Designing a great steering wheel is no mean feat: it needs to first and foremost serve the practical purpose, since it is the only means for the driver to input steering lock, but at the same time it needs to be nice to hold and, last but not least, also be nice to look at.
Steering wheels in older cars used to be so elegant, with their thin rim and thin prongs – they always look like they suggest you can drive the car with your fingertips. That’s obviously not a safe way to hold onto the wheel, but it looks really nice, especially if it’s a wood rim with exactly three polished bare metal spokes.
But since the advent of airbags, manufacturers have struggled to integrate the safety device into the wheel hub and also make everything look nice and tidy. It’s only in recent years that steering wheel look and feel has improved, and now you can go out and buy just a regular car with a nice looking helm.
This piece is only about regular (attainable) cars because there was never a time when you couldn’t get a nice wheel on an uber-expensive luxury car or supercar, regardless of how bad the times were – boutique manufacturers simply didn’t put an airbag in it and relied on fancy materials for wow factor. The fact that you can get a really nice wheel in just a regular car these days really improves their interior ambiance (especially for people who are into sportier cars) and also generally improves the driving experience. There are plenty of these out there today (thankfully), but I’ve tried to pick out my favorites in cars available right now for reasonable money.