Elegant as ever.
Keeping you on track: the steering wheel.
The design of the car has been vastly re-interpreted for more than a century now and its interior always mirrors the current zeitgeist. New design ideas lead to consistently increased comfort levels: seats are constructed with orthopaedic considerations in mind, the diversity of controls has grown and digital technology has made its way into vehicles. Yet one component hasn’t dabbled much with change, at least optically that is. We are, of course, referring to the steering wheel. It is a human-machine interface which gives the power of the engine a direction of travel.
You can’t re-invent the wheel, but from a technical point of view, lots has happened over the last few decades. The invention of the safety steering column or the driver’s airbag are just two of the many developments which the steering wheel has undergone. However, the basic shape has still been retained.
The evolution of the two-spoke steering wheel.
The steering wheel of the new S-Class shares its unusual two-spoke design with a design characteristic of the steering wheels from the great Ponton models of the W 180 model series. But it has nothing to do with nostalgia. “One design consideration was that, through this reduction, we would create a sense of airiness and transparency,” explains Hartmut Sinkwitz, Head of Interior Design at Mercedes-Benz. Safety regulations set out binding proportions for the steering wheel boss and rim, but the reduction in the number of spokes turns the idea of space within the S-Class into a true luxury feature. The reduced form has an elegant effect.
There were other reasons for its implementation in the predecessor which is now more than 60 years its senior. The shape of the steering wheel was matched to its function. Its large rim ensured better transfer of the manual steering force; after all, power steering was not available at that time. Steering wheel evolution is proof that different objectives can lead to similar results.