As Mom said: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Modern steering wheels are already a handful for drivers, crammed with all sorts of switches and functions. BMW's M Performance steering wheel could drive one to distraction.
The digital wheel is part of a new M Performance line of factory accessories at the 2012 Essen Show, a German version of SEMA. There are three modes: Efficient Dynamics, Sport and Race. In Efficient Dynamics mode, the screen displays average fuel consumption, trip time, oil and water temperature and can track fuel-consumption goals.
In Sport mode, the screen shows lateral G-forces, which would be impossible to read safely in the twisties, so information is stored for later. LEDs light up and then blink when it’s time to upshift.
In Race mode, the screen can clock lap times or break a lap into timed sections. It will record quarter-mile times, starting with the "Christmas tree" sequence. The wheel can also measure the driver’s reaction time and top speed, and can divide a run into into sections for post-race analysis.
A BMW video shows racer Tim Schrick putting the M Performance wheel through its paces on the track. Although the automaker hasn’t announced pricing distraction issues are likely to arise in the U.S.
Still, it's better laid out than the Ferrari 458 Italia wheel, which has non-canceling turn-signal buttons on either side, and push/pull switches on the bottom for the windshield washer controls and headlight dimmer. Really.
But since the Ferrari costs $200,000 plus and the BMW wheel sounds expensive, neither may be much of an issue in the U.S. anyway.––Paul Duchene
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