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Manual shifting of automatic brings more power, noise
Click & Clack Ray Magliozzi
Dear Car Talk:

My 2016 Hyundai Sonata has a “Sport Mode” that is supposed to provide more power. Sometimes, I’ll use the automatic shifter to shift up through the gears myself and get to higher rpm. It seems like when I shift the gears myself, I get more power than I do in Sport Mode. Is it my imagination or does shifting myself give me more power? — Maureen

It’s not your imagination, Maureen. You’re probably getting a little more power by keeping the car in each gear longer. You’re certainly getting more noise, and that also contributes to the feeling that you’re going faster.

In most mainstream passenger cars (such as the Sonata), there is a Sport-mode button or something similar. Because automatic transmissions are electronically controlled now, that button simply moves the shift points higher. So, under normal circumstances, if the transmission would shift gears at 2,200 rpm, in Sport mode, it might shift at, say, 2,800 rpm.

The higher the engine rpm (up to a point), the more power you get — and also, the lower mileage you get. That is one reason why the car doesn’t run in Sport mode by default. The other reason is the noise. Most people prefer quiet and higher gas mileage to zippier acceleration. But if Sport mode causes the car to shift gears at 2,800 rpm, you can certainly wait longer than that when you do the shifting.

So, if you’re shifting at 3,500 or 4,000 rpm, the car is going to feel (and definitely sound) as if it’s going faster than it does in Sport mode. If that still doesn’t feel fast enough for you, Maureen, try chiseling a hole in your muffler. That’ll make it sound like you’re flying.

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