What is track mode on a car? Track Mode, available only on Performance Model 3 vehicles, is designed to modify the stability control, traction control, regenerative braking, and cooling systems to increase performance and handling while driving on closed circuit courses.
Track Mode improves cornering ability by intelligently using the motors, and regenerative and traditional braking systems. When enabled, the cooling system runs at an increased level during and after aggressive driving sessions to allow your vehicle’s systems to withstand the surplus heat.
What Is Track Mode On A Car?
The first thing you must know is that track mode goes by many names, and that track mode settings differ. Tesla Models simply use Tesla Track Mode, while the Italians are more flamboyant and use “Corsa.” Hyundai has N Mode, and BMW and Mercedes-Benz use Sport +. Go-faster Bimmers have two dedicated M modes, allowing drivers to customize two track mode settings.
One could still provide a layer of protection for aggressive driving sessions, while the second may still provide a layer of protection for less experienced track drivers.
As mentioned, the track mode setting depends on the brand. Tesla’s track mode is one of the more advanced systems available for the Tesla Model 3 Performance, Tesla Model Y Performance and the Tesla Model S Plaid.
What Does Track Mode Affect?
Whatever it’s called, and in whichever car you find it, a track mode typically alters some, but not necessarily all, of the following characteristics of a vehicle:
- Throttle Sensitivity: By giving you full power at 70% of the gas pedal’s travel, this creates the impression of sharpened throttle response
- Shift Programming: In automatic cars, shifts can occur quicker or with more of a kick, and downshifts occur sooner.
- Exhaust: Flaps in the exhaust of combustion cars can be opened to give you full noise, while EVs may alter the piped-in soundtrack.
- Damping: Track mode typically sets adaptive dampers to their stiffest setting.
- Stability Control: By allowing more slip, you can confidently drive the car up to and beyond the limits of adhesion without electronic interference.
- Steering Weight: Electronic Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) systems will have the weight adjusted by applying more or less assistance from the e-motor.
- Differential Programming: On AWD cars, this includes how much power is sent to the front- or rear axles, while 2WD cars with electronic limited-slip diffs will see the level of aggression the diff responds tailored. Similarly, brake-based torque vectoring will use similar programming.
- Braking: With the exception of brake-based torque vectoring mentioned above, this element is the least common, but brake booster assistance can be varied, and in EVs or PHEVs, the level of brake regen can be adjusted.
Tesla’s Track Mode
Track Mode in the Model 3 and Model Y is less advanced than the system in the Model S Plaid. Tesla has improved its track mode with an over-the-air update, but it does the same job.
To access track mode, you need to go through a complex process, most likely to ensure that it can’t be activated at a moment’s notice on the road.
Tesla modifies the vehicle behavior by modifying the stability assist, traction control, regenerative braking, and battery cooling systems. The Plaid comes standard with adaptive dampers, which also have a unique setting in track mode.
Tesla’s system also shuttles torque between the front and rear axle in cars with an all-wheel drive or dual-motor setup. This allows even a heavy electric vehicle to give a sense of more or less rotation factoring in the driving speed.
Another cool feature is the G-meter card, which will record basic telemetry on closed-circuit driving courses. In addition to saving impressive G-meter readings, a Tesla can also save footage via the onboard dashcam. The G forces can also be displayed in real-time on the digital gauge cluster.
Tesla’s cars are already fast, which means this particular track mode is there to eliminate surplus heat. The cooling system is on high alert because a full-bore driving session puts a lot of strain on the battery pack. Having fun is one thing, but vehicle health is equally important. The cost of a replacement battery is no joke.
And even though Tesla’s are equipped with regenerative braking, the automaker revealed performance brakes packaged for the Plaid in 2021.
The optional carbon-ceramic brake upgrade definitely makes sense in a car that can hit 60 mph in less than two seconds. Naturally, all Autopilot features are switched off in track mode.
It’s worth noting that track modes in electric cars will only get more advanced. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N has various faux engine noises and replicates the feel of a dual-clutch transmission. While some may see these as nothing more than entertainment features, they certainly add to the track-driving experience.
We can already see the benefits at the top of the EV segment. The Rimac Nevera has an electric motor for every wheel, turning every driving session into a sensory overload. You can dial it back or turn all the vehicle’s systems off to do a four-wheel drift.
How to Access Track Mode
To access Track Mode, navigate to Controls > Pedals & Steering > Track Mode in the infotainment menu. Once you’ve enabled Track Mode, the dynamics of the vehicle can be adjusted further in Track Mode Settings, if desired.
If your Tesla didn’t come equipped with Track Mode from the factory, you can get it as an over-the-air download straight to your car without having to visit a Tesla center. The only limitation is that your vehicle’s software version needs to be at least 2020.8 for it to be compatible with Track Mode.
