The company emphasized that Track Mode is intended specifically for closed circuits. It’s primarily a series of updates to the vehicle dynamics controller—to allow more ‘steering’ of the vehicle using the front and rear motors. It also includes stronger cooling for the vehicle’s power systems and higher regenerative braking levels.
While stability control systems in vehicles with mechanical drive systems typically resort to pulsing the brakes at specific wheels and reducing overall power to accomplish this, the Tesla Model 3 (or other performance-tuned, all-wheel drive electric cars like the Jaguar I-Pace) can also adjust the cornering rate in curves by changing the motor torque at specific wheels.
In Track Mode, Tesla allows motor torque to be generated solely at the back wheels when needed—or by the front wheels to aid stability. Track mode also allows increased regenerative braking. This has a similar effect on the cornering rate, and it helps save the friction brakes for when they’re truly needed.
Tesla Model 3 Track Mode enable screen
The result, Tesla says, is a system that can simultaneously enhance performance and driver control on the track while maintaining the safety net of stability control. Turning on Track Mode, though shrinks those safety nets on the street, so don’t expect to use it for stupid stunts on the road and still expect it to reel you in. A warning screen that users must agree to before engaging Track Mode, cautions about the narrower safety margins with a pointed warning: “Do not use on public roads.”
Limited motor and battery cooling have earned the Model S plenty of criticism in the past for its reduced power mode that can essentially shut down hot laps. To address that, Tesla has given Track Mode more aggressive cooling that will overclock the A/C compressor to help cool the powertrain proactively for the high temperatures of track excursions. The company says it can “allow operation of the powertrain beyond typical thermal limits.”
Tesla hasn’t said when Track Mode will be available in other models, but it sets the stage for future refinements: “We’ll continue to improve and enhance Track Mode over time with future over-the-air updates,” the company said.
Knowing Tesla, there are likely some yet-to-be-found Easter eggs in this new feature set as well.