Your Car Has Driving Profiles – Here’s How To Change Them

Showing a car dash screen with options menu, showing a "Steering" entry and a bunch of options one can change, i.e. Normal, Sport, offroad, Eco etc.

Just like mobile phones of yesteryear, modern cars have profiles. They aren’t responsible for the sounds your car produces, however, as much as they change how your car behaves – for instance, they can make your engine more aggressive or tweak your steering resistance. On MQB platform cars, the “Gateway” module is responsible for these, and it’s traditionally been a black box with a few user-exposed profiles – not as much anymore, thanks to the work of [Jille]. They own a Volkswagen hybrid car, and had fun changing driving modes on it – so naturally, they decided to reverse-engineer the configuration files responsible.

Now, after two years of experimentation, tweaking values and observing changes, there’s quite some sense made of the configuration binaries. You can currently edit these binaries, also referred to as datasets, in a hex editor – there’s profiles for the 010 hex editor that make sense of the data you load, and explanation of the checksums involved. With this, you are no longer limited by profiles the manufacturer composed – if a slightly different driving combination of parameters makes more sense to you, you can recombine them and have your own profile, unlock modes that the manufacturer decided to lock out for non-premium cars, and even fix some glaring oversights in factory modes.

This is pretty empowering, and far from ECU modifications that introduce way more fundamental changes to how your car operates – the parameters being changed are within the range of what the manufacturer has implemented. The smarter our cars become, the more there is for us hackers to tweak, and even in a head unit, you can find things to meaningfully improve given some reverse-engineering smarts.

24 thoughts on “Your Car Has Driving Profiles – Here’s How To Change Them

    1. There’s a bitmask that allows you to choose what values can be selected. The picture is from my daily driver, which currently has all options available, to see which values actually change something in the behavior of the car. I was surprised to find that there are quite a few additional behaviors besides “normal” and “sport” for Steering.. however “on” and “off” don’t work, obviously.

  1. I really like the ability to make these changes. My Subaru STI has “SI drive”, a knob that chooses between “intelligent”, sport, and “sport sharp”. From the factory, it just changes throttle pedal mapping, which makes intelligent good for driving slightly more economically and sport sharp makes the car feel “livlier” without actually increasing power – you just get to 100% throttle with less pedal application.

    After a software tune, sport sharp actually targets a slightly higher boost and maintains the same standard throttle mapping. It’s actually faster, and it doesn’t screw up my reflexes for blipping the throttle on downshifts.

    Intelligent retains the “dulled” stock throttle pedal remap, giving my foot more sensitivity in the low throttle zones to keep me from repeatedly banging my passenger’s heads into the headrests when driving at super-low speeds in parking lots.

  2. No, my car doesn’t have profiles. Even if it did, I’d just leave it at “eco” or “comfort” and never touch it again. I just don’t see the point in constantly fiddling with such, but I definitely do see the point in using somewhat less power/gas/diesel.

    1. Choosing the right profile for certain conditions could potentially make the car respond better (safer driving) and maybe even reduce the consumption as well. I would definitely check what impact it makes if I were so concerned about using less fuel. Less power doesn’t necessarily equal more mpg.

    1. Use your perfectly good and in many ways better car to drive to a dealer. Get $800 trade in value. Spend $68k on a new top of the line one. Because it’s better. It’s not hard.

    2. Cut your wheel flares back almost to the body. Upsize your tires. Shiny skidplate over any rust-spots. Get one of those JEEP spare-tire covers with the smiley face with the 3-day stubble (or the one with upside-down writing that says “If U can read this, please flip me back up”).

      You’re welcome.

        1. I can watch my neighbor’s Jeep lean when he makes low speed turns, cus he set it up for off-road. If he was richer he’d probably get a fancy sway bar.

          “You don’t get or need” Look at the attitude on this guy. People like to tinker with their vehicles ya know. The only stock Jeeps I see rolling around are mall-crawlers

  3. Got all excited about doing a chip tune then found out, living in California, that pretty much any change will throw some benign error codes. Benign until you get the car smogged, they will immediately discover the tampering, fail you, then you have to go through the arduous process of getting a smog referee and so on. California can be reallllllly dumb. BTW any changes from the intake all the way through to the exhaust to the cat, are “tampering with emissions” and likewise illegal and strictly enforced. Even changes that make the care run more efficiently. It is illegal to make my car run more efficiently. Think on that for a minute.

  4. Yeah, but … how do you extract the current profile from the vehicle or upload your modified profiles? I have an MQB vehicle and I’d like to change which profile it selects by default. I’m just tired of pressing the “mode” button multiple times every time I start the vehicle.

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