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I'm not sure if this is a feature on Toyota cars alone, but I currently drive a '99 Avalon XLS and in addition to the D3 mode which I know disables overdrive, right above the radio near the top of the dash in the center panel, there's a button for "ECT Mode" which I've heard is a way for the car to increase the RPM threshold before shifting gears therefore making it more agile.

Occasionally I've used this feature when doing highway driving as it makes switching lanes much easier (since I don't have to floor the car) but I wanted to know if this feature is the same as disabling overdrive because I've noticed lower fuel economy when driving, and also when in standard stop and go driving, leaving the ECT on seems to be a safety hazard as the higher threshold doesn't mix well when accelerating from 0 to 30 or so.

On some forums people have said this feature is for towing or for driving up hills, but as I also have the overdrive kill switch, I'm wondering if this is more of a performance feature vs. for utility.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

On the Avalon, the ECT mode buttons toggles between normal/economy and power shift patterns.

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Ah, okay so I guess that means it's more of a driving preference feature rather than a utility (like disabling overdrive for towing). Thanks for pointing out the "power shift patterns" part. I had a feeling that ECT was doing something but couldn't pinpoint the technical term that would guide me to the technical details of it. – theonlylos Sep 19 '11 at 18:07
For more information see this description (PDF) of Toyota ECT (Electronic Control Transmission). Quote: “The pattern select switch is controlled by the driver to select the desired driving mode, either ‘Normal’ or ‘Power’. Based on the position of the switch, the ECT ECU selects the shift pattern and lock-up accordingly. The upshift in the power mode will occur later, at a higher speed depending on the throttle opening. For example, an upshift to third gear at 50% throttle will occur at about 37 mph in normal mode and about 47 mph in power mode.” – theUg May 22 '12 at 19:05

I am looking @ Page 96 of 1999 Toyota Avalon Owner's Manual. This page shows Dash buttons with labels & some nore. This is what written on that page for ECT.

"PWR" (Power) mode for powerful acceleration

ECT PWR "PWR" mode indicator light on the instrument panel shows the driving pattern selector button is in "PWR" mode.

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ECT mode reduces the power to the wheels in order to prevent spinning in the snow.

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True for the truck line, but not for cars. – Brian Knoblauch Sep 19 '11 at 12:58
Although this answer wasn't correct for my question, I wanted to say thanks regardless, because it's definitely good to know that ECT doesn't do the same thing in every car. Especially since I'm planning to start using ZipCar a bit and most likely I'll be switching models often. – theonlylos Sep 19 '11 at 18:09
Thanks @Brian -- I didn't realize that. – xpda Sep 19 '11 at 19:09

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