Hybrids & Electrics

The 2021 Tesla Model S U-Shaped Steering Wheel Could Be a Deal-Breaker

The Tesla Model S sedan shatters electric-vehicle stereotypes by showing consumers that EVs can be more than eco-friendly. It demonstrates that well-designed EVs can be sporty, fun-to-drive, great for everyday commutes, and travel farther on a single charge than the average car with a full tank of gas. On top of that, the Tesla Model S can nearly smoke anything at the jump and quarter-mile. Despite a few cons, the Model S is arguably one of the most well-rounded and capable EVs.

However, the latest model has an interesting steering wheel that could turn off some consumers.

Updates for the 2021 Tesla Model S

Tesla notified employees working on the Model S and Model X that production lines would be closed for 18 days in December 2020, CNBC reported. So updated Model S and Model X vehicles should be arriving in the first or second quarter this year. Tesla offers two Model S variants: the Long Range, priced at $79,990, and the Plaid, at $119,990. Both are five-seaters. A Plaid+ variant, expected to drop toward the end of the year, costs around $141,000.

The Model S’s updated body boasts a wider rear end and a sleeker front hood, giving it an even sportier look than before.¬†Though the exterior received only modest upgrades, the interior has seen an overhaul. According to Automotive News, some interior upgrades include a horizontally oriented touchscreen, a U-shaped steering wheel, and a small-screen behind the center console for rear passengers.

This is only the beginning of Tesla’s goal to provide more sources of entertainment in its vehicles. The Model S offers up to 10 teraflops of processing power, allowing passengers to indulge in gaming equivalent to today’s newest consoles. This includes wireless controller compatibility that allows gaming from any seat. That’s combined with a 17-inch screen with 2200-x-1300-pixel resolution.

The Tesla Model S’s new yoke-like steering wheel

RELATED: The 2021 Tesla Model X Plaid Is the Same but Worse Than the Model S Plaid

Of all the new interior features, the one that sticks out most is the yoke-style steering wheel. Maybe Elon Musk is a fan of the 1980s TV show Knight Rider. That’s because this new steering wheel is evocative of the one in Michael Knight’s souped-up Pontiac Trans-Am, KITT. The slight difference being that the stalks are missing on the Model S’s yoke-like steering wheel. With or without stalks, an atypical steering wheel might not go over well with the average driver.

MotorTrend uncovered “some images of the new Model S with a regular steering wheel buried within the source code of Tesla’s website.” The publication suggests that both the Model S and Model X will come with this unconventional steering wheel. But because images of a standard steering wheel are lurking on the automaker’s website, it seems Tesla knows the u-shaped variety might not sit well with consumers.

A few more details

The Model S Long Range has an EPA-estimated range of 412 miles on a single charge. The new Model S Plaid has an estimated range of 390 miles. The former is a 670-hp dual-motor all-wheel-drive with a top speed of 155 mph and a 0-to-60 mph time of 3.1 seconds. The latter is a 1,020-hp tri-motor AWD with a top speed of 200 mph and a 0-to-60 split of a head-turning 1.99 seconds. 

The Plaid+ will supposedly have a range of 520 miles, a 0-to-60 mph time of under two seconds, and a tri-motor powertrain. It will produce 1,100 hp, compared to the regular Plaid’s 1,020 hp. The Model S Plaid also features torque vectoring, meaning it can switch or adjust the torque to a wheel or axle to enhance performance, stability, handling, and grip. That allows it to do the quarter-mile in 9.23 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph.

Both Model S variants have a front and rear trunk totaling 28 cubic feet of storage space. You can add more space by folding the rear seats flat. There’s also a generous underfloor bin in the rear cargo area.

Plus, the Tesla Model S boasts a 960-watt, 22-speaker sound system with USB-C charging for each passenger, multi-device Bluetooth, and other wireless services. Buyers can choose 19-inch or 21-inch wheels on both the Long Range and Plaid models.