Does “Sport Mode” Really Do Anything?

If you have purchased a new vehicle in the past decade, then you might have noticed that one of the buttons on the center console or the dashboard says “sport” or “sport mode.” Upon noticing it, you might be subsequently be wondering what that button even does. Does it make the car faster? Does it kill the car’s fuel economy? Let’s take a closer look at that mysterious button and see what “sport mode” actually does.

A button of all trades

In most cars, whether it’s the push of a button or a setting that you have to toggle on through a menu, the sport mode changes the car’s settings in a number of different ways.

Typically, sport mode adjusts the car’s throttle response, steering response, and shift points. If the car is an automatic, then putting it in sport mode will make the transmission shift later in the RPM range in order to make use of all of the car’s power.

On some cars, using sport mode could actually tighten up the suspension as well, making it more fun on the twisty backroads.

2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport P400 HST mild hybrid
2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport P400 HST mild hybrid | Land Rover

Sharper throttle response

Unlike the cable-controlled throttle linkages of the past, throttles on cars today are now controlled electronically and the different mode settings on your car can open the throttle slower or faster.

For example, if your car has an “ECO mode,” then the gas pedal will feel dampened when you press down on it and the throttle will open slower, thereby letting less air and fuel into the engine and making it more fuel-efficient.

Sport mode does the opposite; it will make the gas pedal feel more responsive and open the throttle quicker making the engine feel more responsive. However, it can use fuel more quickly as well.

It changes the shift points

If your car is an automatic, then you probably know that it shifts at certain points automatically. In a normal setting, your car will shift at the most optimal point for fuel efficiency and acceleration.

However, when you put it into sport mode, then the car will shift at a higher RPM, or all the way at redline, for better acceleration and speed when you “floor” the gas pedal.

It tightens up the steering

Most cars nowadays utilize electric power steering as opposed to a hydraulic pump. With electric power steering, the steering feel is able to be changed on the fly, and sport mode usually toggles it on.

Sport mode will add more resistance to the steering feel to give it a sportier, and more weighted, feeling. Kind of like a race car.

Sharper handling

Adjustable shock absorbers are typically found on higher-end luxury and sports cars, however, you might find them on more-affordable cars as time goes on. In any case, using sport mode will actually adjust the dampening levels in the car’s shock absorbers to tighten up the ride for less body roll and a sportier feel.

2020 Porsche Taycan driver display
2020 Porsche Taycan driver display | Matthew Skwarczek

Not all sport modes are created equal

Depending on what kind of car you have, the sport mode, or the “sport” button, can either provide a “night and day” driving experience or feel like it does nothing at all.

For example, if you drive a Mini Cooper, then you might notice that pressing the “sport” button will not only make the car feel more responsive and quicker, but it will also drive a little smoother as it changes the throttle mapping.

However, in a Hyundai Equus, utilizing sport mode might not feel like it does anything at all. Possibly because it’s a big, heavy luxury car that’s not really meant to feel sporty, to begin with.

Either way, we advise to just press the button or set the car in sport mode and see what it does. It might just make you like your car even more.