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Latest Review of Tesla Yoke Steering May Change Your Mind About Elon

Ten test drivers offer their latest review of what they found when testing out Tesla’s yoke steering during a recent road test analysis.



It’s been a few months now since the introduction of Tesla’s yoke style non-wheel steering wheel that has led to much discussion over whether it was a good change from the traditional round steering wheel…or a boondoggle.

To be fair, anytime something new is introduced, you can expect to hear a lot of moaning and complaints just because many of us tend to be resistant to change of any sort. It’s human nature. Which makes this a good time to return to the Tesla yoke and see how it fares under road test analysis now that we’ve all had some time to adjust to the idea and perhaps even had time to adjust our driving habits with the yoke.

But has the passage of time been enough to smooth the choppy waters of discourse? Is the public really ready to accept the yoke? As it turns out, if you want to own a Tesla, you may have no say in this. And that’s too bad, per a Consumer Reports review reports to readers that the yoke is not just awkward, but potentially unsafe during emergency driving conditions.


According to a recent CR review:

Tesla swapped the tried-and-true round steering wheel for a flat-bottomed, rectangular yoke reminiscent of what pilots use to steer an airplane. A traditional circular steering wheel is no longer available on the Model S nor on the mechanically related Model X SUV, even as an option. And that’s not the only steering wheel change. Flat, touch-sensitive buttons on the yoke replaced the vehicle’s turn signal and windshield wiper stalks. Those buttons also are how drivers now flash their high-beams or honk the horn.

And that appears to the root of CR’s less-than-positive take on whether the yoke should remain a non-optional feature for Tesla due to touch-sensitive controls that can easily be inadvertently engaged at the worst possible moments and direct the driver’s attention away from the road.

In fact, 10 test drivers from CR reported that they noted repeated instances of the yoke while driving having, “…slipped out of their hands during a turn, every ache and pain from gripping the handles during a highway cruise, every time a tester’s hands didn’t fit on the yoke’s grips, every time we accidentally honked the horn while trying to make a turn, and every time we had to look down to see which turn signal was which….

The test drivers expressed some shared confusion over why in spite of some really good moves Tesla has made such as leading the move toward providing software updates easily and directly to vehicles, that Tesla (or Musk to be specific) saw it necessary to depart from the traditional steering wheel design that is, “so essential, ubiquitous, and universally understood, that to change it for the sake of changing it seems both foolish and foolhardy…” for purely cosmetic reasons so as not to “be boring.”


But it’s not all bad news. The test drivers did point out at least one benefit that is a pro to the yoke:

The yoke gives a panoramic view of the Model S’ wide gauge cluster (the screen or gauges that traditionally sit behind the steering wheel) but its bottom right corner blocks a portion of the center control panel, which is also the location of the one button that displays the all-important vehicle controls menu.

However, in spite of this one benefit to the yoke, the drivers found that the following cons did not make them fans of a flat-bottomed, rectangular style steering wheel.

Trouble Making Turns---Backing out of driveways, making a sharp turn into parking lots, and similar maneuvers turned out to be problematic when it came to managing a good grip---especially for hands that are relatively small for such a large yoke body.

Hard to Hold On To---The drivers complained that the yoke “forces” a driver to hold unnaturally tight on the yoke’s body resulting in fatigue and pain---even after a few minutes of driving. Plus, during turns at higher speeds, there is noted difficulty in “catching a grip” should the yoke slip from a driver’s fingers. But even more annoying was complaint that, “…the odd-shaped yoke requires the driver to exert various different degrees of push and pull forces, which can cause the car to lurch instead of steering smoothly.

Missed Signals---Making a distinction between the correct button to press while the yoke is not at a purely horizontal level can lead to confusion, having to look away from the road to the yoke, and having differing pressure sensitivities for different functions, all added to awkward and possibly hazardous driving. According to CR, some drivers admitted to skipping the use of turn signals just to avoid the hassle of pushing the right button the correct way.

The lack of a turn signal stalk actually bothers me even more than the steering wheel,” stated one of the test drivers.

Similar to this were also complaints of button fumbling that led to unintentional high-beam, windshield wiper, and embarrassing horn engagement.

High-Speed Driving---While the yoke is well suited for high speed racing on a track with anticipated curves, driving at higher speeds on an actual common roadway where debris, stopped vehicles or other obstacles need to be maneuvered around quickly and precisely, led to the message that the yoke fails markedly in this consideration.

For more details about how the tests were performed and what the test drivers experienced, here is a YouTube video of the yoke road test analysis:

And finally…

All of this begs a question...or three at least: Is Musks's insistence of a yoke-only Tesla founded on actual benefits to his customers; or is it just a matter of creative differences and refusal to admit that sometimes Tesla misses the mark? Why not settle the matter and let the customer have the steering wheel option he or she prefers rather than a "It's my way, or no way" message? And, where are the measurable tests and data to objectively address the answer to the yoke question?

We want to hear from you: Let us know in the comments section below whether your experience matches what the Consumer Reports test drivers reported when using the yoke in your Tesla. And/or, do you think that the steering wheel type should be an option provided by Tesla to its customers?

