I can be a better driver using "EcoPro mode" - really ?
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Originally published - Dec 1 2015 - edited for grammar & spelling in 2020
I read an article in the last Roundel (BMW Car Club Of America Magazine) where one of the reviewers was talking about the Driving Modes in a new BMW and, in a comment about the driving modes, said to ignore EcoPro mode. I would offer a counter point to that observation.
If you don't know, many of the new BMW's come with various driving modes as part of the Efficient Dynamics program. Comfort, Sport and EcoPro. Depending on the model, these modes modify engine settings, suspension, steering & transmission.
EcoPro is designed to increase range and decrease fuel consumption by up to 20%. I'll use 8000 miles in my X5 Diesel as a reference and also qualify with experience in a rental 328i.
As an avid track junkie it may be surprising that I choose the EcoPro mode at all, and don't run in Sport or Sport + all the time. What I have observed is that using EcoPro well forces a set of driving behaviors that reinforce the behaviors necessary for good track driving.
In other words - I treat EcoPro like a game...
1 - Anticipation by looking far ahead.
In order for you to achieve the greatest gains, you must look far ahead and manage the use of the throttle and allow the transmission to engage "coast" mode. Keeping your eyes up and looking far ahead is critical to smooth, fast driving on the track, often I have gained time in qualifying simply by telling myself to "get my eyes up" and "look ahead". Driving around Washington DC in all kinds of traffic trying to minimize the use of the throttle and the brake has seen up to 40mpg with the by product of an in increase in patience.
2 - Accept, understand and anticipate fluctuations in speed caused by terrain.
Using the terrain to manage speed while coasting has also been a good lesson, and reminder in the capabilities of terrain to slow with out braking and accelerating without gas. Good lessons to remember heading into turn 1 at NJMP Lightning or Madness at Mid-Ohio.
3 - Moderation of top speed while conserving the average speed.
EcoPro has encouraged me to use the cruise control more to manage average speed while I focus on managing my position in the road by using the entire lane, and reading the speed of other traffic to time overtaking and being overtaken (Yes I get overtaken :) ) to limit the use of brakes and gas. Effectively reading other traffic to maintain speed is good race craft and driving a momentum race car (Spec E36) forces you to maintain speed through the corners and traffic because you cannot make it up with power on the straights.
I would encourage my other track junkie friends to play the same game - after all what else can we do in heavy traffic :)