Sport mode is one of those features that can be polarizing to car enthusiasts. Some users swear by it and wouldn’t dare live a day without it. Others curse it and argue that it’s completely unnecessary. Then some don’t feel too strongly about it, one way or another. If you happen to find yourself in sport mode, however, and you’re loving it too, can you actually leave your car in this mode?
In models where it's available, such as the Mazda6, a sport mode is an option that changes some settings in the engine and transmission. It enables the vehicle to become more responsive and assertive. More specifically, sport mode alters the car's throttle and steering response as well as shift timing. In automatic transmissions, you may find that sport mode will leave gears in the higher RPM ranges in order to bring more power out of the engine as soon as the accelerator is pressed.
Think of sport mode as the opposite of ECO mode. In ECO mode, the throttle may feel less responsive because it limits the air and fuel being consumed by the engine. This is how ECO mode works to increase fuel efficiency. In sport mode, meanwhile, the throttle may feel extra sensitive to the touch. One quick tap can get the car going faster than in its normal setting. Because the throttle opens quicker, sport mode can therefore increase gas consumption and decrease fuel efficiency.
If your car features electronic power steering, sport mode may also change the steering settings when activated. You may notice that the steering wheel becomes weightier due to the added resistance from toggling sport mode.
Shifting patterns may also change when the sport mode is activated. In automatics, the car will disregard its normal shift points and instead shift at higher points in the RPM range and even hold the gears and engage the engine brake. This change allows the driver to access more acceleration and speed when needed, as well as an extra amount of control.
If a car is turbocharged, as is the case with the Toyota GR Supra, engaging the sport mode will elicit some pops and bangs, and allow the sportscar’s turbo to spool up faster.
In higher-end cars, sport mode may also affect suspension settings. If available, you may find that the sport mode setting tightens the car's ride and feel in order to mimic naturally sportier cars.
An important thing to keep in mind is that sport mode is not the same for all vehicles. Sport mode is only a name used to describe a set of changes that allow your car to feel quicker and more responsive. The exact implementation of the mode varies between car manufacturers, and it works better in some cars than in others.
So the big question remains: can you leave your car in sport mode? The short answer is it's possible, but you'll have to make some tradeoffs. Namely, decreased fuel efficiency and the possibility of increased wear and tear on your engine, transmission, and suspension. Leaving your car in sport mode may shorten the car's lifespan and go through its consumables faster. Whether that's worth it is something you'll have to decide on for yourself. What we can recommend is using sport mode when you want to have a bit of fun, perhaps on the track or on an open road. It's a nice feature that's best used in certain situations and not as a regular driving setting for your daily commute.