Top Gear’s Top 9: bad steering wheel designs of the 21st Century
Even after 120 years of development, car makers are making steering wheels worse, not better…
BMW M Sport
This is the previous-gen steering wheel fitted to M Sport BMWs, but the newer ones have the same problem too. It’s just so, so thick. Honestly, you’d need hands like an orang-utan to wrap your fingers all the way around it too. It’s also squidgy, and that makes the car feel clumsy when you try to pour it through a corner. BMW engineers say their buyers like the phat wheels because they associate it with sporty cars. Yeah, that’s your fault in the first place, guys.Advertisement - Page continues below
Alfa Romeo 4C
Many things tripped up the Alfa Romeo 4C, but one of them was fitting a lightweight carbon-tubbed sports car unsullied by power steering with a horrid steering wheel. This means that one of the key interfaces between man and machine – which should have been utterly pure and beautifully simple – was corrupted by a thick twin-spoke wheel with an ugly irregular shape.
A big Mercedes saloon should be relaxing. A big Mercedes saloon powered by whisper-silent electric motors should be so soothing you forget you’re in a car altogether. But Mercedes managed to balls up the EQS cabin by festooning the steering wheel with touch-sensitive buttons which are really tricky to use. Plus, the gloss back spokes go smeary and rather ruin the effect of your minimalist £100k cabin. Whoops.Advertisement - Page continues below
Audi Q4 e-tron
Never ones to let a bad idea go uncopied, other German carmakers have decided to fit steering wheels which are covered in controls only a brain surgeon could use, and certainly not while driving. Audi’s Q4 e-tron crossover is another culprit. Plus, the wheel is a dumb shape – it’s an electric crossover, not a Formula One car.
Volkswagen Golf R
And rounding out this little subset, the latest hot Golf. Overly thick wheel that’s not as nice to hold as the old Golf R’s wheel? Check. Unintelligible haptic feedback buttons? Check. Mind you, at least you get a whole steering wheel to, well, steer…
Tesla Model S Plaid
Because you don’t find that in a Tesla Model S Plaid. Here, you now get a yoke. And don’t go thinking this is just a Tesla memelord special. Toyota is also about to offer new EVs like the bZ4x with a yoke too, proving the old guard of the car industry will do just about anything if people will liken them to a Tesla.
Shock horror, a Lotus is among the latest crop of dodgy steering wheels. How? Well, cool as the Emira’s wheel looks, it’s too thick to hold comfortably and too damn square. We’re huge fans of the new Lotus sports car having driven a prototype and can’t wait to test the finished version, but surely there’ll be a ‘delete marketing department’ option for normal people who want a round steering wheel?Advertisement - Page continues below
The latest mid-engined Corvette fell into a similar trap, with a twin-spoke wheel that forces drivers to hold it weirdly low down, which doesn’t feel all that natural when driving on twisty roads. And aren’t twisty roads the point of putting the engine in the middle?
Ferrari SF90 Stradale
Nope, it’s not the old gripe about Ferrari putting the indicators and the wipers on the steering wheel. Problem is in the SF90, there’s lots more for the wheel to do -and it’s all touch-sensitive. When you’ve got 1,000bhp horsepower on tap, trying in vain to toggle driving modes between EV, Hybrid and Qualify mode with just a glossy panel to tap at is, well, not as simple as rotating the classic (and much copied) Ferrari manettino switch. Good luck.Advertisement - Page continues below