What's the Point of Launch Control?

Most cars have launch control, but can you really use it?

Danny Korecki

Almost every exotic or sports car built after 2010 has some form of launch control. Most launch control-enabled cars are in a brand's performance line (think BMW M, Audi S/RS, etc.), but some non-performance line models get a launch control setting as well. There are even certain cars which can have an aftermarket launch control mode loaded via a tune.

Being a car enthusiast, it sounds great right? Get it to 60-plus miles per hour as fast as possible?

But seriously...what's the point?

A few months ago in Episode 12 of the inaugural season of The Grand Tour, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May poke fun at Launch Control using the following clip:

The video uses comedy to convey a point. Where can you actually use launch control?

The clip uses what I believe to be the easiest of launch control-able cars, a Porsche 911 GT3. Push one button, brake 100 percent, gas 100 percent, off the brake, and off you go—but even that would take too much time.

So where can you actually use it?

  • Track Day? No, there are no standing starts at most local weekend track days.
  • Dragstrip? In theory yes, but by the time you engage the launch your rival in the other lane will probably have left. The other problem is many launch control systems can only be engaged after X amount of miles. For example, the BMW E92 M3 requires six miles between launch attempts.
  • Street? Bad idea. It fosters the idea of racing or speeding on public roads and don’t do that. It is illegal.
  • Parking lot? No, you do not own the property and you could be putting innocent people in danger.

So what is the true purpose of launch control? In my opinion, it is to help manufacturers create better 0 to 60 mph times. Having the ECU do the job is faster and will allow the car to shift at the perfect rpm. This allows manufacturers to report lower 0 to 60 mph times and allows more Cars & Coffee stat bragging on the part of the consumer.

In the end, the manufacturer meets a certain performance figure they get to advertise, and we get cars that sound like they are two-stepping. So while a pointless setting, we all kind of win in the end.

When/where do you use your launch control?