What Does The S Mean In A Car? [What Does It Stand For]

What does the S stand for in a car? You might have seen S and other letters on the gear shifter.

You are probably familiar with letters such as N, P, and D because you use them often. The letter S means sports mode, and not all cars have it.

The sports mode offers increased acceleration, more torque, and a sporty feel.

Read on for more information about the sports mode, including its pros and cons. The article also covers other gear shifter letters. Let’s dive right in!

How Does Gear Selector Work?

As the name suggests, gear select downshifts or upshift gears depending on the speed, load, engine RPM, and other conditions. It ensures the correct gear ratio at all times for efficient engine performance.

In cars with manual transmissions, the driver selects the appropriate gear for changing driving conditions. That can be done by pushing a lever or a button, depending on the car’s make and model.

But for cars fitted with automatic transmissions, the car’s computer is responsible for shifting the gears. It gets the loading, engine RPM, actual speed, and gas pedal position to determine the correct gear to engage.

The gear selector ensures a correct gear ratio for every driving condition to efficiently move your car.  

What is The S in a Car Gear Shifter?

The S in your car’s gear shifter stands for sports modes. Automatic cars with this mode always have an S on the gear shifter, which you can use when necessary.

The S mode gives you better acceleration and torque. It is the preferred mode when hauling or wanting to accelerate faster from the stop point or speed bump.

Always switch to S-gear from the drive gear, but never use it at the starting point. Shift to the drive gear first to get the car in motion before engaging the sports mode.

Read More:  How Online Tutors Can Help Automotive Students Stay on Track

Also, don’t use the S-mode when decelerating. Instead, shift to B or L to utilize the engine braking.

YouTube video

When to Use ‘S’ Gear in An Automatic Car?

Sports mode is designed for specific use and should be used sparingly. It is not meant for everyday driving.

The S-gear is preserved for two uses: when hauling or accelerating. The sports mode gives you more torque for pulling a utility trailer or other attached loads. And because of that high torque, you can also accelerate faster from low to high speeds.

The use of the S gear for acceleration should be done on highways because of the faster response. Doing it offroad or in traffic can cause accidents because the risk of hitting the car in front becomes high.

You may also use the S-gear when moving uphill. The vehicle overcomes gravity, which requires more torque, just like towing.

How Do You Use S Gear?

Using the S-gear is pretty straightforward. You don’t have to be a veteran driver or an expert behind the wheel to use the sports mode. Follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Shift to the drive gear to get it moving from a static position.
  2. Use the gear lever or button to shift to engage the S-mode. Your car will accelerate faster. So, ensure you have enough clearance in front of you.
  3. Some cars have a button for activating the sports mode. Press it and follow the onscreen prompts to configure it.

If you want to decelerate, shift the gear back to L or B to utilize the engine braking if your car has it. Otherwise, use the drive gear and your brake pedal to decelerate and stop the car.

YouTube video

Advantages of Sports Mode

Sports mode has many benefits, which is why many car enthusiasts are excited about sports cars. It comes with the following benefits:

1. Increased Acceleration 

If the car is in Sport Mode, it will allow the engine to accelerate faster than a standard-mode vehicle.

2. Increased Throttle Response 

When in sports mode, your car engine will have a more “sensitive” throttle that opens faster, which improves acceleration responsiveness. 

Read More:  Revolutionise Your Car Storage Experience in Perth

3. Increased RPM

When the transmission shifts gears in Sport Mode, your engine will extend its automatic shift and revs higher.

This process happens because the engine keeps the gears engaged until the engine reaches a higher rpm.

4. Increased Torque And Horsepower 

Your torque and horsepower increase when your RPM increases. So when you switch to sports mode, your revs increase, resulting in more horsepower and torque.

Read More:  Do Diesel Engines Have Throttle Body? [We’ve Got The Answer]

5. Stiffer Suspension 

When you change to Sport Mode, the suspension stiffens and sometimes drops.

As a result, allows your car to maneuver more quickly through corners, making it ideal for drivers on paved surfaces and fast interstates.

6. Tighter Steering 

Sport mode increases steering resistance for a sportier and more weighted feel.

It gives the driver more feedback about what the wheels are doing and makes the steering wheel more responsive.

Disadvantages of Sports Mode

However, it also has its drawbacks, which is why it is not recommended for everyday driving. A sports mode puts more pressure on your engine, which can potentially reduce the engine life.

Another disadvantage of sports is higher fuel consumption. The S-gear is generally a lower gear, which prioritizes torque over speed. Any car driven in a lower gear is likely to consume more fuel. So, use the sports mode if you are ready to spend more on gas.

What to Do When ‘S’ Gear in Car Doesn’t Work?

Your car should shift to the S-gear effortlessly. If it doesn’t, the simple explanation is that the transmission does not allow proper gear selection.

Gear shifting can be a problem in automatic cars if the transmission fluid is low. Instead of using a clutch to disengage and engage the transmission, automatic cars rely on the transmission fluid and other mechanics to achieve it.

