What Are The Driving Modes & How Do They Work?

Driving Modes (Courtesy: KIA)

What are the Driving Modes?

Different road conditions demand different driving characters of the car. The car drivers have different driving styles and they need to adapt to the road conditions. Some drivers prefer a sporty drive while others prefer a comfortable drive. The modern cars are capable to deliver diverse performance range according to the driver’s demand. These cars offer Driving Modes thru which the driver can change the car’s driving character.

Mercedes Benz driving Modes (Courtesy: Mercedes-Benz)
Mercedes Benz driving Modes (Courtesy: Mercedes-Benz)

The Engine Control Module controls the car’s main components such as the engine, transmission, suspension, steering, and brakes. It has different power maps for different driving conditions. Driving modes also alter the throttle response, suspension stiffness, steering feel, and traction control. The earlier generation cars had the single driving characteristic. With driving modes, you can drive and handle a modern car in multiple ways. For e.g, three driving modes will give you the performance of three cars in one.

The manufacturers offer the following driving modes:

E / C / ECO

It 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 mileage for both city and highway travel with a slight decrease in the power output. With highly optimized 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. The throttle is not very responsive in this driving mode. The eco and comfort modes have less responsive throttle compared to other modes. 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.


This mode is ideal for routine drives and long journeys. COMFORT mode is the most balanced of the driving modes. It 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.


The SPORT mode is for an extra thrilling & aggressive driving experience. Sport mode gives a quicker throttle response for a sporty drive. When you activate the SPORT mode; the engine/throttle response increases. However, the suspension stiffens up and the steering becomes firmer or heavier for better feel.

BMW Driving Modes (Courtesy: BMW)
BMW Driving Modes (Courtesy: BMW)


The SPORT+ mode takes the driving dynamics to the next level and delivers an even sportier ride. This driving mode activates the Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) which is a part of the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). In this mode, the traction control is “dynamic” – midway between full stability and no stability control.

This will allow more spinning of the tire before the DTC interferes which can help if the car is stuck. It allows the driven wheels to spin and also grip in the snow, sand, and gravel. With the DTC “ON”, it provides a greater drifting angle, allowing the car to drift at extreme angles. However, this needs great skills and a lot of practice as well.


Naturally, in this driving mode, the drivers can actually personalize their drive. You can take the features you like the most from other modes. Then, you can tailor to suit a drive you prefer. You can customize this driving mode to your driving style. However, there are some limitations to the combinations to ensure a safe and effective drive.


Some cars offer the Smart driving mode which monitors your driving style. It shifts continually through the Sport, Comfort and Eco modes. It also provides the optimum balance between performance, fuel economy, and smooth operation. Smart mode understands and anticipates the driver’s steering preferences and also adjusts vehicle operation accordingly. It provides the right combination of settings depending on road conditions and driving style.

KIA Driving Modes
Image Courtesy: KIA


Rain and ice pose a skidding hazard because the slippery surface reduces traction. However, the slippery mode reduces the power and delivers a flat torque curve. This maximizes the driver control when there is less traction such as on wet & slippery roads.


Driving on the race track needs maximum performance and unrestricted handling. This mode provides maximum performance and unrestricted handling characteristics. Only select performance cars such as Mercedes AMG models offer the RACE mode.

Watch Driving Modes in action:

Read More: What is Distronic?>>

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