Steering wheels are one of the two most important controls in the cabin of a car, making it one of the most looked at and most used objects in the auto industry. If it looks, feels or operates terribly, the whole driving experience will be at risk of ruin.
The steering wheel has come a long way since the 130-odd years that the automobile has roamed the planet. Original cars didn’t even have a steering wheel, rather making use of a rudder-type system to turn the front wheels. The first known instance of the steering wheel occurred in 1894 when Alfred Vacheron entered his Panhard into the Paris-Rouen race. This new addition greatly improved control over the vehicle, and so many automakers followed suit. Today, the steering wheel is seen as a design object, with many carmakers – like Pagani and De Tomaso – creating beautiful works of art within the cabins of their models.
While most manufacturers added controls to the steering wheels to make driving easier, some went about this method in terrible fashion, resulting in some bad designs – even from automakers who should know better. Here are nine great sports cars with some terrible steering wheel designs.
9 2023 Lotus Evija
The new Lotus Evija currently holds the record as the most powerful vehicle available for purchase on the automotive market, showcasing four electric motors and an astounding 1,970 hp. While this is massively impressive, the interior is a bit less so.
Lotus harked back to their older models, making the interior sparse. One thing they made pretty boring though was the steering wheel – which is just a rounded-off rectangle. It’s pretty ugly, and we can just imagine how nerve-racking it would be to drive around town – especially since the wheel isn’t even nearly circular.
8 2011 Aston Martin One-77
The Aston Martin One-77 is a super-luxurious grand tourer built by the British marque as a road-going alternative to the fantastic Vulcan track car. The One-77 shares the 7.3-liter naturally aspirated V12, tuned by Cosworth, producing 750 hp.
The interior is gorgeous and swathed in soft leathers, milled aluminum parts and expensive-feeling knobs and switches. The steering wheel, however, isn’t exactly the same level of beauty. It is an exaggerated version of the one found in the Vanquish S, but squarer and even more out of place. It is the only blemish on an otherwise perfect GT.
7 2021 Chevrolet Corvette C8
The Chevrolet Corvette C8’s steering wheel is a sore point for many enthusiasts. It is more square than round, and the reason behind this is so that the driver can see the instrument cluster better. This is all well and good, but it’s not great-looking at all.
Chevrolet refuses to make a rounder one as it will upset the interior styling, and most fans have gotten used to the square controller, but it still looks a bit like a chevron with a border. That being said, the thrill of driving the car and the sound from the exhaust quickly overpowers any issues with the wheel.
6 2011-2018 BMW M Sport
The BMW M Sport steering wheels of the 2010s are some of the greatest in the motor industry. The subtle sportiness and ‘less-is-more’ approach works excellently – regardless of whether the car is a manual or automatic.
The only issue some have found with the wheel is that the outside rim is quite thick – thicker than other manufacturers’ sporty steering wheels. This leads to some drivers not being able to grip the wheel as well as they could, resulting in a lack of confidence when driving quickly and around twisty back roads or on a track.
5 2022 Lotus Emira
The Lotus Emira is one of the newest sports cars on the market, and it is shaping up to be a great swan song for the internal combustion engine in Lotus vehicles. While the car is great, the steering wheel suffers the same fate as the BMW M Sport wheels.
While the journalists have praised the Emira for its dynamics, sound and overall feel, some have noted that the thick-rimmed steering wheel is a bit of a confidence-decliner. This is sad as the overall car is great. Hopefully, Lotus listens and makes the steering wheel a bit thinner for better results.
4 2022 Ferrari SF90 Stradale
The Ferrari SF90 Stradale is the most powerful car Ferrari has ever made, exhibiting 1,000 hp of twin-turbo V8 and hybrid power. It is a shame then that the control method, to keep all the angry Italian horses in check, is such a letdown.
The SF90 uses a redesigned wheel from the 812, but with a flatter overall design and even more buttons. Like all Ferrari wheels, most of the operations from the traditional steering-column stalks are implemented on the wheel, leading to nothing remaining where you left it. The SF90 accentuates this with its touch-sensitive buttons, which can easily activate when driving enthusiastically. Quite annoying for a $500,000 supercar.
3 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
To the opposite of the spectrum is the Alfa Romeo 4C. Where the SF90 has too many buttons on the wheel, the Alfa Romeo 4C has none. This is a bit unusual for a modern car, and the fact that the wheel looks like it came straight off the 500 hatchback, makes it look a bit cheap – even though the car cost around $60,000 when new.
The wheel is just a weird-looking piece of plastic and Alfa Romeo must have figured this out as they spiced it up with some red accents later in the model’s production, but it continued to be unimpressive.
2 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid
Probably the most popular example of terrible steering wheels is the Tesla Model S Plaid’s ‘yoke’. It is basically a square wheel, but with the top piece cut off, resulting in an impossible-to-use way of controlling a 1,020 hp electric rocket.
Most publications heavily criticized the yoke, calling it a joke and commented that Tesla was trying to un-invent the wheel to stay relevant. Ouch. Luckily, Tesla themselves have realized this and offers the Model S and X Plaid with conventional rounded wheels.
1 2022 VW Golf GTI
As we all know, VW introduced the Mk 8 Golf in 2019 for the 2020 model year. Most were ecstatic, but as the production version rolled around, it started looking more like an update to the Mk 7.5 Golf, rather than a brand-new product. Road tests ensued, and everyone came to the same conclusion – VW had made a mistake. The Mk 8 Golf shares most of its parts with other VW Group products, which meant much of it was designed to be cheap.
As a result, the Golf suffered. Outside the ridiculous touch-sensitive sliders for the climate control on the dashboard, the steering wheel was the worst part. It features the new touch buttons, which are placed where the driver’s palm is located, activating the sensors – even when just driving normally. Luckily, VW realized their mistake – after a long time – and promised it would be fixed for the facelift.