- Just give me a good one of these and I'll be happy

We all use custom driving modes the same way, so what's the point?

1w ago


Look at any new car's spec sheet and I guarantee you that 'driving modes' will be there. Chances are you'll have glossed over it because every sodding new car has them and it is about as surprising as hearing that a man from Florida has worn a live crocodile as a posing pouch. I mean, of course he has. He's Florida man.

That said, if the car in question is a sporty model, or a top-of-the-range one – in which case you'll likely find an 'individual' or 'customisable' driving mode. Or, in the case of a Lamborghini, an 'Ego' mode. And chances are that if you've bought a Lamborghini you'll be thoroughly acquainted with that already.

This customisable driving mode is the thing that'll let you choose how effective your accelerator pedal is, how comfortable you like the suspension and how Nordic you like your pine-scented air-ioniser.

Usually manufacturers work themselves into a numerical jitterbug to tell you how many permutations their custom driving modes have. I think the Hyundai i30N hot hatch has something like 1,944 possible combinations, which are – of course – mostly nonsense.

And that's because we all set them up exactly the same way. Don't believe me? This is my (and probably your) standard recipe:

Steering: normal

Exhaust: loud

Accelerator: acceleratey

Engine map: race

Suspension: as comfy as humanly possible, please

We'll tolerate anything but mild discomfort

It makes sense, right? Everyone enjoys driving loud and fast cars (if you don't, here's a website about knitting), but no one in their right minds enjoys being jerked around on bumpy roads like a mobile dogging unit.

And I think it's time car makers start to listen.

Just give us a mode that says 'normal petrolhead' and have the car make all the noise, go as fast as possible but leaves the suspension in a comfortable setting. That's all I ask.

The Honda Civic Type R I'm driving at the moment gets it totally wrong. It has a comfort mode, which does make the ride perfectly tolerable, but using this mode makes the accelerator so ineffective at increasing the speed of the car I may as well get out and push. To get a decent throttle response I'll put it in +R mode, which has the downside of instantly turning my vertebrae into the kind of powder used in a 16th century Viagra potion.

The more I think about the problem, the more I realise there's only really one manufacturer that's cracked it with a single button.

And it's Ferrari.

That drawing of a shock absorber is key to using a Ferrari in comfort on the road – other companies take note

In a Ferrari you set the driving mode by rotating a metal jellybean on the steering wheel, but then – praise be – there's a button on the steering wheel that softens the suspension. No faffing with modes, just hit the button. Even in the sportier modes it gives you comfort. You can still drift the thing if you've got the skills to pay the bills, but you'll do so without developing piles.

And I think this is one way that every manufacturer from Skoda to Porsche can genuinely afford to nick a bit of that Ferrari magic.

The world needs to separate its notion of 'sportiness' from 'uncomfortable'.

Am I right?