BMW’s current crop of steering wheels takes some flak for their beefy thickness and for good reason. Holding a modern BMW steering wheel can feel like wrangling a python at times. Even some die-hard BMW enthusiasts have their steering wheels modified to be thinner. The thicker the steering wheel, the less feedback you get through the front tires, the harder it can feel to turn the wheel, and the less comfortable it is to do so. But BMW steering wheels weren’t always super thick, nor were they always as homogenous as they are now. So which was BMW’s best steering wheel design?
Personally, I’m partial to the E28 BMW M5’s steering wheel. I’ve never actually driven an E28 M5 but I’ve spent some time in historic ones, albeit while parked. And its steering wheel just feels right in the hand. It features a big diameter, as many wheels did back in its day, but the rim is thin enough that it’s easy to grab and it feels very comfortable. It also looks great, sans airbag, and the three horn buttons are old-school-cool. The only downside is its sort of bus-like positioning.
Another great steering wheel was the one found in the E46 BMW M3 CSL. BMW helms were getting a bit thicker at this point but not to the point of parody, as they are today. The M3 CSL’s was a great looking wheel, wrapped in Alcantara with M-color contrast stitching, that was also the right diameter and girth.
However, the one I’m going to choose as the absolute best BMW steering wheel is the one found in the BMW 3.0 CSL from the late ’70s. The non-airbag, metal-spoke, perfectly shaped steering wheel from the original CSL was, and still is, gorgeous. Everything about it makes me want to jump in the car and drive. There’s some girth to its rim but only a bit, the holes in the metal spokes scream motorsport, and its simple, non-nonsense, three-spoke design shows me it’s a car that isn’t messing around. Hell, I’d put the 3.0 CSL’s steering wheel in my E90 sedan right now, airbag be damned.
I’m sure some of you fine readers have different opinions, so let’s hear ’em. What was BMW’s best steering wheel?