The next-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class will allegedly ditch the steering wheel with capacitive-touch buttons. The company plans to bring back physical switches in the model, but they won't be on a traditional wheel. A new report says the automaker will replace the wheel with a rectangular yoke, following an emerging trend among automakers.
According to Handelsblatt, the new yoke will allegedly take inspiration from the rectangular controller in the Vision One-Eleven concept, which cites sources "from corporate circles" and has a deep dive into the rumors. The company allegedly believes the flattened shape will allow for an unobstructed view of the road and driver's display.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven Debut
Mercedes will do more than swap out the wheel in pursuit of a trend, as the company will also introduce a new steer-by-wire system designed to eliminate the steering column that the company could launch in the EQS. The automaker wants to replace the EV's mechanical steering system with its next facelift in two or three years.
The yoke won't arrive until the new S-Class launches, which the publication claims will go on sale near the end of 2027, so the rectangle won't show up anytime soon. However, like most S-Class tech, it should trickle down into the automaker's popular models before showing up in the rest of the lineup.
Customers might also have to wait to enjoy the return of physical buttons as models riding on the upcoming MMA platform will continue to feature capacitive-touch buttons on steering wheels for the foreseeable future. The report alleges that buttons won't begin making a return to the wheel until Mercedes launches models on the MB.EA platform.
Insiders also told the publication that customers have heavily criticised Mercedes' capacitive-touch steering wheel. Drivers are not enjoying the finicky controls that can be unreliable and difficult to engage while driving. Last month, Volkswagen admitted that the touch controls used in its newest models were a mistake and vowed to fix them.
Mercedes will pair the yoke with software designed to variably adapt the steering response to the driving conditions so drivers aren't steering hand-over-hand reaching for a wheel that isn't there. At low speeds, the software can eliminate exhausting shuffle-steering that's common during u-turns or tight parking manoeuvres. The opposite happens at higher speeds as the software lowers the steering response for improved stability during lane changes and highway driving.
The technology sounds similar to Toyota's steer-by-wire system that's in development for Lexus. It won't arrive until 2024 or 2025, but Motor1.com has already sampled the system twice. It's better than Tesla's yoke, although the automaker is developing a proprietary steer-by-wire system. We said Lexus' tech was "almost certainly the best,” and that remains true for now.