In a car, S on the gear shift stands for sport. The Sport gear setting is found in the automatic transmission systems that works by delaying the upshift of the gears so that the engine revs up quicker in order to maximize acceleration. On the sport gear setting, the vehicle stays on the low gear ratio which helps the car reach the maximum acceleration sooner However, the quick acceleration is possible in sport mode is possible only on the cost of fuel economy (gas mileage) as you will be using as much of the engine’s powerband up to the red line without covering a sufficient distance.
Bonus Read: What Does L Mean On a Car
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How Does the Transmission System of Car Work?
The automatic transmission system of a car adjusts the speed of the wheels by a set of different gear ratios. Keep in mind that the speed of a wheel is always different from the engine’s RPM. The low gear ratio converts high engine RPM to the torque on the vehicle’s wheels, while the high gear ratio converts the engine’s RPM to the high spinning of the vehicle’s wheels.
In an automatic transmission system, transmission fluid is used that controls the gear ratios when the control valves receive signals from the engine control module (ECM). If you fully press the accelerator pedal, it fully throttles the engine, due to which it reaches its maximum RPM. When a low gear ratio is set in the car, this high engine RPM is utilized in increasing the torque on the wheels instead of making them spin faster. Since wheels are spinning slower when the gear ratio is lower, the vehicle will cover less distance despite fully depressing the accelerator as all the engine output will be converting into the torque on the wheels.
To understand this concept of speed conversion in the vehicle, I will give you an example. Take two balls of different sizes. You can take one football and one cricket ball. Now, push them with the same force. You will see that the cricket ball (with a smaller size) will cover more distance compared to the football.
How Does the Car Reach Higher Acceleration Quicker in Sport Mode?
A car accelerates quicker in the sport mode by delaying the upshifting of the gears and speeding up the downshifting of the gears. The sport mode of a car makes its throttle more sensitive due to a long stay in the low gear setting. Although the transmission system of a car does not get locked in a fixed gear ratio in the sport gear setting, the shifting process from the low gear ratio to the high gear ratio is delayed in the sport mode. This will make the engine throttle sharper and keep the RPMs higher.
If you’re confused about the concept of throttling in the engine, let me explain you in simple words. Throttling is a method used in internal combustion engines to increase the power output of the engine by adjusting the fuel/air mixture entering the cylinder. The throttle position (open or closed) determines the amount of fuel/air mixture which enters the cylinder.
The throttle is moved by a cable connected to the accelerator pedal. When the pedal is pressed, the cable is pulled. This opens the throttle plate, allowing more air into the engine. When the cable is released, the throttle closes, reducing the amount of air entering the cylinder.
Since the car remains in low gear ratios for a longer time in the sport gear setting, you will get the opportunity to fully throttle the engine by pressing the accelerator pedal and maximizing the engine’s RPM, which is directly linked to the increased horsepower of the engine. The greater the throttling, the greater will be the power output of the engine, and the higher will be the engine’s RPM.
As I discussed above, low gear ratios cause more torque on the wheels. That torque is mainly responsible for the vehicle to accelerate faster as the acceleration is directly proportional to the torque according to the basic engineering principle.
Check out the below video for a better understanding of the sport mode in a car.
How Does Sport Mode in a Car Cause Poor Fuel Economy?
Sport mode or ‘S’ setting in a car affects the fuel economy as the sport mode causes the engine to use more gas or fuel to produce maximum horsepower. Sport mode makes the engine sensitive to the throttling. ‘S’ setting keeps engine RPM high in the low gear ratio as the drivers usually fully depress the accelerator pedal when driving in sport mode to enjoy the ride. This causes the engine to rev more and even harder. The sport mode also changes down the gear sooner to keep the revs up and keeps the car responsive, due to which it consumes more gas. However, if you’re driving like a grandma (means at a slow speed, without fully depressing the pedal) in a sport mode, it will not affect the fuel economy.
Learn More: What Does SE Mean in a Car
Sport Setting in the Manual Mode
Some cars like BMW also have +/- setting on the gear shift lever or on the paddle shifters which comes into use when you shift the car to the S setting. It allows you manual sequential shifting of the gears. When you press + setting, it will upshift the gear, and when you press – setting, it will downshift the gear. Sport gear setting, when in automatic mode, gives you computer-controlled automatic shifting points change for a quicker response and for towing and uphill and more aggressive driving. If, while in the S gear setting, you manually shift the gear using +/- buttons, there will be less computer control over the gear setting.
You can check out the below video for further details.
When To Use S (Sport) Mode in a Car?
It is ideal to use the S (sport) mode when driving on the open highways to overtake a car or when you are waiting to pull out at a busy intersection and you need a fast take off. S mode lets you enjoy sporty driving without having to worry about speed limits. It allows you to make your car handle better by adjusting the suspension, steering, braking, and traction systems.
Does Sport Mode Make Car Faster?
Putting the car in sport mode can increase its acceleration and move it faster when the car starts taking off from the idle position as the RPM of an engine increases all the way to the red line when you fully depress the accelerator pedal.
Keep in mind that in the sport mode, your wheel’s speed cannot increase above a certain level as the sport mode tries to keep your car in the low gear mode. tIt is only the reaction of the engine to throttling that makes you feel like your car is moving at a faster pace.
Also, in some cars, when put into the sport mode, some changes in suspension characteristics take place that lets you put down more power to the road. With the sport mode turned on, the suspension of a car will become firmer and sometimes lower so that you can have a more engaging driving experience due to better handling and you feel more planted to the road. This firm suspension in the sport excites the driver when driving on twisty country roads. Also, in some cars, sport mode ‘S’ in the car tightens the steering wheel to enjoy spirited driving by making it more responsive to steering wheel inputs. It has also been discussed in this thread on a forum.
Does Sport Mode Make Your Car Louder?
The ‘S’ or sport mode in a car makes the engine produce a sporty sound due to the higher engine’s RPM. Basically, when a car is in sport ‘S’ mode, the engine becomes more sensitive to the throttle. So, the loud sound you hear when you fully throttle the engine in sport mode is due to the sound waves produced by the air passing through the intake manifold of the combustion chamber with more force, and by the aggressive exhaust gases exit from the engine cylinder.