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As cars grow more powerful, so does the rush you get when seated at the helm. However, the manufacturer's responsibilities toward road safety and vehicle longevity often hamstring your ability to utilize that power.

Imagine a vehicle that eliminates these limitations and allows you to showcase your abilities. Track Mode strives to deliver this type of experience by customizing a vehicle's physical specifications for specific environments.

That said, not all Track Modes are built equally, and manufacturers deliver distinct versions of the technology. Understanding the key, modified features is crucial for fully appreciating the power your vehicle is bringing to the table.

What is Track Mode on a Car?

Track Mode is a specialized driving setting that optimizes vehicle performance on racetracks or closed-course driving environments. It assumes very specific environments and physically modifies vehicle parts like the exhaust, compressor, brakes, etc.

This driving mode isn't just a fancy feature; it's a game-changer for driving enthusiasts seeking a new experience and to push the limits of their vehicles. The exact adjustments made in Track Mode will vary depending on the vehicle's make and model, but all share a similar design philosophy.

Track Mode is a straightforward naming convention used by Tesla. Other manufacturers use separate terms, such as Hyundai's N Mode and BMW's Sport+.

The modifications maximize grip, agility, high-speed cornering, and acceleration while disabling the vehicle's "electronic nannies." Features typically vital to a safe and durable design, like lane keep assist, stability assist, and regenerative braking, are deactivated or reduced in Track Mode.

In essence, Track Mode allows drivers to experience the maximum potential of the machine in a controlled environment optimized for spirited driving. However, vehicles do not regulate when they're in a suitable environment, permitting drivers to activate Track Mode outside of the tested parameters.

Can You Use Track Mode on the Road?

Track Mode's main selling point is the freedom it grants drivers. The problem is its modifications tend to deprioritize safety features designed to protect yourself and others.

Unlike controlled environments like racetracks, public roads present numerous unpredictable hazards unsuited for the types of speed and maneuvering that Track Mode encourages.

For example, electronic stability control automatically applies brakes to certain tires to prevent the car from spinning out in an emergency situation. This feature is a safety fundamental in inclement weather or on icy roadways.

However, stability control also interferes with a driver's ability to drift on racetracks. Stability control electronically manages tire traction and prevents the sliding required for technical drifting. So, Track Mode disables or lowers its presence in the vehicle.

Other changes, such as increased exhaust noise and altered steering weight, can cause problems. Manufacturers don't recommend activating Track Mode outside closed circuits, and most provide a warning before activation.

Considerations When Using Track Mode

While public road use isn't Track Mode's intended purpose, the general sentiment on online blogs leans slightly in favor of full-time use. Many vehicle owners report a superior driving experience, and very few bring up the possible risks.

Even users who were against frequent Track Mode use didn't object because of diminished safety. They were more concerned with the increased burden of driving in a more intense setting.

At its core, Track Mode is a high-performance driving experience altering the throttle, transmission, and braking systems. The car's engine revs higher, generates more heat, and requires more energy than in the standard mode.

Those changes come at the cost of the vehicle's perishables, including the need for changing brake pads more frequently, as well as increased consumption of coolant and fuel.  The only place owners might save on costs is the increased regenerative braking, which creates electrical power in some models.

Additionally, Track Mode is designed for closed-circuit courses. In this mode, the vehicle expects long stretches of even road. We don't know where you live, but it's unlikely your roads are as pristine as a professional course. The unexpected environment will put additional tension on the vehicle's perishables.

Is Track Mode Illegal?

In 2022, a famous traffic stop brought Track Mode's legality to light and raised the question, “Is Track Mode illegal in California?” The issue sparked when dash cam footage recorded an officer telling the owner of a 2022 Hyundai Elantra N-Line that Track Mode was illegal on California roads.

Ultimately, the officer's claim proved false as California law never mentions the technology, nor do any other states. The story gained notoriety due to the officer's use of intimidation tactics through financial threats and a dismissive attitude.

While Track Mode is not inherently illegal, it physically modifies vehicles in ways that will attract unwanted attention. A louder exhaust may cross state regulations on decibel levels even if the vehicle hasn't been modified from the stock model.

