What is Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive)?

Different drive modes can help motorists tap into the full potential and versatility of their vehicles. Sport mode in a car, for example, enhances responsiveness and acceleration to deliver a more lively, thrilling driving experience. 

The system of drive modes in Subaru vehicles is known as SI-DRIVE®, which stands for Subaru Intelligent Drive. At the turn of a dial, SI-DRIVE lets you control how your Subaru performs, depending on your needs and circumstances at a given time. 

Whether you want to flex the full power capabilities of your Subaru, gain maximum fuel efficiency, or provide a smooth, comfortable ride for your passengers, the SI-DRIVE system intelligently optimizes engine and transmission function to match your preferences.


The SI-DRIVE system helps your Subaru adapt to an even wider range of versatile driving preferences. SI-DRIVE equips your vehicle with as many as three pre-set modes, giving you the ability to deftly switch between your options to accommodate your needs. 

When selecting a particular SI setting, you may choose Intelligent (I) Mode for instances when you want to stretch fuel economy as far as possible; Sport (S) Mode for responsive, practical performance on highways or road trips; or Sport Sharp (S#) Mode for exceptional handling of curves – or even on the racetrack.

Intelligent (I) Mode

Intelligent (I) Mode is a great choice for daily commutes, city driving, or cruising around running errands. Intelligent Mode focuses primarily on efficiency, delivering smooth acceleration and stable handling. Sometimes known as “eco mode,” Intelligent Mode prioritizes fuel economy and helps minimize emissions. 

So, how does the Subaru SI-DRIVE system adjust for Intelligent Mode? With this mode engaged, the throttle gradually opens so that less fuel is required to reach your desired speed. In typical driving situations, the harder you press the gas pedal, the faster your vehicle accelerates. The faster the throttle opens, more fuel is consumed at a faster rate. By contrast, if you press forcefully on the gas pedal in Intelligent Mode, you still get a boost of speed, but the SI-DRIVE system limits how fast the throttle opens and the amount of fuel it can take at once. 

Intelligent Mode offers smoother, more gradual acceleration — and as much as a 10% boost in fuel economy. This mode is ideal for use in stop-and-go traffic or urban settings where you’re unlikely to need sudden jolts of power or torque, making any dip in acceleration virtually unnoticeable. It also allows for maximum wheel grip, allowing for exceptional performance in challenging weather or road conditions.

Sport (S) Mode

Subaru SI-DRIVE Sport (S) Mode is all about balance and practicality. Sport Mode delivers more power faster when you hit the gas pedal, making it easier to maneuver at high speeds around obstacles or road hazards, or when accelerating to cruising speed within the flow of traffic. 

With S-Mode, your Subaru vehicle operates at efficient settings by default, but allows for faster acceleration when you need it most. Whether you’re passing, merging, tackling rocky or muddy terrain, or driving in higher speed traffic situations, Sport Mode is a versatile setting that’s ideal for highway driving or adventuring off-road.

What is Sport Mode & How Does it Work?

In Sport Mode, Subaru vehicles can more easily scale steep hills and smoothly navigate winding mountain roads due to faster throttle response. And since Sport Mode only increases throttle response for occasional extra bursts of power, it has a minimal impact on fuel economy, making it suitable for everyday driving.

Sport Sharp (S#) Mode

Among all SI-DRIVE modes, Sport Sharp (S#) Mode is made to thrill. S# Mode offers quick acceleration, virtually instantaneous response to speed and steering changes, and ultra-precise control. The result is unbridled responsiveness, added power, and fun.

Sport Sharp Mode works by allowing the engine and transmission to reach their maximum capabilities as quickly as possible when you hit the gas pedal. In Subaru models equipped with a Lineartronic® Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), SI-DRIVE Sport Sharp Mode gives you even more control, mimicking the performance of an 8-speed transmission. Sport Sharp Mode can best be appreciated when making sharp turns on a challenging race course, allowing you to flex the full power and torque capabilities of your Subaru in a safe, controlled environment without heavy traffic. In real-life situations, Sport Sharp Mode can also be an asset. This mode can be helpful when merging or overtaking at high speeds.

Performance Effects of SI-DRIVE

Unlike more typical "sport modes" that often focus solely on enhancing performance, SI-DRIVE offers a more comprehensive approach, synchronizing seamlessly with Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD), traction control, and stability control. Depending on the mode selected, SI-Drive delivers boosts in efficiency, smoothness, and/or performance. Beyond changes in throttle response, SI-DRIVE makes intelligent adjustments to transmission behavior and engine output for a personalized driving experience unmatched by traditional sport modes.

How to Get the Most out of SI-DRIVE

Whether you’re looking for enhanced performance or fuel efficiency, there are a few ways to maximize the potential of SI-DRIVE. Depending on the mode you find yourself most drawn to, the right tires can make all the difference. Tires designed for performance can provide the handling, traction, and responsiveness needed for Sport Sharp (S#) Mode, but might not offer optimal grip and traction in slippery weather. Knowing when to use the right mode can also help you leverage SI-DRIVE to its fullest capabilities. For instance, the performance of Sport Sharp Mode would be wasted on city driving and short commutes, detracting from fuel economy. However, Intelligent Mode is made for everyday driving to offer greater fuel efficiency. By contrast Sport Mode and Sport Sharp Mode can give you the quick bursts of power you crave on a race track or off-roading on steep inclines.

Shop Subaru Models with SI-DRIVE

Four Subaru models either come standard with SI-DRIVE or as an available option: 

Explore our full lineup of vehicles here!