For additional recently released videos related to Tesla ownership, check out this one about a non-Tesla solution for Tesla owners when battery problems happen.

Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily automotive-related news.


Bob Cottrell (not verified)    September 18, 2021 - 2:59PM

Definitely should be an option. I don't object to the idea of the yoke, but it's not for me. Also, anything that makes you look away from the road is stupid (including the big tablet in the middle of the dashboard).

DeanMcManis (not verified)    September 20, 2021 - 11:01AM

The yolk steering wheel is definitely a gimmack, with more issues than benefits. Still, if i were lucky enough to be able to own a Model S Plaid, I would probably be fine with the yolk steering "wheel". I would also be fine with the forward reverse controls, and I'm sure that I would quickly get used to the directional indicators. But, I think that Tesla should have placed the right signal button on the right side, and left one on the left. That's a no brainer. Getting a clear view of the important car info could have been accomplished by using a heads up display. I do think that Tesla should offer a round wheel and decide on the future of the yolk steering based on the take rate for the round wheel option. There is an age-old saying of "Don't try to reinvent the wheel". In this case, it's reinventing the steering wheel. The other similar saying is "If it ain't broke, don'e fix it." Which speaks for itself.

Dan Staringer (not verified)    October 5, 2021 - 8:20PM

I've now been driving my new Tesla Model S for 2 weeks with the yoke steering wheel and frankly, I don't want to go back to a circular steering wheel. In many ways it is a plus. I control turns easier, I hold turns easier and it is much easier on the on the hands and fingers to steer the car. It's taking me longer to get used to the turn signals and but the yoke itself is excellent.

PHILIP TSI (not verified)    October 26, 2021 - 9:00AM

I got my new Plaid yesterday evening and drove it 34 miles from pick up location to my home, then I had to maneuver it inside my garage. I find that the yoke is a big mistake and will soon force Tesla to provide a replacement with a round ordinary steering wheel. I am 60 years old, drive for 42 years and I must have more than 4,000,000 miles in my back (to pay for my studies in Europe I worked as taxi and small truck driver). The yoke steering did not offer me any advantage in any driving condition. It forced me to a 3-9 hold in the highway and the city, it did not give me the comfort of one hand driving, and I kept looking for a missing part of the steering wheel when I would turn in 90 degrees turns at slow speed, forget about trying to put the car in the garage where I could not turn and look back while holding the yoke. Airplanes have full aileron lock at 90 degrees turn, F1 cars never turn yoke more than 50 degrees and neither planes nor race cars make 120 or a 180 degree turns with a radius of 50 ft or back up in a parking spot. Plaid is a high end sedan to be driven in every possible condition, fast, slow, pleasure, business, going out Saturday nigtht and so on. Even monster power cars with astronomical costs, Bugatti, do not have yokes for steering. Tesla must give the option for replacement. And just for reference, my son drives a model 3 dual motor, my wife a model x and my daughter got my 2020 model s performance yesterday when I picked up the plaid. I am very prejudiced in favor of Tesla, not against. Yoke steering has nothing to do with this type of car and people will get hurt. The CEO has done incredible things for the world with his cars, spacecrafts, solar panels but with his amazing intelligence he must control his ego and realize that squaring the wheel was proven to be impossible back in 1882.

Ed Goldman (not verified)    November 17, 2021 - 10:08PM

I bought the Model S, extended range. A great car on the highway, but the yoke is just plain stupid. Driving on congested streets where frequent turns are required is very difficult, and dangerous. Requiring the driver to take his/her eyes off the road to activate the directionals, instead of just pushing a lever up or down, is equally dangerous. Ditto on the horn. I kept the car for three weeks, and traded it for a safer vehicle.

Timothy Boyer    November 18, 2021 - 9:16AM

In reply to by Ed Goldman (not verified)

Thank you for the input. Yep, I can't see myself really liking the yoke either just for the reasons you gave. You are the first I have ever heard of who got rid of their Tesla soon after buying one. I wonder how many others have done likewise?

Mark Hicken (not verified)    January 10, 2022 - 5:10PM

I received the new Model S on Dec 31. It's been less than a week and I've already ordered an aftermarket full steering to replace the yoke because it's so bad. I have a tight garage and driveway and find it exasperatingly annoying to use the yoke in that situation with many back and forths. I hate the new S because of the yoke alone (and then the other new changes don't help). I'll still be driving my old S until I can get this full wheel put on. It's a horrendous feature and single-handedly makes the car terrible to own and drive.

Zsadee Major (not verified)    March 23, 2022 - 12:52AM

I am on the fence about purchasing a brand new long-range Model S. However, I must admit that I am very apprehensive primarily because of the "Yoke" steering wheel. Personally, I would prefer to have an option of a regular steering wheel. Furthermore, Tesla representative told me that I could not even test drive the vehicle to see if I would be comfortable with the Yoke steering wheel. WTH!!! If I am spending over a $100K for anything, I should be able to test drive it only makes sense.

John magliano (not verified)    November 15, 2022 - 5:17PM

I was planning to order a new model s and took a test drive today. I changed my mind after driving with the yoke. I found it uncomfortable and dangerous. I like the car and will wait until a full steering wheel option is offered (which probably will be soon).