"Drive" was The Cars' highest charting single in the United States, peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. On the Adult Contemporary chart, the song went to number one. It reached number five in the UK Singles Chart on its initial release; following its use at the Live Aid concert in 1985 as the background music to a montage of clips depicting the contemporaneous Ethiopian famine, the song was re-released and peaked at number four. It reached number four in West Germany and number six in Canada.
In a retrospective review of the single, Allmusic journalist Donald A. Guarisco praised the song for being "a gorgeous ballad that matches heartfelt songwriting to an alluring electronic soundscape. The music reflects the lyrical tone with a lovely melody that rises and falls in a soothing yet sad fashion."