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The 2021 Tesla Model S has one serious flaw, its steering wheel

Tesla has announced its first major redesign of the Model S since the electric sedan was launched back in 2012. The latest car from the Palo Alto based company will go into production in the first quarter of 2021 and is due to be shipped next month.

The automaker shared images of the new Model S, showing the EV’s redesigned exterior and interior. On the outside, the updated Model S has received a modest upgrade with a sportier appearance with aggressive haunches and a sleeker hood.

That being said, the interior has received a major overhaul to make it more streamlined. The most interesting, though somewhat controversial, addition to the cabin is the U-shaped steering wheel that looks like it came from K.I.T.T, the fictional intelligent car of the classic TV show, Knight Rider.

Though it looks cool and futuristic at first, the fact remains that this steering wheel is not very practical to use. Yoke-style steering wheels work on aircraft and F1 cars because you don’t have to rotate them that much. However, the yoke is difficult to use when you need to make sharp turns or a U-turn.

In stark contrast, a regular rounded steering wheels is much easier to use when performing turns. This is because you can let the wheel glide back to the centre by itself as the power steering and vehicle movement pushes the steering to be straight. Essentially, you do not need to pull the wheel back to the neutral position when you next start to do a turn.

Adding to that, Tesla’s yoke-style steering wheel does not allow drivers to naturally rest their hands on the top of the wheel while they drive.

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The steering wheel on the updated Model S also does not have a signal stalk. Instead, the turn signal buttons are on the left side of the steering wheel. There are other buttons on the right side of the wheel for engaging the wipers to clean the windshield, sound the horn and prompt the voice command function. It is not clear whether these are physical buttons or touch screen buttons, but we hope it’s the former and not the latter.

The new Model S also has no drive mode selector for putting the car into ‘Drive’ or ‘Reverse’. Tesla chief executive officer explained in a tweet that the car “guesses” the drive direction based on the obstacles that it sees. Tesla also offers drivers the option to manually change drive modes on the touchscreen. That honestly doesn’t sound intuitive at all, and it’s potentially dangerous too.

So, why has Tesla included a strange yoke-style steering wheel and removed the drive mode selector? Let’s not forget that Tesla has been developing and testing self-driving cars. All new Tesla cars, including the upcoming Model S, come standard with advanced hardware that allow them to utilise its Autopilot driver-assistance feature. They are even set to offer self-driving capabilities in the future when they become available.

One possible explanation for the simplification of the steering wheel is Tesla believes its full autonomous driving capabilities are just around the corner. As such drivers do not have to steer as much as the car can navigate through traffic on a busy highway on its own and even park itself.

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Besides that, Tesla has replaced the portrait touchscreen of the previous version with a 17” landscape screen (with a 2200 x 1300 resolution) in the centre of the dashboard. Tesla said the infotainment system offers up to 10 teraflops of processing power that enables rear-seat passengers to play triple-A games like Cyberpunk 2077 (hopefully with fewer bugs) or The Witcher 3 with a wireless controller.

Besides that, the car features wireless and USB-C fast charging for all passengers. Tesla even claims the USB-C charger has enough power to charge a compatible laptop in case you need to get work done while on the go.

Beyond the fancy interior and strange steering wheel, the updated Model S comes powered by an electric powertrain that comes in two options. The first is a Long Range variant, which carries a USD79,990 (RM323,800) price tag, features a dual motor all-wheel drive platform that outputs 670hp. It has an estimated 412 mile (663km) range and goes from 0- 60mph in 3.1 seconds. 

There is also a more powerful Plaid variant, which costs USD119,990 (RM485,719) and is powered by a tri motor all-wheel platform that delivers 1,020hp. Musk claims this version of the Model S is the first production car to achieve 0 to 60mph in less than two seconds. Besides that, the EV is said to have an estimated driving range of 390 miles (627km).

For more information on the Tesla Model S, visit their official website.

[SOURCE, 2]

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