over slippery terrain.


In Sand mode throttle response is increased and more wheel slip is allowed so the vehicle can maintain the momentum required to drive over the terrain.


When the terrain is very rough, you want to select Rock mode - usually only available in advanced 4x4s. This will adjust the traction control system to suit the terrain and dampen the throttle response which allows for a nice, precise, slow movement that you want when driving over large boulders or other extreme terrain. Low range must be selected before this mode can be activated.

Next time you're driving in your car, why not experiment with the different 'driving mode' buttons and see how your car (and perhaps your fuel usage) responds accordingly.

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