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I Have Discovered The Ideal Drive Mode Settings For Your Car

Illustration for article titled I Have Discovered The Ideal Drive Mode Settings For Your Car
Photo: Raphael Orlove

Cars are more sophisticated than ever before. They are also more confounding! The explosion of technology in vehicles we’ve seen over the past decade has made it trickier than ever to just “get in” and “drive,” if your car offers customizable settings that can change its behavior on the road. So what’s the best way to set those up? I am here to help.


Sport mode—which typically sharpens throttle response, tightens steering feels, stiffens the suspension for better handling and dials up the exhaust note, or some combination of those things—is nothing new. Neither is the active suspension, which allows the driver to tweak ride and handling settings from within the car. You even find these on humble economy and family cars now.

What I have found to be increasingly common on new cars is the ability to customize those settings, to mix and match them to meet your individual requirements.


It’s even called that much of the time—a lot of modern cars have modes like Comfort, Sport and Individual. I’ve seen such settings on the last few cars I’ve driven for this website, including the Kia Stinger, the Mercedes E400 and the Porsche Panamera I’m currently in.

So if you can set those yourself, I have found the most ideal combination:

  • Engine: Sport, or Sport+
  • Transmission: Sport, or Sport+
  • Exhaust: Sport, or Sport+
  • Steering: Sport, or Sport+
  • Ride: Comfort

That last part is the most important thing here. Basically, you dial everything to its maximum loudness, sportiness and most extreme, and then set the suspension and ride quality to comfort. This way you are getting the most out of your car, with something that is loud, fast, razor sharp in the corners—and smooth as hell over most kinds of roads.

Look. Most of the time in your car, you won’t be doing track days. You’re commuting or driving in the city. You want to squeeze as much fun as you can out of the machine, but you also have to deal with America’s crumbling, garbage infrastructure. We stopped really spending money on our roads when Eisenhower was president, and as such, our streets and highways are pothole-filled nightmares. Comfort Mode won’t save your tires, wheels and suspensions from road damage, but it will keep your spine a bit happier.

Sport mode is also for carving a corner as fast as possible, and as much as we love always driving RIGHT ON THE RAGGED EDGE, if you make it to said edge on a public street on the regular you’re probably doing it wrong. Or driving a Yugo. So you don’t even need it.


In almost all normal, everyday driving, you want the car as quick as possible, as loud and awesome as possible, and as cushy and pliant as you can get it. This is really the only way to drive, if you ask me!

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.

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Michael Ballaban

One small point of disagreement. I would put the transmission in Comfort mode as well, because if you leave it in Sport mode or whatever it’ll make the engine just sit there, clattering away at 6000 RPM while you cruise on the highway just in case you need a SPEED BOOST.

When you get a transmission that can do fancy modes and whatnot it’s usually got some sort of paddle-shift system as well. If you really need the SPEED BOOST, just shift down! Easy peasy.