What do different drive modes actually do?

September 30th, 2020 by

Drive Mode Selectors: How They Work and What They Do

Many automakers nowadays include different driving modes on their vehicle. These modes can usually be switched between by stopping, putting your vehicle in park, and then pressing a button. However, it’s not always clear what those different drive modes change.

Let us help. Here’s what the drive mode selector in your vehicle actually does, using Volkswagen vehicles as our examples.

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Drive Mode Selection Effects

2020 Jetta drive mode selection

Driving mode selectors affect all sorts of settings in your vehicle, from suspension and throttle response to things like climate control and adaptive lights. Let’s break down the four common driving modes on found on many newer model year Volkswagen vehicles. Some VW performance models, such as the Golf GTI, Golf R, or Jetta GLI, may have slightly different drive modes to those listed below.



As you might expect, the Normal driving mode has all settings at their optimal levels for your daily commute. In this mode, each system will behave normally, not prioritizing any one system over another.


The Eco mode sets everything on the vehicle to its lowest possible consumption levels. Throttle response is lowered, the transmission shifts earlier, and adaptive cruise control acts more eco-friendly. Even the adaptive front lighting and climate control system are limited to a specific level of consumption.


The Sport mode enhances the driving experience. It boosts throttle response, prioritizes more aggressive transmission shifts, stiffens steering input and adaptive dampers (on equipped vehicles), and allows for sportier response from the adaptive cruise control system and adaptive front lighting.


The Custom mode allows you to tweak specific settings to your liking. Steering toggles between Normal and Sport. The Drive System switches between Normal, Sport, and Eco. The Adaptive Cruise Control and Adaptive Front Lighting settings also change between Normal, Sport, and Eco. Climate Control toggles between Normal and Eco.

Looking to Get a New Vehicle?

Capistrano Volkswagen has huge selection of new VW models, like the 2020 Golf GTI, 2020 Atlas Cross Sport, and the 2021 Atlas. And if you’re looking to save a little money, we also have a excellent selection of certified pre-owned VW vehicles!

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