A big issue is that manufacturers test their vehicles in the base driving mode. Existing inspection models do not require alternate testing for sport or track modes. This oversight passes potential legal issues to vehicle owners.

What Changes When You Switch to Track Mode?

What Changes When You Switch to Track Mode?

Manufacturers include various offerings to diversify their lineup and separate themselves from the competition. However, Track Mode-enabled vehicles will inevitably target the following aspects:

Throttle Sensitivity

One of the first changes you'll feel in Track Mode is the throttle's responsiveness. Racetracks require more precise control over wheelspin and tire grip to navigate and exit corners effectively.

Regular drive mode throttle typically fails to provide this precision. Track Mode adopts a linear throttle, lowering its sensitivity in the first part and preventing the driver from overwhelming the tire's grip.

Suspension

Don't expect a buttery smooth ride when driving in Track Mode. Dampeners stiffen, and ride height is minimized to allow more control in dynamic maneuvers. Some models allow you to set the suspension to your liking.

Open Exhaust

Many vehicles' Track Mode tries to emulate the experience of being behind a race car. Of course, commercial cars cannot fully mimic the power of a competitive vehicle, but they can get the sound right.

Track Modes frequently open the exhaust flaps to create a more explosive sound effect as the engine does its thing. It helps the driver appreciate the extra load their vehicle is taking on and sets the mood for an exciting drive. Some vehicles go the extra mile and add custom "pops" to the process.

Braking

Braking is a significant component of maintaining speed and producing high acceleration. This makes it an integral part of racing and Track Mode. It's typically affected when changing features like stability control and any other process that automatically engages the brakes.

Some manufacturers add increased regenerative braking to combat Track Mode's high energy costs. This process takes the kinetic energy produced from braking and converts it into electrical energy in the battery.

Steering Wheel

Part of Track Mode is to deliver the complete, unadulterated joy of driving. The steering wheel is the driver's most tactile connection with a car. The steering wheel transmits vibrations and road conditions and instills a feeling of control.

Track Mode will play around with steering weight, feedback, and return speeds to create a more satisfying experience. This change may significantly affect your perceived control over the vehicle, as a quarter rotation in normal mode will have a different effect from a quarter rotation in Track Mode.

Exercise increased caution if you're unfamiliar with this difference and use Track Mode on public roadways.

Tesla Track Mode

Tesla released its original Track Mode in 2018 with the Model 3 Performance. Like all Track Mode technologies, Tesla focused on improving dynamic handling while reducing the presence of features designed for public roads.

The EV giant stood out for their vehicle's regenerative braking capabilities and post-drive cooling options. They also allow for an impressive amount of customizability and cater to both expert and casual drivers.

Track Mode variants are currently included in the Model 3, Model Y Performance, Model S Plaid, and Model X Plaid.

What is Track Mode V2?

Tesla's Track Mode V2 allows drivers to customize the affected features of their vehicle. Instead of a one-size-fits-all Track Mode, drivers can create a comfortable setup by interacting with sliders that control motor balance, stability assist, and regenerative braking.

The update includes a catalog of new features measuring your driving capabilities. The G-Meter records peak lateral and longitudinal accelerations, and the built-in lap timer helps drivers track their progress. Drivers can download their vehicle's performance data onto an external thumb drive.

Conclusion

Track Mode reigns supreme as the ultimate feature for unleashing a vehicle's full potential. Track mode transforms a simple, high-tech family car into an adrenaline-fueled race machine with enhanced handling, high-speed cornering, and blistering acceleration.

It's tempting to make Track Mode your default driving mode and enjoy the excitement it brings daily. However, it's essential to realize that track mode isn't designed for all roads or public use. In the process of achieving exceptional track performance, it tones down many modern safety features. It's also not so forgiving on the car and can lead to increased maintenance costs.

While there isn't legislation around Track Mode currently, that's almost certain to change in the coming years. Drivers must stay informed about these changes to comply with relevant laws and regulations.

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