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Tesla Model S and Model X steering wheel retrofit

Tesla Is Bringing Back the Steering Wheel for Model S and Model X

It's about time for the about-face

  • Tesla is offering a steering wheel retrofit for Model S and X cars that were fitted with a yoke.
  • It's a no-cost option on the configurator, while a retrofit will cost $700.
  • Is this the right time for an "I told you so"?

Tesla is finally backtracking on its move away from steering wheels. The company recently (and quietly) added the option for a standard steering wheel back onto the configurator for the Model S and Model X. It appears to be a no-cost option for new cars, and while the company isn't ditching the yoke entirely, it's nice to see it offer buyers the option of a traditional wheel. But how did we get here, and does the addition of the wheel right our gripes with the Model S and X?

Tesla made a ton of changes to both vehicles for their 2021 refresh. These included the addition of the Plaid models, a reworked interior, the deletion of the shift and turn signal indicator stalks, and a face-lifted exterior. But more than all of that, what stood out to most was the literal reinvention of the wheel. Those cars were made available exclusively with a yoke — essentially a wheel with the upper portion removed — with the traditional steering wheel relegated to the dust bin.

There was plenty of fanfare and derision directed at Tesla for the move, and we caught more than our fair share of flack for the video above. Camps on either side of the yoke debate went at it in forums and on Twitter, among other places, to debate the move away from a traditional wheel. The original justification for the move to a yoke was to give buyers an unobstructed view of the display that sits just ahead of the steering column. The display shows pertinent information like the car's position in its lane and other vehicles and obstacles around it based on information fed by numerous sensors. While this is important info, it didn't have to come at the cost of a traditional wheel.

Tesla Model S and X Steering yoke

Not long after the announcement, third-party manufacturers were marketing attachments that made something that resembled a wheel but wasn't quite the real deal. Now, Tesla has taken the matter into its own hands and is offering a steering wheel that has the same functionality as the yoke (with all of its touch-sensitive buttons) as a no-cost option on new Model S and X cars. If you already bought a Model S or X post-face-lift, fear not: The wheel can also come as a retrofit option that will cost you $700, but that $700 does include installation at a Tesla service center.

Does the availability of a traditional wheel right all the wrongs with the Models S and X? Not quite, but it will likely do wonders for the car's everyday usability. It's a step in the right direction, and this backtracking might finally calm the debate between yoke and no-yoke folks — or it might add fuel to that fire. Either way, it's nice to know that Tesla is listening to customers and offering solutions to a problem it, frankly, made for itself in the first place.

Edmunds says

Getting behind the wheel of a Model X and S has never been so literal ...