The C8's Awful Steering Wheel: An Evolution & Analysis
Why does such an amazing car have such a junky steering wheel?
I think the new Corvette is freaking sick. You can get a brand new American supercar for a price in the five-digits? That's just madness. Many corners had to be cut in the name of cost (RIP manual corvettes, I miss you already) but the most ridiculous cheap-out seems to be the part of the car you come in contact with the most: the steering wheel.
This wheel is, as Youtuber Casey Putsch said, "the biggest piece of automotive design garbage I have ever wrapped my hands around." Sure, at first glance, it looks great! It's wrapped in lovely leather, the detailing is pleasing, the Corvette logo is placed right in the center, the buttons are attractive, and it has good looking paddle shifters. The problem arises when you actually get around to putting your hands on it. The paddles are so close to the outside of the wheel that it is almost impossible to wrap your fingers around the entire wheel in a comfortable position. At 9 and 3, you can "palm" the wheel, but you can't actually wrap your hands around it.
That's not all; the paddles are completely awful. It feels like the shifters on an arcade racing game. Overall the wheel is just ergonomically... awful.
GM has, in my opinion, never made a steering wheel this awful. Its an example of the inherent flaws in GM's big business, "design by committee" process. One committee decided to include paddle shifters, so they included paddle shifters. A different committee wanted to cut costs, so they made the shifters out of cheaper material. A third committee wanted a square wheel, so they made the design square, and then a fifth committee wanted a smaller wheel, so they shrunk it all down. Now we're left with a steering wheel that's cheap to produce and cool to look at, but almost unusable to live with. Where did this come from?
The "Futuristic" C4 Steering Wheel
The first four generations of Corvette had thin, spoked, steering wheels. This left plenty of room, but left the wheel extremely simple: a wheel with a horn. With the introduction of "safety" to the Corvette, the steering wheel had to include an airbag. That left us with the frankly ugly, stuffed looking steering wheel, seen below.
The C5 Corvette wheel, the first to be equipped with an airbag.
As GM learned to better incorporate the airbag into the steering wheel, the C6 had a much prettier and track-oriented steering wheel. The C6 wheel also included media control buttons, a first for the Corvette.
The C6 Corvette steering wheel
The C7's wheel looks in many ways similar to the C8's, yet is juxtaposed in many others. The C7 was the first Corvette to be offered with the option of paddle shifters, which are now (unfortunately) equipped on all Corvette's. These paddles, however, blow those on the C8 wheel to shame. The C7 steering wheel was also both larger than that on the C8, and round everywhere but the bottom.
The outgoing C7's steering wheel.
The C8's wheel does share some qualities of those that came before it. It sports a two-spoke design, not dissimilar to that on the C4. But the seemingly iterative improvements turn a wheel that should be a joy to use into a cramp-inducing pain for all but the smallest-handed drivers (and we Americans aren't known for small hands) The center point of the wheel isn't even in the middle, where the Corvette emblem, is! Sure, the retired grandpa that doesn't really care about fast cornering and control will just hold it at the bottom and won't care about the ergonomics on top. But for such a groundbreaking car, GM, can't we just have a wheel designed for us. Please? No? Well then I guess I'll just go buy a Miata.
The New C8's Wheel
Or you could get an aftermarket wheel, I guess. But come on! Look at this thing! Why does something that looks so cool have to be so awful?