Ok, this has been a long time coming, because my complaints here are not exclusive to our long-term 2022 BMW 330e. But because they do still apply to this car, and I’ve been living with the problem for a while, it’s time to air my grievances as if it were Festivus. I take issue with almost everything about the steering. And I’m not talking about just the steering feel, but the wheel and its associated components.
The problem starts right off the bat: The wheel is … so … absurdly … fat. I’ve been referring to it, and most other “sporty” BMW steering wheels, as bratwurst wheels. I don’t know who at the company decided that this shape communicated performance. I don’t recall many race cars trying to make the rim as girthy as possible. If they were, I’d be shocked, simply because it’s not comfortable. I have fairly sizable hands and fingers, and even so, it always feels like my whole hands are tensed up trying to hold the wheel, rather than easily wrapping my fingers in a relaxed grip. And the thickness comes from thick padding, like it’s a pool noodle. So it’s a squishy wheel, which makes it feel like I don’t have a direct connection to the car. And I’m far from the only person peeved at fat wheels. Road Test Editor Zac Palmer wrote as much in an op-ed last fall
Thankfully, this BMW has a solution, kind of. Skip the M Sport package. The standard wheel is slimmed down and more comfy. Unfortunately, that also means that you miss out on other upgrades such as sportier suspension. Personally, I’d probably go for the M Sport package, and then look for a base-model wheel to swap in.
And while we’re on the topic of the actual wheel, the other parts that drive me crazy are the shift paddles. Looking at them, they seem nice, and in fact, they are made of real aluminum. Since most every other button or switch in the BMW feels good to press, they’re quite enticing. But as soon as your fingertips touch down, you’re greeted by rough, cheap plastic. Bafflingly, BMW backs its aluminum shift paddles with plastic. It’s not even flush with the aluminum, either, so there’s this unpleasant edge between them. Why, BMW?! The only thing I can think of is that the company was concerned that the paddles might get overly hot or cold. But when the feel would be so improved the other 99% of the time, I’m shocked this was the decision made.
Finally, the steering feedback, like in so many modern BMWs, is deeply disappointing. Short of Infiniti’s steer-by-wire systems, I haven’t experienced such disconnected helms. The weight stays consistent across the board, making it impossible to tell what the status of the front wheels are. It is quick and accurate, and the chassis is good, but it’s just hard to feel confident and take advantage of that when the car isn’t keeping you in the loop.
As I touched on at the start, these complaints aren’t exclusive to our 330e. I have these complaints about most modern BMWs. But again, they still very much apply to our long-termer, and they’re frustrating. Especially so when many other things are great about it, such as the refinement and efficiency