While the Netflix series Drive To Survive has been highlighting Formula 1 for a few seasons, many people around the world think they are Lewis Hamilton and want to imitate the brilliant British driver’s driving style.
In order to satisfy these driving desires that are springing up all over the world, more or less realistic car simulation video games exist. But when you start these games for the first time, it’s often with a controller in your hands. Not necessarily the perfect tool to immerse yourself in an ultra-realistic experience. After testing the DD Pro, the official steering wheel of the latest Gran Turismo, sold by Fanatec, here is the Thrusmaster T248.
The steering wheel-pedal combo: a sim-racing essential
In the small world of sim-racing, it is therefore advisable for players who want to get involved and accumulate hours on the track to do so, behind the wheel. Question of realism obliges. But then the fateful question arises: which steering wheel should you choose to start in sim-racing?
If the answers are obviously multiple, the few brands that build racing wheels for game consoles and PCs have understood very well that the market for beginners and entry-level was very flourishing, and that there was an audience to seduce.
This is particularly the case of the Thrustmaster brand, which has just presented its brand new T248, a precise, handy and fairly easy-to-use steering wheel. All for a more than reasonable price for accessories of this kind (the T248 is available new for less than 350 euros).
With a more than attractive price positioning (we are talking here about one of the cheapest shuttlecocks on the market), potential customers could have doubts about the reliability and precision of such a product. But you will see during this test that the T248, if not perfect, ticks many boxes and could become your racing wheel of choice.
T248: a perfect steering wheel for beginners?
We said it in the introduction, the T248 from Thrustmaster is, for its price, a very good choice to start in sim-racing at a lower cost. Although you have to spend a certain amount of money to afford it, it is still much cheaper than its direct competitors. Compatible with Xbox consoles (One and Series S and X) as well as PCs, the steering wheel, as well as its pedals, will have a very good place in many living rooms.
But then what are the points that could make you capsize for the T248?
The first axis that jumps out before you even put your hands on the steering wheel is obviously its design. The latter is quite simple, but the basics are there. Some gossips may regret the not necessarily necessary surplus of buttons on the steering wheel (up to 25), or even the too small paddles (we will come back to this point in detail later in the test).
But on the whole, the contract is fulfilled. The bracket allows the steering wheel to be fixed almost anywhere and it is quite simple to make the connections between the steering wheel and the console (or the PC). Note here a big positive point for Thrustmaster, which took care of the management cable, something quite rare, especially for steering wheels at this price.
As for the wheel itself, it is covered in leather which allows a very secure grip and good management of the wheel. With its 7.6 kg on the scale, the steering wheel-pedal set is quite light.
A powerful, but pleasant engine
Once seated behind the wheel, the first sensations are not long in coming. The crankset responds very well and the brake pedal can be adjusted by changing the spring for more hardness. For players like me who have had the Logitech G29 and its reinforced concrete brake pedal, it’s inevitably destabilizing at first, but the sensations return quickly. After a few wheel lockups, the laps follow one another without the slightest problem.
In long curves, you can feel all the power of the engine within the wheel of this Thrustmaster T248. A true master watchmaker in this field, the firm has again done very well with this model and offers hard, but not scary force feedback, which adapts to all types of driving without too much work for the pilot.
The different “notches” of the engine are necessarily felt a little, especially if you pay attention to them, but this does not really interfere with driving. In short, the T248, although more expensive, is light years away in terms of precision from the 458 Ferrari from Thrustmaster, the most entry-level product.
In terms of pure performance, the steering wheel clearly punches a category or two above its advertised level, and it is excellent value for money on this point.
As a whole, the steering wheel corresponds to the best a neophyte player can hope for. It is easy to handle and the various aspects of the latter, although imperfect, are more than enough to spend very good hours on the most beautiful circuits in the world.
Pallets: the black point of the product
But having said all the good things I think about this steering wheel, let’s tackle the Achilles heel of the T248 from Thrustmaster. Indeed, the product of the Hillsboro firm has one defect that stands out much more than the others: its pallets.
