One of the most important parts of an automobile, and the part most interacted with, is also one of the most unmentioned — The steering wheel. Aside from pedals, there’s literally nothing you interact with inside of a car. The steering wheel will, or should at least, have your hands on it at all times, when driving. So it needs to be sized properly, have nice bolsters and feel nice in hand. Otherwise you’ll be spinning an uncomfortable disc around for years to come. I once drove a Chevy Cavalier and the steering felt like a Hasbro Frisbee. Not enjoyable, to say the least.
It’s also important that a steering wheel looks good. Aside from being in your hands, it’s also staring you in the face. Who wants to look at an ugly wheel the entire time they drive (the Saturn Ion comes to mind)? BMW has usually had some very nice steering wheels. They’re usually nothing too crazy, but simple, functional and always feel nice in hand. I also love how they’re almost always black, regardless of interior color, as it should be.
So we should look at the best of the Bavarian wheels.
5. E30 M3
The steering wheel in the E30 M3 is about as plain as wheels get. Which is also why it looks so good. There’s no fuss. It’s the right shape, right size and made of nice materials. Perfect. It’s got three spokes to make it look sporty and has some M colored bits at the bottom. It represents the harmony and simplicity of the driving experience the E30 M3 provided. But it is a bit boring, so it sits at number 5.
4. BMW Z4
The Z4 is one of the few BMWs that has a bespoke steering wheel. It isn’t really featured in any other Bimmer, at least here in the ‘States. It’s a shame, though, as it’s one of the better looking steering wheels to wear a blue and white roundel. The way the three spokes stem away from the center just looks aggressive and edgy. It also has big, grippy thumb bolsters for hard driving. The Z4 is a great car to drive with a manual, but its steering wheel looks cool with the aluminum shift paddles behind it.
3. BMW i3
The steering wheel of the i3 has taken a bit of heat, actually. It’s unthreatening two-spoke design instills a bit of relaxation rather than aggression. It fits the interior of the i3 perfectly, however, and looks great in its calm interior. The blue trim that goes along the rim, as well as around the Roundel, looks great and reminds you that you’re in something special and different. When the look of a steering wheel can remind you that what you’re driving is special, then it’s done its job perfectly. So despite the fact that it doesn’t look sporty, like the wheel of an M3, its looks fit the car wonderfully. And I actually think it looks good. So it’s at 3.
2. BMW i8
With a similar ‘specialness’ that the i3 has, the i8’s steering wheel has a modern-day supercar look to it. It’s still simple and elegant, like all BMW wheels, but there’s just a bit more to it. It could be the similar blue trim to the i3 or it could be the slightly funky design, but the i8’s wheel just looks right. It also feels excellent in hand and is the perfect size. When you buy something as special and different as the i8, you want every aspect of the car to match, especially the one you touch the most. The i8’s wheel provides that needed specialness.
1. All Current BMW Ms
All current BMW M cars have the same steering wheel, more or less. They all have the three spoke design and it looks fantastic. The rim is meaty and chunky with excellent bolstering. I love the silver lining on the bottom spoke, the way the circular horn sticks up higher than the side spokes and how thin those side spokes are. It’s simple yet sporting and makes you want to grab hold of it and toss the car through corners. It’s sized perfectly and feels excellent in hand. Perfectly befitting of the sports car it controls. It also looks downright cool with the carbon fiber paddle shifters flanking it. In my eyes, this steering wheel is the best to come from Bavaria.