Let's face it. You didn't buy a BMW because you thought it would be a nice sensible car to run you to the store and back.
You bought a BMW because you know what happens when you hit the open road and put your foot down...
Well, BMW knows that, too. I mean sure, it's not like they're only putting out zippy little runabouts; we can't all drive Z4s, you know ;) But whatever you drive — from a nimble 2 Series to an X7 behemoth — BMW has given a few little ways for you to get a taste of the company's sporting heritage behind the wheel.
As the imaginative name suggests, the BMW Driving Dynamics Control system is the first place to turn to, uh, control your vehicle's driving dynamics. Just flip a switch and completely change how your BMW performs with one of a few drive modes.
For the thrill-seekers among us, BMW Sport Mode is the obvious choice.
So much of your BMW's performance — from gear shifts to traction control settings — is managed by a bunch of onboard electronics systems. When do you change into third? The computer says... now. So much for all that man-at-one-with-machine talk.
With BMW Driving Dynamics Control, you can't wrestle back complete control (you'll need to drive stick for that), but you can nudge your car's system in the right direction.
The BMW Sport Mode configuration is designed to wring the most performance possible out of your vehicle — even if that means sacrificing fuel efficiency. It's your way of telling your car to be a little more aggressive than it would be on your typical morning drive in the suburbs.
So what's the difference between the modes, exactly? Beyond vague promises of "more spirited driving"?
Let's start with Comfort Mode. You're probably already used to it; it's the default driving dynamic. It's safe, comfortable (if you couldn't guess from the name), middle-of-the-road. Decent performance, decent efficiency. All the stuff you like for everyday driving.
Switch into Sport Mode, however, and things start to get interesting.
You'll immediately notice a change to your shifting patterns — your automatic transmission will take its sweet time between shifts, so you reach higher rev levels. Not great for fuel efficiency, but just what you're looking for when you're in the mood for a little excitement.
A few things will change when it comes to steering, too. It'll be tuned a little tighter, with less power assistance at lower RPMs. That means you'll end up putting more work in to throw your BMW round turns, and get a lot more road feedback in the process.
You might also notice your suspension stiffening up a bit. The stiffer BMW Sport Mode suspension means a more exhilarating drive on twisting lanes — exactly what you'd expect from Sport Mode. That's going to depend on your vehicle's suspension option, though; BMWs with Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) or Active Roll Stabilization (ARS) will feel a difference, but other vehicles might miss out.
All in all, there's a hell of a lot of sportiness on offer. Surely it couldn't get any better than that?
Well, that's where you're wrong! In some vehicles, BMW takes things up another notch with Sport+ mode. It packs in all the goodness of Sport Mode, with the added excitement of reduced traction.
With BMW Sport Mode, traction control means about the same as it does in Comfort Mode. You'll still have Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) activated, to keep you from sliding all over the road. That also means that even in BMW Sport Mode, wheel spin can be hard to come by.
Switch into BMW Sport Plus Mode, though, and DSC is switched off. Not that you're left completely alone — Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) is still there to make sure you keep some control over your car.
If all these acronyms are flying over your head, DTC is that thing you switch on for a moment when you're heading up a snow- or gravel-covered hill and need a little wheel slip. With Sport+, that's the standard traction control setting, so needless to say, wheel spin is back on the menu ;)
Just a little disclaimer, though: if you think this talk of DTC means you should be using BMW Sport Plus mode in snow and rain... seriously, don't do that. Stick to the run-of-the-mill Sport Mode in low-traction situations, and leave the BMW DSC button well alone.
Probably the best thing about BMW Sport Mode is how widely available it is. Most modern BMWs have it as an option — it's not limited only to sportier vehicles. That gives everybody the chance to get a little sporty behind the wheel every now and then, even if you don't want to go full out Fast and Furious with a high-performance M Sport model.
The story with Sport+ is a little different. BMW doesn't seem to think the average driver is going to have much interest in the white-knuckle adventure of its sportiest drive mode, so it's generally made available only in vehicles with the higher-spec performance options.
Fortunately, BMW Sport Plus Mode is an easy option to unlock in a wide range of vehicles. It only takes a few minutes and a remote BMW iDrive coding session with an expert technician.
With Sport Plus mode activated, you can toggle between Sport and Sport+ with the sport button on your dashboard. You might also be able to jump straight to Sport+ mode by pushing your BMW gear lever to the left. Try it and see!
When you're activating Sport+ Mode in your BMW, there's more you can do to give your car a sporty new look. They won't make your car any faster, but it will look faster, and isn't that what really matters? ;)
Why waste your iDrive screen showing navigation when the wide open road is the only place you're headed?
With Sport Display and M Sport Display, you can show power and torque gauges on your dashboard display. Watch those needles climb higher as your foot sinks deep onto the pedal.
As everything's digital and fully lit up, you won't have any trouble keeping track of vital metrics when you're on a hot lap. Of course it's not going to be as convenient as a 6WB digital cluster — which comes with a special BMW Sport Mode display when you switch your driving dynamic settings — but it's a great choice for occasional gearheads.
With either the standard Sport or M Sport style to choose from, your display is definitely going to put you in the mood to drive hard.
The harder you drive — and the more traction control you switch off — the more important it is to stay on top of your tire condition.
With RDC Safety, you can see an exact digital readout of the pressure of each of your tires. Check everything's within the manufacturer's recommended operating range before you do anything too adventurous on a twisting country road...
If you're out for a more energetic drive, you probably want to make a quick start at the lights. Nobody likes getting smoked by the Honda in the next lane. So it's a real shame when your auto-start/stop kicks in and shuts off your engine.
To avoid the deflated feeling of crawling away across the intersection, coding your BMW to keep the engine on as you wait at the lights means you're always primed and ready to go as soon as you hit the throttle.
It depends on your vehicle. Don't forget, Sport Mode is all about your vehicle's onboard computer settings.
If you've got Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) and/or Active Roll Stabilization (ARS), a lot of your suspension is under the control of your vehicle's electronics. That means switching into Sport or Sport+ Mode is going to give you a stiffer suspension.
For other suspension systems, you could well be out of luck.
Both Sport Mode and Sport Plus Mode let you rev higher before shifting. That's going to pull more performance out of your engine, but does mean higher gas consumption.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Eco Pro driving mode is all about fuel efficiency. You'll get a less exciting ride, but at least you'll have something left in your wallet after your next trip to the pumps.
Sport Mode is good, but it's not magic. Your engine is going to be as powerful as it always was.
That said, Sport Mode does change throttle dynamics, so that horsepower is going to be used differently. Particularly when accelerating, you'll probably feel like you're driving a more powerful car. If you don't tell anybody your secret, we won't tell anybody...
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) is BMW's take on traction control. The system makes sure you always have complete control over your vehicle, by pulling in measurements from around your vehicle — the steering angle, brake amount, individual wheel speed and more — and intelligently adjusting your car's behaviour. That means no wheel spin, no sliding and no loss of control going round turns.
When you don't need such a helping hand, DSC can be disabled. In Sport+ mode, DSC is switched off completely, giving you far more say in how your BMW handles.
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