Of all the changes Tesla has brought over the past few years, the switch to the yoke steering wheel may prove be the most controversial. Elon Musk, though, is unrepentant about the unusual controls found in the latest Model S and Model X, and that means if you were hoping for an option to swap in a “normal” steering wheel, you’re out of luck.
Tesla revealed the redesigned Model S and Model X earlier this year, giving its most expensive cars an arguably overdue upgrade. While the exterior design was tidied up in the process, it was the interior which saw the biggest changes.
The dashboard gained a custom processor giving it PlayStation 5-levels of power, while the rear seats got a special touchscreen of their own to play with. It was the driver controls, however, which prompted the most surprise. Gone was the regular, circular steering wheel, and for that matter the drive selector. In their place was a “wheel” more like something you’d expect to find in Knight Rider‘s KITT, and the promise of the EV predicting whether you wanted to be in drive, reverse, or park.
Opinions were instantly divided. Some loved the futuristic yoke, and the clear view it gave of the cars’ digital instruments. Others, meanwhile, weren’t impressed at the idea of cutting away a big chunk of the controls, particularly when it comes to things like low-speed maneuvering. Even safety regulators weighed in, revealing they would be contacting Tesla for more information on the practicality of the yoke.
With the first Model S Plaid cars featuring the new wheel design arriving with owners, opinions remain split. Elon Musk, though, seems unwilling to consider an alternative. Asked on Twitter whether there’d be an option to swap out the yoke for a more traditional wheel, his answer was a terse “No“.
It’s not, to be fair, the first time Tesla’s CEO has proved stubborn about a change, and often in time buyers of the company’s EVs prove content with his decisions. Musk has also been upfront about the yoke being part of the grand Autopilot transition: a smaller wheel, he points out, will be less intrusive in the cabin when – as Tesla has long promised is on the roadmap – the cars will support full self-driving and be able to operate themselves without driver involvement.
Where that leaves upcoming Tesla vehicles remains to be seen. The Tesla Roadster was shown with a yoke-style wheel, as was the Tesla Cybertruck. At the time the electric pickup was unveiled, many assumed that the atypical controls would end up being swapped for something more old-school by the time production kicked off.
Now, with Tesla gung-ho about the yoke in the Model S Plaid, it looks like that won’t necessarily be the case. After all, Musk has already said he doesn’t really care if the Cybertruck is a sales flop – and he has a strategy if it is.