What Does P, R, N D, S And B Stand For In Newer Cars With CVT Gearbox

A couple of days ago a friend of mine came to my place in his Toyota Prius. He can’t drive himself so keeps a paid driver around. He has a manual 7th generation Civic but it was unavailable that day so borrowed the Prius from a family member. My friend got out of the car and complained that car is continuously stalling and shutting down.

I sat in the driving seat and asked the driver to explain to me what was going on. What he said to me made me wince for a second. He said,

“Sir main woh neechay clutch dabata hun to car ruk jata hai aur pedal bhi phir oper nahi aata”


He was pressing the parking brake of the car that is located in the footrest area next to brake pedal, thinking it is the clutch pedal. The driver had no clue what was going on there. I explain it to my friend and his driver that it is NOT a clutch but a ‘handbrake’, and it is quite probable that the parking brake has fried by now. The photo above is of a generic left hand drive car’s foot brake.

When I sat in the driving seat of an automatic car for the first time after driving manual all my life, I had no clue what to do. I was told just to put the car gear in D position, and it will start driving. Later when Japanese cars begun to appear on our roads with CVT gearboxes, we saw S and B instead of usual D1, D2 and D3. The previous shape of Honda City with CVT (Vario) also had same lettering next to its gear lever as well. I am not sure about the 1.5-liter steermatic Honda City, though.

Many already know about the conventional auto cars, but CVT is still getting some traction. Here is what the gear lever of CVT looks like. Keep in mind different automaker have different letters on their gear lever.

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P of course is the parking. Put the car in P when leaving to make sure it won’t crawl into a lamp post when parked.

R makes it go backwards

N is for neutral.

D is to make your car move forwards in the most fuel economical way possible.

And now S. To put it simply; S stands for Sport. Some say it stands for Speed, but I doubt that. I have read it in multiple places it stands for sport, and that is what many have told me as well so I will stick with Sport as well. Since CVT gearbox has virtually infinite ratios, in S mode, the ECM of the car adjusts the transmission to provide the best acceleration when the throttle is pressed hard. The car holds the gears longer than what it does in D position for more power. If you are feeling little sportier, put your car in S and see how the car responds to throttle and gear changes. You will hurt your fuel economy, though.

Whereas, the B stands for Brake or engine braking. When you are doing downhill, it is advised to shift the car in B mode. It engages the engine braking, and your car won’t free-fall down the slopes. It increases the engine drag. It also prevents your car brakes from overworking since it takes a major load off of them by helping the car to reduce the speed with gear ratios. Also, B is useful when climbing the uphill roads. It makes sure the car doesn’t start to crawl backwards when going upwards. Whenever you feel it’s going to be either continuous incline or decline, shift your car to B position. Some times it says L instead of B. B is mostly written in Toyota cars.

honda cvt

And to finish it off, that third lever on the left is NOT A CLUTCH!


Writing about cars and stuff.

  • Hassan Tariq

    S stands for second gear..
    L stands for first or lower gear..

  • Muhammad Mansoor

    Bro, do you even read?

  • Shani Arain

    i had toyota vitz 2007. and always wonderd what does B stands for. first i wasnt sure about the S also. but after some time i got to knw it was for sports and it makes noticeble changes also to throttle and braking. but when i put the car in B it always slows down. and even on high throttle it wouldnt run fast and engine kept reving.First i thought it was for 4WD for if u stuck in mud or sand or something now i got to knw wat was B for 😀 thank so much pak wheels. best article

  • Muhammad Fahd Un Nabi Khan

    Very helpful!

  • twister286

    S = Sport, and in the U660 gearbox on some Toyotas, “S” is “Semi-Auto” (e.g. in the GSV40 series Aurions and ASV50 series non-hybrid Camrys).

    S mode makes gear ratios spread out further, and gear changes take place higher in the rev range.

    B is the equivalent of “2” or “L” in the older gearboxes…it restricts the gearbox to low ratios, for better engine braking when going downhill and preventing gear hunting when going uphill.

  • twister286

    He’s right on the L, but wrong on S.

  • Sultan Kiani

    Clutch in Prius 😮 Hahahaha 😀 OMG!

    Thanks for explanation Aref Ali, I own a M/T but sometimes I have to drive these modern cars. I was using S in wrong way, like I don’t feel “sportier” anytime 😛 but while going uphill, I used to put the lever in S and B while going downhill (which is correct). So from now on, No S, just use B either you’re going up or down hill.

