BMW 1 Series Uses Off-Center Steering Wheels. Here’s Why.

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BMW’s reasoning is simple—it has to do with the way you sit.

Ever take a look at the inside of your BMW and eye it up, only to notice that things aren’t exactly as they seem? Well, with this technical post for the 1 series, it was time to find out what’s the story behind one of the little-known oddities behind modern cars.

The full numbers were found when they were installing race seats in a 135. Since the offset is known by SAE J1100 standards for vehicle dimensions, it was decided to see what would happen if a new race seat was installed using the “correct” geometry from the car.

During disassembly, it was found that the OE seats are not centered on their mounting points, but symmetrically, they use the same angle for both driver and passenger seat. The steering wheel is mounted 10 millimeters towards the center of the car in relations to the seats, as well, as having its axis tilted two degrees inboard as well.

So, why?

Naturally, you’re going to find that your view is slightly towards the center of the car most of the time while driving just due in part to where the car sits in a lane. This slightly off-centered view masks the offset of the steering wheel, and in combination with some other visual trickery, fools the mind into thinking everything were lined up perfectly straight. BMW, you clever beast.

Essentially, the center-line of the steering axis would meet with the center-line of the car somewhere just shy of 35 feet in front of the car. Since everything else is aligned for this, a practice mock-up of the race seat felt “off.” Ultimately the OE angles and off-center steering wheel position will be retained for the racing seat as well.

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