we tested the Yoke steering wheel over several thousand km, here is our opinion

Several weeks after installing the Yoke steering wheel on our Tesla Model 3, it’s time to take stock. Is it a change that’s worthwhile once the novelty wears off, or would we rather go back to a traditional steering wheel?

The Yoke on Tesla Model 3 // Source: Bob Jouy for Frandroid

Important note

First of all, if you feel like installing a so-called “Yoke” steering wheel, or at least an imitation, absolutely contact your insurance company to find out their position vis-à-vis this new equipment.

The steering wheel installed in our Model 3 does not bring any change from a functional point of view: it is purely aesthetic. In this case, the guarantees promised by the insurance are still valid.

We advise you in all cases to check with your organization. Also note that Tesla has no responsibility, since the vehicle was modified after delivery and the steering wheel installed was not certified by the American manufacturer.

A few weeks ago, we presented the steering wheel in “Yoke” format for Tesla Model 3. After installing this Yoke in our car and several thousand kilometers traveled on all types of roads, it’s time to draw up an assessment of this change, and to see if the future of steering wheels will be difficult or not to adopt.

Reinvent the wheel

Tesla is known for sometimes proposing drastic changes that are debated: cutting the steering wheel in half is certainly one of them. We can in particular think of the presentation of the Tesla Model 3 in 2016, where the single central screen caused a lot of ink to flow. Five years later, however, it is much more easily accepted.

Tesla: we tested the Yoke steering wheel over several thousand km, here is our opinion
The interior of the Tesla Model S // Source: Tesla

So by announcing a Tesla Model S with a Yoke in January 2021, Tesla was clearly ahead of its time. But nine months later, what about? Is it likely that this new format will make its appearance on the other vehicles of the brand, like the Cybertruck and the Roadster for example? Nothing is less sure.

While waiting for this future eventuality, we wanted to immerse ourselves in this experience in real conditions, with a Yoke on a Tesla Model 3. And of course, such a radical change for an object that is round (or almost) in all vehicles that you can drive, it takes time to get used to.

Tesla: we tested the Yoke steering wheel over several thousand km, here is our opinion
Forget driving with one hand at the top of the steering wheel // Source: Bob Jouy for Frandroid

For people who are used to driving with one or two hands located on the upper part of a steering wheel, it will be necessary to do a lot of work to acquire new automatic mechanisms, otherwise the experience will necessarily be negative.

A driving position to review

What is obvious during the first grips is that the Yoke seems wider than a classic steering wheel. Indeed, unlike an almost perfect circle on the original steering wheel, here we have a very rectangular shape, and as wide in its lower part as on the top. This often forces the steering wheel to be raised so that it does not touch the driver’s legs during manoeuvres.

Tesla: we tested the Yoke steering wheel over several thousand km, here is our opinion
A “Yoke” steering wheel in a Tesla Model 3 // Source: Bob Jouy for Frandroid

Once the Yoke has been raised slightly to be able to turn it without difficulty, the first turns of the wheel will reveal new evidence: in addition to going lower than a conventional steering wheel when it is turned 90 degrees, you have to raise your hand well higher to catch the Yoke. Hundreds of thousands of kilometers of automation will be turned upside down for those who get to grips with this form of steering wheel for the first time, no doubt about it.

During the first few days, it is not uncommon to “miss” the steering wheel when you do more than one turn and want to change the position of your hands, but this is a phenomenon that dissipates very quickly. By taking dozens of roundabouts daily, in less than a week, new habits were quickly taken.

Parking maneuvers are what required the most adaptation. But again, this will greatly depend on how you do them with a classic steering wheel. Some drivers perform their maneuvers with one hand, by operating the steering wheel with their palm for example: these will be very little upset by the Yoke.

Tesla: we tested the Yoke steering wheel over several thousand km, here is our opinion
In a roundabout with the Yoke // Source: Bob Jouy for Frandroid

However, those who – like the editor of this article – used to let the steering wheel “slide” between their hands to recover it in a suitable position will have to revise their copy, of course. It was necessary to work on new muscle memory to be comfortable in low-speed maneuvers in order to catch the Yoke almost for sure, and no longer fall on a non-existent part of this rectangular steering wheel.

An unobstructed view of the surroundings

Once the first days were over and the new habits taken, we could then take full advantage of the Yoke and its main attraction, thus freeing the only visual obstacle remaining in the Tesla Model 3, namely the upper part of a round steering wheel. Driving becomes more engaging, and being forced to hold the steering wheel “at 9:15”, there is no longer any question of being tempted to have a bad driving position. It’s especially nice on long highway runs, especially on Autopilot.

Tesla: we tested the Yoke steering wheel over several thousand km, here is our opinion
The driving position with the hands at 9:15 a.m. // Source: Bob Jouy for Frandroid

Indeed, for Tesla’s Autopilot to work smoothly, it is necessary to hold the steering wheel, applying a little pressure to it. With the original steering wheel, it is not easy to rest your hand on the lower part, precisely because of the too pronounced rounding. On a Yoke on the other hand, there is plenty of room to put your hand on the flat part in a very comfortable way, which makes it a positive point.

On a winding road, driving becomes very engaging: you feel more connected with the vehicle and the overall feeling is excellent. It is likely that those who have not tried Yoke will have doubts, as I did before, but once the new habits are taken, you don’t want to go back.

And for the rest, are we going to keep the Yoke?

Still having the original steering wheel of our Tesla Model 3, it would be very easy to go back and abandon the Yoke. However, we will continue with this new format, because once the learning phase is over, the positive points easily outweigh the negative points. It is undoubtedly on this that Tesla has bet by offering this Yoke on the new Model S and Model X, which are still expected for the beginning of 2022 in Europe.

The manufacturer did not want its customers of the most expensive vehicles to regret their choice and Elon Musk himself indicated that after some time driving with a Yoke, he felt good about it. And that’s generally what you have to keep in mind when you have doubts about this format of steering wheel: without having tried it, you necessarily imagine that it’s not as good as a classic steering wheel. Experience so far shows that this is not the case.

For the moment, on the Tesla Model 3 that we have, the Yoke is present, but a size difference remains compared to what is offered in the Tesla Model S and Model X by the manufacturer: the switches. Indeed, the left stalk for the indicators falls perfectly under the fingers in the “9:15” position. When the Yoke is turned, the switch does not move, which represents an immovable mark easy to reach. On the Yoke of the Tesla Model S, on the other hand, the switches have disappeared and the controls are all moved to the steering wheel itself.

Tesla: we tested the Yoke steering wheel over several thousand km, here is our opinion
The Yoke of the Tesla Model S, with the turn signals on the left of the steering wheel // Source: Tesla

Thus, operating a turn signal when the steering wheel is not in a straight position pushes us to go and find a moving part, rendering all muscle memory ineffective. This is a point that today, without being able to test it, seems negative to me on Tesla’s proposal. In a roundabout where you are heading left, putting your turn signal back to the right to exit when the Yoke is at 90 or 180 degrees will require a significant effort.

Tesla: we tested the Yoke steering wheel over several thousand km, here is our opinion
Putting on the turn signal even when the Yoke is upside down is not a problem // Source: Bob Jouy for Frandroid

The future will show if we are right to be skeptical about this form of steering wheel, or if Tesla was right and the vast majority of feedback will be positive. For the moment in any case, the manufacturer seems to have made the right choice on the design of the Yoke, and our experience confirms it: we continue with the Yoke on our Tesla Model 3.

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