    Btw there’s no S in Prius, I guess. Just be vewy vewy quithh, it’s Puiws, made for economy & environment, not for sports 😀

  • sufyan

    That family member is surely going to be pissed off. Nokri gai bechare driver ki 😛 😀

  • Adnan

    just a quick comment, supports mode doesn’t mean that your call will run faster but it is the way car changes gears if you press the gas pedal. for S model, car will start in fist gear (not in second gear as for comfort mode) and when you press a sudden pedal then the first preference for your car will be to move to lower gear to increase torque (opposite in case of comfort mode). at least this is case with my Mercedes Benz c class. i usually prefer to be on comfort mode in winter with snow and ice and on supports in summer to ”have fun” with my back wheel drive machine. By they way i think there is warning light that switch on every time when you start driving with hand break ON.

  • Adnan

    * Sports mode not supports mode

  • Hassan Tariq

    Guys u cannot shift to 3rd gear in S mode…

  • Raja Masaud

    Dear can u plz explain o/d features here?

  • Taha Najam

    Overdrive. It improves fuel efficiency and reduces drag and is also quieter. Basically just leave it always on unless you need extra strength for going up or down a slope or carrying heavy load under 40.

  • Guest

    “that third lever on the left is NOT A CLUTCH!”

    Pedal: a foot operated mechanism.
    Lever: a hand operated mechanism.

    It is preferable to use pedal here, not lever.
    Hand brake could use a hand operated lever mechanism or a foot operated pedal mechanism.

  • Atif

    No need to clarify Adnan 🙂 We all understood it, mobile devices and tabs are such culprits; try their best to confuse us human beings 🙂

  • Usman Haider Sheikh

    your c class might have 8 speed tranny, the context here is cvt, which has a single gear with infinitely variable ratios, when in D it accelerates in a different way compared to S even if pedal to metal.

  • Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain

    auto correct sucks

  • Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain

    Now a days B or L mode will change gear to 3 and 4 but depends on your drive. The moment rpm reaches in red zone, the gear will change in B or L mode. In S mode obviously it will change.

  • Imran Baloch

    hey man, why dont u write blogs

  • Ehs

    “S” mode is suitable for uphill driving.

  • blueazure

    S is sports, correctly put, the ecu just makes the throttle snappier and holds low gear ratio,, suitable for overtaking etc


    you should not rely on yahoo answers bro 🙂

  • Mohammad Ali

    What does “L” stands for and what’s it’s function??

  • Wasim Badami

    You suck more!

  • Raza Ul Haq

    Learner…. 1st gear only !!

  • Mehran Mamonai

    I think “Load” or “Level” as we are going down hill or up hill, Engine wants load or levels accordingly

  • abdur rauf

    what is Land 2L stands for ON AUTO GEAR LEVER

  • Murtuza Khoso

    I cringed when I read this. Poor car.

  • Rizwan

    What are the “S” and “B” gear shift positions used for on the 2014 Corolla?
    “S” is for sport. If you’re driving on twisty country roads and want to keep the RPM up as you wind through corners, the “S” position is where you want to be. In “S”, the transmission holds lower gears longer for more power as you come out of the curves.

    The “B” position favors lower gears, too, but for a totally different purpose. Just as you might shift a conventional transmission to Low on a long downhill grade; you can shift into the “B” position to increase engine drag and help slow the Corolla while coasting down a hill

  • Huzaifa Mustafa

    I have an automatic swift. It has D then D3 then D2 and finally L.
    What does D3 stand for? Maybe sports?.
    And then what is D2 for?

  • Aneef Izhar

    Your car will go upto a maximum of 3 gears in D3. Similarly upto a max of 2 gears in D2. And L is for engine braking mode (or 1st gear only I guess? Not sure though)

  • Raheel Khan

    How it can be learner? If D is perfect for driving.

  • Jonathan

    thanks a lot All, you helped me a lot. I have a new TOYOTA premier with P,D,B and S and I always asked myself what is this B&S for? The manual is written in Japanese and nobody could help me. I have now understands how effectively I can operate my car. I will try using it and next time I will update the outcome.

  • Nayeem

    Thanks for the info. I’m a new driver and I was thinking of these letters as well as the for the solutions to the problems that you mentioned. Many many thanks for your help.

  • Lutful Huq

    Hello there,

    Can you help me with a problem, please? Since I took the fuel last time;

    – my car is making noise which I can hear standing at the back of my car
    – the engine is vibrating unevenly.
    – If I press the accelerator pedal sometimes its not responding like it used to do.
    – The worst case is while I’m cruising sometimes it suddenly slows down like I pressed the brake.

    One of my friend suspected that maybe there are some air bubbles in the fuel line or there may be some water or impurities in the fuel. I ran the car for almost an hour after emptying the main tank. It looked like the problem is gone. Then I took a little fuel again from a different station but the problem came back. I’m puzzled.

  • Usman

    Get your catalytic converter checked. Most probably it needs some cleaning or even replacement.