Drifting in a Tesla Model 3: What Is Track Mode?

Tesla Model 3 Track Mode test 5 photos
Photo: Tesla via Youtube
Tesla Model 3 Track ModeTesla Model 3 Track ModeTesla Model 3 Track ModeTesla Model 3 Track Mode
For the most part of the year, as the Tesla Model 3 was slowly growing into a gargantuan hit, we’ve seen all kinds of races pitting the electric car against heavy-weights like the Chevrolet Camaro SS or the BMW M3. Most of those races, however, were all about sprint, as they took place on straight-lines.
Earlier this month, Tesla wanted to show the world that the Model 3 can be just as spectacular while cornering or drifting as well. For that, Elon Musk’s company released a drone-captured video on a Model 3 doing drifts and slides on a closed-road somewhere.

This no-sound video is supposed to show how the car’s Track Mode works. Unfortunately, it’s only 15 seconds long, so it's not very revealing. Luckily, a lot of info provided by Tesla shed more light on track mode, and here’s a breakdown of what the feature is and what it is supposed to do.


Tesla Model 3 Track Mode
Photo: Tesla via Youtube
The Tesla Track Mode is a software setting that changes the car's setup. It is meant to use motor power and torque in such a way as to allow for near-perfect control of the car on the racetrack: it keeps the car on the tarmac by allowing it to precisely regulate traction on each tire. It is, if you like, a system that blends stability control with traction control for the ultimate racing experience.

The degree of control on how much torque goes to what wheel is possible thanks to the use of the two electric motors mounted on each axle. Using them, the system can apply more torque to the rear wheels to make the car rotate more in the turn, or to the front ones, reducing its capability to do so.

Tesla says that the dual motors “can immediately and silently increase or decrease the car’s rotation in a corner at your request.”

The Model 3 uses a so-called Vehicle Dynamics Controller, an in-house built tech that replaces stability control. In effect, the controller acts as both stability control and as a performance enhancer on the track when needed .

In other words, the Track Mode in a Tesla Model should, in theory, allow one to manhandle the car in ways that would not be possible with stability control, but at the same time safely thanks to the fast-thinking controller.


Tesla Model 3 Track Mode
Photo: Tesla via Youtube
Tesla says there are four major features of the Track Mode that should make the circuit experience as thrilling as possible.

The first is, of course, providing the needed motor torque for rotation. Using the controller we mentioned earlier, the car can predict what the driver is about to do and decides where to send more torque, to the front or rear of the car, to either make the car rotate more or reduce its ability to do so.

Then there's the ability to keep the energy levels in the battery as high as possible for the required torque to be delivered when needed. This is possible thanks to the use of Increased regenerative braking in track mode to generate more electricity than in normal circumstances.

Because taking an electric car on the track puts a lot of strain on it and generates tons of heat, the Track Mode uses a track focused powertrain cooling solution. Tesla says track mode “proactively drop the temperatures of the battery and the drive units in preparation for the track and continue to cool them down in between drive sessions.”

Since overheating is likely in these conditions no matter how powerful the cooling, an overclocking of the AC compressor is used to increase the capacity of the refrigerant system and allow the car to operate at temperatures beyond its normal limit.

Tesla Model 3 Track Mode
Photo: Tesla via Youtube
Taking a turn when in track mode is handled through a feature Tesla calls enhanced cornering power. Using the open differentials in the Model 3, an equal amount of torque from the motors to both the left and right wheels is sent.

To keep the car from slipping more than needed on the inside tire, brake and motor torque is simultaneously applied to give it the needed traction while cornering at high speeds.

Tesla says it has designed the Track Mode in the Model 3 to provide a better racing experience than the BMW M3. Essentially, it disables the driver assist systems to give the driver more control over what the car is doing.

Just as Autopilot is to be used on highways only, Track Mode is meant for closed autocross circuits and racetracks.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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