If the transmission fluid is low or contaminated, gear shifting becomes a problem because of insufficient pressure. Check the fluid level and color and change it if necessary. Ensure you use the transmission fluid recommended for your car brand and model.  

Read More:  Can A Dealer Sell A Car With Frame Damage? [Things to Know]

What Is the Difference Between ‘D’ And ‘S’ In Automatic Transmission?

Your car has more features if you can see both S and D settings on the gear shifter. You can already imagine the differences between the two if you have read this article from the top.

In simple terms, the D (drive mode) allows the car to shift gears at regular intervals depending on the driving conditions to enhance engine efficiency and performance.

On the other hand, the sports mode allows your vehicle to get maximum power at the expense of engine efficiency. That is why your car will consume more fuel when in S-gear.

The sports mode keeps the engine at a lower gear, which delivers higher torque and faster acceleration. On the contrary, the drive gear will shift to upper gears when the engine’s RPM increases. It will lose torque, which may be inconvenient if you need faster acceleration.

What Does the + And – Mean in a Car Gear Shift?

Some cars with sports mode have the + and – signs on the gear shifter. That gives you manual control in the S-mode.

If you press the + button, the car shifts to the next immediate upper gear. The reverse is true. A negative sign downshifts the gear one level below the current gear.

The + and – signs also give you more control in an automatic car. Instead of the computer making all the decisions, your input becomes the priority.  

Meaning of Other Letters on Gear Shifter

Apart from the S letter, your car gear shifter has L, B, N, R, and P letters. You probably understand what they mean, but let’s quickly jog your mind.

  • What Does B Mean in a Car?

The letter B stands for engine brake mode. Shift to this gear only when going downhill to prevent free roll or decelerating. It engages the engine braking.

The B gear is sometimes labeled as L in some cars. It stands for a low gear mode, which does the same thing as brake mode.

  • What Does P Mean in a Car?

The letter P represents park mode. It is the gear you want to use in the parking lot or garage before exiting your car, but don’t use it in a traffic jam.

Read More:  Do Tesla's Have WiFi Hotspot Capabilities: Unveiling In-Car Connectivity Features

A rod is inserted into the teeth of your transmission gear when you engage the park gear. That prevents your car from moving. Some cars have electronic park brake system.

  • What Does R Mean in a Car?

R stands for reverse. When engaged, the car moves backward. As the name suggests, use this gear to reverse your car out of the parking lot, garage, or any other situation.

  • What Does N Mean in a Car?

N stands for neutral gear or neutral mode. It means your car’s engine is not connected to the transmission, but your vehicle can roll forward or backward. You may use it in a traffic jam with your foot on the brake pedal or when you want to free-roll downhill.


Does Sport Mode Make My Car Faster?

When you shift to sports mode, you allow more fuel injection, causing higher RPM. As a result, you will have better acceleration and speed when stepping on the gas pedal. 

Read More:  Is Lego The Largest Tire Manufacturer? [Unbelievable]

However, driving in sports mode consumes more fuel because your vehicle is likely to stay in gear for longer periods and rev higher.

Is It Better To Drive A Car In Sports Mode?

It is entirely up to you. If you’re willing to waste more fuel for a better driving experience, driving your car in sports mode can be better.

Do All Modern Cars Come With Sports Mode?

Not all modern cars have a sports mode feature, but there are a lot of modern cars that come with it.

As a result, this feature isn’t limited to sports cars; sedans and SUVs can also have this feature.

Is Sport Mode Good for Snow?

No. Sports mode is not designed for snow. It holds the transmission in a lower gear for a long time while giving maximum power to the wheels. That requires traction, which snow does not offer. You should use snow mode instead if your car has it.

Does Sport Mode Make Your Car Louder?

Yes. Sports mode makes the car louder as the engine speed increases to deliver more power to the wheels. You should notice a change in the sound when using the sports mode.

Read More:  Do Teslas Have Gears? Explained

Can you shift from drive to L (B) in automatic transmission while running?

Yes. You can shift the gear to L or B when running if you are decelerating or want to stop. It downshifts the transmission to a lower gear to utilize the engine braking.

Can you shift from S to D while driving?

Yes. You can shift from S to D while driving and vice versa. However, your car will not change gears from S to D if you hold the gas pedal down to the floor. The car’s computer system will only respond to your input request when it is safe.

Does sport mode use more gas?

Yes. Sports mode delivers maximum power at the expense of engine efficiency. That, in turn, affects the engine’s fuel consumption. Driving in lower gear requires more gas, which is what the sports mode is about. That is why you should not use it for everyday driving but only activate it when necessary.

Final Remarks

The S stands for sports mode, an additional feature on some cars. When you have it, you can use it to get more power when accelerating. It is also ideal when towing or going uphill. This mode also gives you more steering control and enhances throttle response.

However, engage the S-gear only when you need to use it. It uses more fuel and strains your engine, which can impact its lifespan. Use the sports mode sparingly!

Leave a Comment