Track Mode Features
With Track Mode enabled, here’s how it changes your driving experience.
Track Mode Screen
Aside from completely changing how the vehicle drives and behaves, Track Mode revamps the dashboard in the Model S and X Plaid (which come with a digital gauge cluster) to only the bare racing essentials: track layout, g-force meter, lap timer, and speedometer.
In the Model 3 and Y Performance (which only have the central infotainment screen), you just see the g-force meter and the lap timer.
Tesla’s Track Mode also displays an animated representation of the current condition of your vehicle, which measures variables like battery temperature, motor temperature, and all corners of the suspension. Much like aftermarket gauges, these parameters are displayed so that you can keep track of the vehicle’s current condition.
Track Mode Performance
Through Track Mode, you can also adjust how much power goes to each axle, since all Performance model Teslas are all-wheel drive. By shuffling torque around, you can dial in the kind of handling you want.
You can choose to only send power to the rear wheels, although this won’t make the car any faster around a track. It just accelerates the process through which the rear tires shed their tread in a cloud of smoke.
Since stability and traction control systems can often act as detractors in performance scenarios, the ability to disable and limit their intervention greatly contributes to achieving faster lap times and a more visceral driving experience. With Track Mode, your Tesla becomes an enthusiast-pleasing EV.
The newest revision of Tesla’s Track Mode, Track Mode V2, is the successor to Tesla’s original rendition. It introduced on-the-fly adjustability for the regenerative braking and the car’s stopping characteristics, giving you even more settings to play with and thus more control.
Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Track Mode Settings
There are similarities between ICE and EV track modes, though combustion cars meant for track driving usually come equipped with upgraded components straight from the factory.
There’s no need to worry about cooling because all the important mechanical bits will come with additional cooling straight from the factory. A muscle car like the Mustang Shelby GT500 also has larger air intakes at the front to keep that monstrous supercharged V8 cool.
However, in ICE cars, electronically controlled systems will still be sharpened to provide a stiffer ride, less electronic intervention, more steering weight, quicker gearshifts, and more noise. These elements all differ based on what hardware a car has, as not all cars have adaptive dampers, for example.
Most ICE performance cars tend to send power to the rear wheels only, but that is starting to change as power increases. Now that all-wheel drive is becoming standard to put the power down, we’re seeing more drift modes. It’s important to note that drift mode and track mode are not the same.
Drift mode will either disengage the front axle entirely or send most of the power to the rear wheels. It doesn’t improve handling balance and exists simply for sideways fun. But even EVs are available with drift mode these days, so it’s not unique to ICE. If drifting is your only aim, we have a list of the best drift cars available.
We have to thank ICE for being the driving force behind the latest track mode systems. Without brake-based torque vectoring, developed using traditional braking systems, we wouldn’t have the more intelligent, advanced systems we have today.
ICE is also the reason active stability control exists. This system used to be either on or off, but manufacturers realized there needed to be an in-betweener setting. One that will catch you when you go too far. And even the humble lap timer comes from ICE.
The Track Mode Will Take Your Tesla To The Next Level!
The customization in track mode V2 really is something special. The regenerative braking system is optimized to provide more aggressive braking, and as a consequence, charging when on the track. The suspension system lowers and hardens to provide better handling and grip. The wheel camber is also adjusted negatively to help with cornering.
The powertrain is adjusted to provide more aggressive engine mapping, for better throttle response and increased power output. It also gives you a slide bar to choose either front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. Although it should be noted that it does not completely disengage the front when the slide bar is at 100-percent RWD.
A better description would be a bias toward the front or rear at different severities. The vehicle’s cooling system is optimized to help dissipate heat more efficiently during high-performance driving. It also keeps the fans running after a lap to keep the batteries at optimum temperature.
The display shows a lap timer that allows the driver to keep track of their lap times and compare them to previous laps. Simply set a starting point and then drive the circuit. As soon as you arrive back at start, the lap timer will reset and start a new lap.
The Effects Of Excess Track Mode Use
The obvious effect of keeping your Tesla in Track Mode are decreased battery life. Estimated times are around 25-percent for a 15-minute track session. This is of course an anecdotal sampling taken from various Tesla owners that have taken their cars to the “track” and recorded their results.
Tesla’s official line is that battery life can be impacted by several factors such as the speed and intensity of driving, ambient temperature, and the size and layout of the track. That being said, we have a pretty accurate range given how widely the vehicle has been tested in the real world.
Typically, you get about an hour of track time out of your Model 3 or Model S before you have to sit on the sidelines and recharge.
Track mode V2, available in the Model 3 Performance, and the Model S Plaid, is one of the coolest pieces of technology to come out in the EV world’s production cars so far. It’s hard to give credit to the accomplishments of the Big Three, when Tesla is so clearly very far ahead in terms of what the customer wants.