On a sim-racing wheel, this part is essential and Thrustmaster seems to have forgotten it. With more than 1000 gear changes in a Grand Prix, the Monaco circuit is a perfect test of whether the paddles are good or not.
And we are forced to recognize that as far as the T248 is concerned, we are still disappointed. The paddles are too small and way too loud even for a product at this price. If the position of the hands is natural, it does not catch up with the rest, and the simple brushed plastic of the paddle shifters is not there to fix things. It gives a “cheap” impression on this small part of the steering wheel.
The pedals: difficult to handle (normal it’s for the feet)
Often forgotten in the assessments given to a steering wheel, the crankset and yet one of the most important elements, just like the wheel. But then, what is this T248 worth?
Well we had a good time (no pun intended). The crankset is made of gray steel, its little shiny side gives it a solid appearance and you don’t hesitate to press the pedal, whether it’s the right one (to accelerate) or the center one (to brake). As you will have understood, this is a three-pedal model which reveals its full potential with the use of the left foot clutch and an H-shaped gearbox (optional). .
If the position of the pedals can surprise at the start, the foot quickly gets used to this idea, and you should not try to “encompass” the entire pedal to brake properly. The latter being very straight, this can even cause pain with too long sessions, but above all the braking will not be well dosed.
Indeed, with a raised and straight foot, braking is done with the force of your entire leg, whereas if you tilt your foot during braking, only the force of the latter is enough to slow down your car. Which is much easier to measure.
In summary, the crankset of this T248 from Thrustmaster is really very good and it is a plus point not to be forgotten when listing the things that work in this steering wheel.
The display on the steering wheel: a plus that we do not see enough
Last point that I wanted to address in this test, it is perhaps the one that has been talked about the most so far. The brand new display feature on the steering wheel which gives the T248 the luxury of being exclusive in this world where all products look horribly similar (for neophyte eyes).
With this option (available only on PC and on Xbox Series S and X), it is possible to see its position in the race, its lap time and other basic information, but the whole thing is there, without having to take your eyes off the road.
If this feature is presented by Thrustmaster as a small revolution, it (unfortunately) does not change your life. Indeed, my eyes were used during the test to get the information I needed where it is normally (on my game screen). By reflex, I looked at my screen rather than the steering wheel.
It should also be noted that my set-up does not allow me to have a steering wheel at eye level. I have to look down to see the display, an unnatural constraint for me, and so I had a hard time taking the trick.
Players must adapt, not the steering wheel
But the few times I forced myself to test this feature as it should, it immediately struck me as very interesting. Simple effect of novelty or real revolution, it is still difficult to say, but the display on the steering wheel is something that we will find in the next few years I am sure.
For having done the test on PC in a second time, with a screen configuration that was foreign to me. This little feature allowed me to save a lot of time. By simply looking down I could see my position or my time.
So I think this option could be a real plus for people new to the world of sim-racing with the T248. Ironically, they are also the ones who will not realize the benefits of this feature.
For people who are used to looking up or looking for race information from right to left, it will be quite difficult to get rid of this reflex, especially if you are an avid player.
Still, it’s worth a try, and if you can break the habit, the brand new functionality of the T248 will only become more impressive. Note that the display functionality is also available on the PlayStation (PS4/PS5) version of the steering wheel (which we have not tested).
Conclusion: a very good steering wheel for beginners, quite simply
In conclusion, the Thrustmaster T248 is a very good racing wheel to start with in sim-racing. With its low price and its many compatibilities, the steering wheel finally adapts quite well to its player, whoever it is.
Although not everything is perfect, the steering wheel promises great driving sessions, whether on F1 games or the latest Forza Horizon, but also the big sim-racing firms like Asseto Corsa or iRacing.
Perfect for neophytes, the T248 can also be a very good purchase for people who would today be in possession of a first-price steering wheel and who would like to move upmarket without breaking the bank.