Don’t like Tesla’s weird yoke steering wheel? Tough

Tesla Model S Plaid steering wheel
(Image credit: Tesla)

Update: Tesla may be backtracking, with data mining revealing the company may be offering future Model S owners the option to choose between a yoke and regular steering wheel

Love it or hate it, Tesla’s yoke steering wheel is not going anywhere. Or at least it isn’t if you ever plan on driving a Model S or Model X. That’s according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

We know this thanks to Musk’s Twitter feed, as usual. In this instance Musk has been commenting on a review of the Model S Plaid from YouTuber Marques Brownlee.

Brownlee was mostly positive in his review of the Model S Plaid in terms of its look and performance. However, he did have some small complaints, including the fact that there are thin gaps between the center console and wireless charger where things could get lost. Things like his car’s registration paper.

But Brownlee’s main complaints were related to the Yoke steering wheel. Since drivers have to essentially undo years of muscle memory, Brownlee pointed out that it means driving a Model S Plaid is pretty awkward when you first start driving. 

But don’t expect it to go anywhere. Musk commented claiming it was a “good review & fair critique”, But when asked if there will ever be a regular (i.e. round) steering wheel Musk responded with a concise “no”. No other explanation or justification, a simple, definitive no.

Musk has been very quick to defend the yoke steering in the face of criticism, much of which seems to be aimed at the wheel’s design. Because it’s not actually wheel shaped, and it means drivers don’t have a full circle to maneuver with. Plus the fact yoke wheels are designed for activities like drag racing which doesn’t require any turning, or Formula 1 where steering ratio has been adjusted to ensure drivers never have to take their hands off the wheel.

Brownlee also took issue with the Model S’s capacitive touch buttons, which are used for a lot of regular driving tasks like turn signals, the horn and so on. The lack of physical buttons meant Brownlee found himself having to look at the buttons to activate them, and that they can accidentally be triggered when turning the wheel.

However, Musk claims that accidental input is something that will be improved with future software updates, when the car learns to ignore any accidental presses. Though that strikes me as overengineering. Complacency is never a good thing, but if you design a new product that’s actually worse than what came before, you’ve made a wrong turn.

After all, the whole point of physical buttons in cars is that you’re supposed to be able to use them by touch alone and keep your eyes on the road. It’s the same reason why I dislike how automakers have been pushing more and more touchscreen controls. Anything that forces the driver to look at it before it can be used is nothing more than a hazard.

Touch controls are great on phones, smart home gadgets and other things of that ilk. But that doesn’t mean they are universally good. 

As for the yoke steering, I can’t exactly comment since I don’t drive a Tesla. It definitely would take some getting used to considering the way I hold it during maneuvers. But no doubt there are Tesla owners out there who love it, or are at least used to it. Perhaps most importantly Elon Musk loves it, and he’s the one making all these decisions.

So the yoke is not going anywhere, and that’s just the way it is.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.