- Tesla’s polarizing new ‘steering yoke’ has sparked debate online.
- Some say the steering wheel is forward thinking and futuristic, while others argue it’s impractical.
- The yoke will be in redesigned Model X crossovers and Model S sedans arriving later this year.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
After nearly a decade on the market, the Tesla Model S is getting its first major overhaul. And in predictable Tesla fashion, the changes are causing a stir online.
In its fourth-quarter earnings release Wednesday, Tesla announced a redesigned Model S sedan and Model X crossover would arrive later this year and showed off a new interior with a radical update.
The refreshed models, which Tesla said will start shipping next month, sport an odd, rectangular ‘steering yoke’ that looks more like something you’d find in an race car or an airplane’s cockpit than in a luxury electric vehicle.
The surprise redesign spurred controversy online, with most of the debate centered around the steering wheel.
Many of Tesla’s loyal fans predictably applauded what they characterized as a bold, ambitious design.
Gene Munster, a managing partner at Loup Ventures and one of Wall Street’s biggest Tesla bulls, called the steering wheel “futuristic looking” and said “Tesla is forward thinking and masterful in its design” in a Wednesday tweet.
Other supporters pointed out that the steering wheel won’t be all that necessary once Tesla’s “full self-driving” feature — which, in reality, doesn’t make its cars autonomous — hits the market.
“The half steering wheel is so you can see the screen. You don’t need to drive really… FSD,” tweeted Ross Gerber, an investment advisor and outspoken Tesla fan. “I’m telling you these will sell like hot cakes. Huge positive catalyst for Tesla,” he added.
Read more: 5 EV battery startups poised to challenge Panasonic and LG Chem for dominance of a $129 billion market
Others, however, took issue with the decision: “Looks cool, most likely detrimental,” one Twitter user said. “Steering wheels have been circular for the past century for a reason.”
Marques Brownlee, a popular tech YouTuber who has owned multiple Teslas, also chimed in: “That steering wheel… not so sure it’s a good idea?” he tweeted.
Many in automotive media took shots at the yoke, pointing out that, on top of its unusual looks, it’s wildly impractical.
According to The Drive, “actually using a yoke-style wheel in a car is supremely irritating,” because there’s no way to comfortably spin the wheel all the way around when parking or making tight turns. It’s not clear yet whether Tesla has adjusted the steering ratio to account for that issue.
Some auto industry experts argued that the flashy new steering wheel proves that Tesla is out of ideas.
Edward Niedermeyer, the communications director at the nonprofit Partners for Automated Vehicle Education and the author of “Ludicrous,” a book on Tesla’s history, said the radical new design signals that Tesla is losing steam and that it’s dealing with more market pressure to innovate than before.
“This company is all out of ideas, and can only double down on a hollow ‘futurist’ aesthetic at the expense of actual UX,” Niedermeyer tweeted on Thursday.
“This refresh isn’t the worst thing ever but it does dramatically illustrate how constrained Tesla is in terms of its ability to take on the competition. The big winner is definitely Lucid, who can now launch into a maturing premium EV market from a position of strength.”