Tesla has always been a company known for doing things differently, from their designs to the engineering, everything is done the Tesla way. For a company that only produced its first car in 2008, they’ve done exceptionally well by following its methods, and there's no denying that.
The company's cars feature an almost smartphone-style mind allowing the cars to be updated or bug fixed without the need for any hardware to be plugged in, it's a great system that allows Tesla to add some pretty exciting features to already existing cars.
One of those features that everyone is talking about at the moment is 'Track Mode', which, although it does some similar stuff to what you'd normally expect, actually has a few interesting tricks up its sleeve. Track Mode isn't without its drawbacks and hindrances though, so here are some things they don't tell you about Tesla's performance update.
What Is Tesla Track Mode?
In some ways, Track Mode on a Tesla works very similarly to that of other cars: it's performance and racing-styled tuning and handling setup for the car that can be selected at any time. By doing this, a track mode intends to give the car a more racing, stiffer, and more responsive feel. In most cars, this usually entails having the suspension stiffened a little, allowing the car to rev higher, and a couple of other things to allow you to push that car a little harder if taking it around a track.
Tesla explains their track mode like this:
“Track Mode, available only on Performance Model 3 vehicles, is designed to modify the stability control, traction control, regenerative braking, and cooling systems to increase performance and handling while driving”
Track mode comes in versions 1 and 2, with the second being given out as an over-the-air free update to any Model 3 Performance owner. Not only does track mode change the handling and power output of the car, but it also allows you to set up and record laps times and video feeds, meaning you can watch your hot laps back at a later date. Version 2 adds the ability for the driver to fine-tune their car’s performance, including motor balance, stability assist, and regenerative braking.
Track Mode may at first glance seem like just another gizmo, but there is actually some fascinating stuff you can do with it. Sadly though, Track Mode does only currently exist for Model 3 Performance and Model S Plaid owners, but maybe Tesla could see something similar added for the Model X, Y, and S in the future.
Does Track Mode Improve A Tesla’s Performance?
The short answer is yes, but it's not all just down to turning off the stability control. Track Mode does lots to help get the most out of the model's performance, and when you have technology that allows for changing how the motors cooperate entirely, the results are pretty exciting.
As well as helping with cornering ability, Track Mode adds an increased amount of regenerative braking. This provides the driver with greater control using a single pedal, improves the durability of the braking system, and returns more energy to the battery, allowing it to deliver higher levels of power. When combined with the mode's enhanced cornering power system which works similarly to that of a limited-slip differential, the Model 3's Track Mode is able to take tighter corners much easier at full force and creates a more effective acceleration back out of them.
Interestingly though, it seems that in some racing scenarios, putting Track Mode on could actually hinder your car's performance. A YouTuber by the name of DragTimes put out a very detailed video testing out Track Mode version 2. In the video, DragTimes discovers that when it comes to drag racing and 0–60 times, the Track Mode actually hinders the acceleration of the Model 3. After doing runs with the bias set as normal, in track mode with 100% bias to the rear, and in track mode with 100% bias to the front, it seemed that actually leaving the car in standard gave you a better launch off the line, beating the other two modes' 0-60s by over a tenth of a second.
Track Mode can only use the hardware already installed on the car of course, but because of how the Model is designed in the first place, the mode's changes can be more drastic than that seen on a more standard car's race mode.
Is Tesla Track Mode Illegal To Use On The Street?
Tesla's official statement when it comes to using the Track Mode on normal roads is pretty clear: don't.
The company writes on its website under the Tesla Model 3's owner's manual that: “Track Mode is designed for use on closed circuit driving courses only. It is the driver’s responsibility to drive safely and ensure others are not endangered.” They go on to state that “Track Mode is designed for use by experienced track drivers familiar with the course. Do not use on public roads. It is the driver’s responsibility to be in control of the vehicle at all times, including on the track. Because vehicle behavior (including traction and stability control) differs when using Track Mode, always use caution.”
Whether it's illegal under official law is not really important, as the Track Mode shouldn't be used on public roads under any circumstances. Track modes are usually banned on cars on public roads due to the increased noise pollution that comes with running the modes. Obviously, on a car like the Tesla Model 3 that is fully electric, this isn't going to be a problem regardless of what mode it's in.
Using track modes of any kind on public roads is dangerous, not just for yourself, but for other road users too.
Does Using Tesla Track Mode Damage The Car?
Obviously, when using something that works the car harder than it normally would there's the sensible question of whether the car's health will suffer or not. When it comes to Track Mode on the Tesla Model 3, it seems that Tesla has put the work in to make sure this problem doesn't happen.
Track Mode tinkers away with the cooling system of the batteries and motors to make sure nothing gets too hot during or even after you've had your fun taking your Tesla for a rip around the track. The cooling system works overtime during the use of track mode, using the compressor overclock setting to help achieve this.
Additionally, Track Mode also features a 'Post-Drive Cooling' system, which means even after you've switched the car off and left, the cooling system will keep working until the car's components are back at an optimal temperature.
Both of these settings can be turned on or off in the Track Mode menu, but it's pretty cool, no pun intended, to see that you can have a piece of mind while thrashing your Tesla about a track. Obviously, there's nothing Track Mode can do to compensate for your driving, so you still have to make sure you're using the mode safely because as of yet, there's no Tesla update for fixing your car that you've smacked into a tree.
And there you have it, everything you need to know about Tesla's performance mode, have fun, and stay safe.