When Ford showed off its new Transit Custom van toward the end of last year, one of the neatest features touted for production when the van hit the market this year was a tilting steering wheel rim. We don’t mean a tilting steering column, we mean just the wheel rim. Ford developed the novelty in response to customers who were making their own working and eating surfaces inside their vans. Now that the Transit Custom is ready to head to dealers, the video above shows what it looks like in action:
Van drivers can spend long hours behind the wheel, so anything that upgrades the workspace is good. In the U.S., Ford made accommodations for pickup buyers who live the same way by creating the Interior Work Surface option, basically a fold-out center console table and stow-away gear selector. U.S. drivers using the Interior Work Surface need to twist toward the center console to use it, though. In Europe, an internal Ford division called D-Ford stays in frequent contact with buyers after a purchase to find out how those buyers are using their vehicles and what features might make the vehicles better. When looking at how to create a workspace in the Transit, considering the van’s interior design, it made more sense for D-Ford to make a flat surface front-and-center on the steering wheel.
The rim tilts around the axis of the wheel spokes, and can be set in three positions. The first is the typical driving position. The second is angled at about 45 degrees, for working on a laptop. A removable plastic tray stored in a slot between the front seats when not in use is laid over the rim, held in place by the tab that flips up at the bottom of the wheel. This tab also keeps the laptop from sliding off the surface. The third position is near horizontal, designed for eating. A D-Ford team member said designers started with just the driving and eating positions for the wheel, but testers found the eating position suboptimal for working on a laptop, hence the middle angle.
Ford’s showed the wheel on the battery-electric E-Transit as well, so it could propagate throughout the entire Transit line over there. We don’t expect the transforming wheel to make the jump our way. Buyers will be able to option it as part of a Mobile Office Package, availability and pricing to come in early 2024.