Consumer Reports isn’t impressed by Tesla’s reinvention of the (steering) wheel

For years, the recommendations and ratings Consumer Reports assigns to Tesla vehicles have yo-yoed between unacceptable and incredible, usually due to the electric car maker’s unorthodox design and packaging decisions. When Tesla revealed its redesign of the Model S and Model X interiors this spring, future unpleasantness loomed.

While Consumer Reports lauds consistency and stability, especially for safety and usability, Tesla’s designers ditched the steering wheel and gear selector that drivers are familiar with. Now, drivers steer with a yoke that resembles what you’d find in a race car, while the car itself can make decisions about going forward or backward when you press the gas pedal unless the driver specifically selects a gear on its touchscreen.

Ahead of more in-depth reviews based on multiple months of testing, Consumer Reports dedicated an article to just the yoke and found that it’s not all bad. Its design does give a better view of the sedan’s gauge cluster, as Elon Musk promised. However, that might not be worth giving up the existence of something to grab if the driver loses their grip while taking a turn at high speeds and a decided lack of padding to ease pressure during long drives.

The sharper criticism is reserved for the other element Tesla removed from its cars — the turn signal stalk. One driver said it “actually bothers me even more than the steering wheel,” with all the functionality — lights, window washers, etc. — shifted to touch-sensitive buttons mounted on the yoke itself. That means they change position as it turns and can be hard to interpret without the physical feedback of a button. The yoke can vibrate once or twice to indicate which mode you’re in, but on bumpy roads, like the ones we have here in Michigan, that might be hard to distinguish.

What Tesla buyers are willing to live with to experience life on the bleeding edge should more than cover any awkward grips while steering, but reading these first impressions can help you understand whether different is better in this case.

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