Yes, they’re all good for the environment, but what the world is waiting for is something that evokes an emotional response. Something that makes you want/need to drive the vehicle. Tesla has got that in track mode. What will the response be, if any, from Chevy, Ford, and Dodge?
Top 10 Things About Using Track Mode On The Roads
Top 10 things that you need to know about using Track mode on the roads.
It may sound Illegal
There are chances that the track mode can make your vehicle sound illegal because according to federal law, if your car sounds more than 90 decibels, it is considered in the USA.
The Track mode can open the exhaust valves of the engine to improve the exhaust flow and allow the petrolhead to hear the exhaust note of the car in full glory, however, it can easily surpass the required threshold.
Every state has its take on the law in California the maximum sound limit is 95 decibels, thus you need you to need to make sure that your sounds are less than the required limit in your area otherwise be ready to get tickets.
Limits traction and other driving aids
When you are on a track, the last thing you want to happen is the car kicking all the driver aids at you, when you want it to go sideways. Don’t worry the track mode is going to save the day for you as it generally limits the driving aids like traction control, electronic stability control, ABS, and other computer-oriented controls.
Although it is good for the track as you can experience the true capabilities of the car on public roads or canyons these electric controls can be the factor between life and death, because it just takes one wrong move.
Fosters quick reaction
The track mode on the car makes it stiffer and you react to even the smallest input from you. It instantly stiffens the steering wheel so it feels heavy allowing you a more tactical approach to cornering because you can feel and control the vehicle better. Also, the throttle response of the car improves and it now revs freely without any limitations.
It will demand more perishables
The Track more is like a sprint than a normal jog, it tightens everything up and puts your engine on its edge in terms of performance. Therefore normal tires are not recommended as they are the only point of contact between your car and the road.
Therefore make sure to invest in good quality stuff if you don’t want to spin directly to the hospital. Also keep the brakes in check, as the continuous pressure can eat them very quickly, thus we recommend using good ones.
There is an area in a car that rubs and creates friction and resulting in heat, and when you toggle the car into track mode everything will be pushed to the edge creating more heat.
However, it is not a problem because the cars come with cooling equipment to keep everything in check, but it requires more energy resulting in more fuel consumption. Using track mode on public roads and highways puts unnecessary stress on multiple components which in turn leads to more energy consumption.
A performance car is under strain in several places while in track mode. Oil, fuel, and coolant will all be in excess as your engine works harder. The adaptation of this technology also has a direct negative influence on the tires, brakes, wheels, and turbos.
If you can afford it, that’s terrific. If not, be aware that if your vehicle experiences everyday stiff suspension, it may require additional attention.
Is it legal?
While track mode is not technically illegal, law enforcement agencies often focus on the noise factor when trying to catch those who engage in its use. This is because track mode can exceed sound regulations and be seen as a safety risk.
However, it’s worth noting that there isn’t a specific law that outright bans track mode, mainly because its functionalities differ across various manufacturers.
Suspension gets firm
On almost any vehicle that comes with a track mode, the first thing it does is alter the suspension settings of the car. It generally makes them stiffer so the vehicle sits firmly on the ground and remains stable when you are pushing the car at its limits.
While it is good for the track as it has a smooth surface, it is not ideal for highways because it just feels uncomfortable and is not a good overall experience.
Increase the torque output
If you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle switching the track mode generally sends more power to the rear wheels of the car. In many cars when you put it in track mode the rear of the car tends to slip when you want it to allowing for you to have fun. Also due to the fact that it also lowers the effect of ESC and Traction Control, the car can be pushed as per your requirements.
Fuel and energy consumption
To make everything far from normal, such as the engine being ready to rev higher, the transmission gets ready for harsh gear changes and faster response takes a good on the fuel consumption of the car. It is a perfect thing when you are ripping the track but on highways or public roads the increased fuel consumption is just a waste of non-renewable resources.
When should track mode be used?
In their explainer on Track Mode, Tesla stresses that this mode is only to be used on a closed-circuit driving track. Since the vehicle behaves differently with these controls on, and since other driver-assist features get disabled, it isn’t safe to be in Track Mode on regular streets and highways.
Does track mode make car faster?
Contrary to popular belief, Tesla’s Track Mode doesn’t make the vehicle any faster or more powerful, at least in a straight line. Instead, it alters the stability and traction control systems to improve cornering ability, as well as make the driving experience feel more raw and unfiltered.
Does track mode lower suspension?
In Track Mode, adaptive suspension damping is optimized for handling and vehicle body control to promote driver confidence in dynamic maneuvers. Ride height is automatically set to Low and the suspension no longer automatically raises for comfort over rough surfaces.
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