Tesla Model 3 owners who opted for the Performance variant now have a reason to go to the track. Or, if history is a guide, they’ll skip the track and try the newly released Track Mode software feature in a parking lot or winding road.
Track Mode — to be clear — is designed for, and should only be used on closed autocross circuits and racetracks. Here’s why.
The software feature taps into the dual electric motors to squeeze even more performance out of the vehicle. But in a new way. Until now, Tesla has used the power produced by its dual motors and torque (the rotational force of an engine or, in this case, motor) to create a super-fast-accelerating vehicle. Now it’s using that same motor power and torque to turn the Model 3 into a cornering (and drifting) dynamo.
As Tesla explains in a blog post (and shows in the video below), the company replaced the stability control system with its own in-house Vehicle Dynamics Controller, “software developed specifically for Tesla vehicles that acts both as a stability control system and also as a performance enhancement on the track.”
This Vehicle Dynamics Controller allows for more rotation if needed. If the rotation is insufficient, the system commands a rear-biased torque. When rotation is excessive, it commands a front-biased torque. Track Mode also improves cornering by applying brake and motor torque at the same time to produce an increase in tractive force while cornering.
What all this means is that the system is designed to send all the power to the rear wheels while the driver is cornering, which pushes the tail out. If the rotation becomes excessive, the power is sent to the front wheels, pulling the vehicle up and out of the turn.
When enabled, Track Mode also increases regenerative braking. This gives the braking system a break (ahem) and sends more energy back into the battery. It also gives drivers more control with a single pedal (the accelerator). Meaning, the driver can simply lift a foot off the accelerator to get the braking they’re looking for as they approach a corner.
Track Mode also anticipates the strain on the powertrain, so it drops the temperatures of the battery and the drive units in preparation for the track and continues to cool them down between drive sessions.
What’s even more interesting is how Tesla fine-tuned the feature. Motor Trend’s Randy Probst ended up working with Tesla engineers during a track session at Willows Springs’ Street circuit to get Track Mode performing as it should. The result was a 1:21:49 lap time, beating the recently tested Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and matching the 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4.