- Tesla has started shipping updated Model S sedans with its unique steering yoke.
- The rectangular steerer is one of the more controversial features Tesla has released lately.
- Tech reviewer Marques Brownlee went through his issues with the yoke in a recent video.
Tesla caused a stir in January when it announced that it was reinventing the wheel — literally — for its Model S sedans and Model X SUVs.
Now as these updated models hit the road, we’re starting to get a peek at what living with a rectangular steering yoke rather than a traditional wheel is actually like. As many critics (even Tesla die-hards) suspected when photos of the yoke first hit the web, the controversial component has its downsides.
Tech reviewer and electric-car enthusiast Marques Brownlee, whose MKBHD YouTube channel counts nearly 15 million subscribers, discussed his impressions — both positive and negative — of the yoke in his new Tesla Model S Plaid in a July video.
At a glance, the yoke seems totally impractical for driving, arguably the main purpose of a steering implement altogether. Your hands can really only be in one position, which would make turning the wheel all the way around to, say, parallel park, a pain in the neck.
If you’re used to resting one hand atop the wheel or changing your grip occasionally, that won’t really fly in yoke-equipped Teslas.
These aspects of yoke steering take getting used to, Brownlee said, but it’s the buttons on the steerer that are the real pain point.
Tesla did away with typical stalks entirely and moved lots of essential functions — like the turn signals, headlights, and windshield wipers — to touch-sensitive buttons on the steering yoke itself. Even after hundreds of miles of driving, Brownlee found he would still accidentally press the buttons when turning.
“I didn’t realize how common this would be, but it is very common to brush the blinkers, and the headlights, and the windshield wipers as you’re making turns, which is pretty annoying,” Brownlee said. He said he liked the yoke well enough, but called the touch buttons a “mistake.”
Brownlee also criticized Tesla’s decision to make the horn a button on the yoke, rather than put it in the center like on every other car. People have developed muscle memory over years and decades of driving to slam the horn when something dangerous is about to happen. Turning the horn into a little touch-sensitive button makes that needlessly complicated, Brownlee noted.
Brownlee said he, as a “tech-forward” person, would probably become fully accustomed to the yoke soon enough. And he noted some potential upsides: The chopped-down yoke gives a better view of the screen behind the wheel, and it looks cool and futuristic.
But he worries that older consumers, ones who care less about being on the bleeding edge, will have trouble adapting. He says that conventional clicking buttons would’ve been a lot more practical.
For better or worse, Elon Musk and Tesla have built an empire doing things that other carmakers wouldn’t consider. For instance, building electric cars. Or including over-the-air software updates. Or developing Autopilot.
But will the steering rectangle prove prescient or regrettable? We’ll have to wait and see.