Yoke Only: The Tesla Model S Won’t Have a Normal Steering Wheel Option

·3 min read
Photo credit: Tesla
Photo credit: Tesla
  • Updated version of Tesla Model S shown earlier in 2021 featured a restyled interior and front fascia, along with yoke-style steering.

  • The Model S was out of production for several months earlier this year, reportedly due to a supplier issue.

  • The first examples with the yoke-style steering were delivered weeks ago.

Easily the most talked-about—and controversial—update to the decade-old Tesla Model S earlier this year was the yoke-style steering. The revised sedan was revealed in images earlier in 2021, featuring some new new bodywork on the outside, including a modestly re-sculpted front fascia, as well as an updated interior with a now-horizontal touchscreen, designed to offer controls for just about everything inside.

The yoke-style steering stole the show, even as Tesla played coy about whether this would be an option or an obligatory feature every Model S would receive. The uncertainty over the yoke-style wheel dragged on for quite some time, because Tesla Model S production actually stopped for a few months this year, leading to close to zero Model S deliveries in the first quarter of 2021. More delays followed, and it wasn't until a few months ago that Model S deliveries actually resumed, along with the first videos of customers (who were not deterred by the novelty) trying it out on video, with varying degrees of success.

The question of whether the yoke would be an option or a mandatory feature was not answered until this past weekend, and then in the usual manner: Tesla CEO Elon Musk answering questions on Twitter.

And that answer was unequivocal and unusually brief.

Even before the first examples of the yoke-equipped Model S arrived in customer hands earlier this spring, the idea did not receive an overwhelming show of enthusiasm, with some industry observers pointing out that despite a Formula 1-style, in practice the wheel would be unintuitive to use because the gearing is vastly different than in a race car—a sentiment later confirmed in a few road test videos.

The main issue, as predicted earlier, is that the steering still requires the same number of spins lock-to-lock, which is usually two and a half to three in a modern car, unlike in an F1 car where driver steering input is quite minimal, amounting to about 140 degrees. Another issue that did not become apparent until examples of the Model S began arriving is the fact that the rectangular yoke isn't attached in the middle of the hub, but rather sits in a slightly "sagging" manner at its default, centered position. This appeared to contribute to some clunky first-time operation among buyers who posted videos on social media, but it's difficult to gauge just how many days it took users to get used to it. Some owners clearly loved it.

The bigger question at the moment, as it concerns the yoke-style steering, is whether this feature will be confined to the Model S and Model X, or whether it will filter down to all other Tesla models, if it's the upgrade the company suggests that it is.

Specifically, it could be something we could see in the Cybertruck or the Roadster, both due to enter production in the near future, while others could receive it later on as part of other updates. Tesla has not mentioned the yoke heading for other models at the moment, it also didn't announce it months prior to releasing photos of the updated Model S either, so we can't rule anything out in the longer term.

Should more cars offer a yoke-style steering? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned
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