Top Gear's Top 9: reinventions of the steering wheel

By topgear, 21 June 2021

1. Austin Allegro

The enduring legacy of one of the worst cars of all time has been modern manufacturers’ penchant for messing about with the shape of the steering wheel rim. Who thought that an ovoid was a good idea?

2. Ferrari LaFerrari

Well, Ferrari did, because it went one better and made the LaFerrari’s “wheel” almost geometrically hexagonal. Because Formula One, of course, but it’s still a bizarre focal point to the bare-bones cabin.

3. Aston Martin One-77

Aston’s former ultimate supercar didn’t eschew a curved wheel altogether. Instead, how about some flat sides to hold? It then became optional on the Vanquish too, so a few buyers must’ve thought it was the future.

4. Tesla Model S

Tesla's updated Model S has binned the top of the steering wheel, and left behind a squared-off aircraft yoke. Will it work in the real world where actual people live? Or is it designed for a world where cars no longer have to be steered by a human at all? Time will tell. We wouldn't put it past the latest Model S to do a loop-the-loop if you pull back hard enough on its aerospace-style control...

5. Citroen C4 Picasso

Mid-2000s Citroen decided the old French crazy needed transplanting back into humdrum hatchbacks and MPVs. Keeping the steering-wheel hub static (so the buttons stayed still) while the rim rotated was a genuinely fun idea... that totally failed to catch on.

6. Oldsmobile Toronado

The Toronado was a funny beast: 7.0-litre, 385bhp V8, and front-wheel drive. The perfect town car? Not at 5.4 metres long, it wasn’t. It did have the first airbag integrated into its steering wheel, though. Ugly, bland helms started here.

7. Ferrari Enzo

No, the 458 wasn’t the first car to group all of Ferrari’s many buttons and functions on the wheel. The Enzo didn’t have a mannetino switch, but gearchange lights, indicators and mode buttons all lived on the futuristic wheel.

8. Mercedes E-Class (2016)

Another innovation we’re not sure ought to catch on, but surely will. The current E-Class has swipeable touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel to control its endless menus. It’s a pain to use, and rivals will copy it any day now, we fear.

9. Citroen DS

Innovation bled from the stunning DS, and the steering wheel was no different. A single spoke held the rim to the boss, giving a near-limitless view of the dials and supposedly enhancing safety in a crash, in an age before airbags.