Speed Reads

yoke's up

Consumer Reports brutally reviews Tesla's reinvention of the steering wheel

Only Elon Musk would try to reinvent the wheel...well, the steering wheel. 

Unfortunately for him, however, the ambitious gamble may not have paid off — at least according to one particularly brutal Consumer Reports account. 

Reviewers tried the new Tesla Model S's steering "yoke" — a "flat-bottomed, rectangular" number not terribly unlike what pilots use to fly steer a plane, says Consumer Reports. In lieu of a turn signal and windshield wiper stalk, the yoke houses flat touch-sensitive buttons that also serve as means to flash your high-beams or honk the horn.

Although the yoke might look cool, "it doesn't yet seem to offer much benefit, and even a slight drawback is a major concern when it comes to steering a moving vehicle," said Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center. Testers said the wheel would slip out of their hands while making turns, and offered less flexibility for 3-pointers or sharp cuts either way. The flat-touch buttons were also confusing, and easy to activate unintentionally. "I accidentally washed the windshield and honked the horn at innocent road-goers while making turns," said one automotive engineer at Consumer Reports. Fisher added that the elimination of the turn signal stalk actually bothered him even more than the yoke's shape.

Speaking of, testers said their grip became painful "after just a few minutes — even more so, because the 'grips' on the yoke itself aren't well padded." One woman said her hands were actually "too small to get a good grip in the first place."

The yoke's design does allow for a "panoramic view" of the screen and gauges that typically sit behind a steering wheel; but otherwise, Tesla's redesign may have jumped the gun, said Fisher: "It's as if Apple got rid of the iPhone's headphone jack before Bluetooth was even invented."