Even though I’ve been playing racing games for more than forty years, rarely have I done so without a standard control system to hand. Whether it be Super Cars II or Stunt Car Racer back in the 1980s, any number of the near annual F1 experiences since the ’90s, or as the Forza bug has bitten in recent years through either Motorsport or Horizon, my lap times have slowly got better thanks to your standard everyday controller.
For many though – mostly those who are or think they are some kind of racing god – a steering wheel setup is a must. Granted we can’t all be like Lando and stream from a full sim kit on our days off, but there are other options. One of those is the T248 wheel and pedal system combo that Thrustmaster have created. In a word or three, the Thrustmaster T248 Wheel for Xbox is nothing but stunning. I mean, this thing is an utter beast and the pain your wrists will go through as you acclimatise, will prove it.
The Thrustmaster T248 is the gaming accessory company’s big push into the everyday gaming market; more specifically those who race on Xbox or PC. You don’t need to give up a whole room in the house as you squeeze in a sim, and instead all you need is a desk, a chair and enough patience to break habits of a lifetime as you go in search for the milliseconds. Of course, if you do have the room, a bucket seat and frame to hand, the T248 will fit that nicely as well.
Basically put, the T248 consists of a wheel and a separate pedal set. Oh, and a ton of little additions that will help you set things up nicely, allowing for amendment of setup to suit your needs.
It’s obvious the steering wheel is going to be the prime concern for many and it’s certainly that which is the most interesting – and standout – element.
Extremely well made with a ton of force feedback included (something which can be dialled up or down to your liking), this thing could have been ripped straight from the highest end sim and you’d not batter an eyelid.
It’s leather bound on the wheel itself, with a glorious red stripe helping break up the black slab that it would otherwise be. With a huge array of buttons (there are over twenty-five included) and a lovely LCD display front and centre, the wheel hosts everything you could ever want and imagine. All the standard Xbox buttonry is here, with some added extras which should ensure that this is suitable for every eventuality.
We’ve got the big Xbox Nexus button as you’d hope for, a well worked D-Pad on the left and those iconic Xbox face buttons on the right. Menu and View buttons are easy to hit, as is a Screenshot button or two. Additionally are a couple of small up / down switches, a Mode button and that of Display are also present.
Mode and Display pretty much do as you would expect. The former allows you to tweak things ever so slightly, giving details on the amount of feedback you’ll feel through the wheel (and believe me, ramp it up and you’ll want to avoid curbs), the temperature of the motor, how the pedals behave and more. If you’re using this at a desk, straight-out-of-the-box is pretty much perfect, but the options to change things up are there for those looking for it.
The Display is equally as good – at least if you’re playing on PC. We’ve tested the T248 mostly on Xbox, but have dipped in and out of our preview of F1 22 via Steam, utilising PC power. It’s here where the Display button comes into its own, giving specific in-game details front and centre. You’re able to view your gear shift number, your speed, your revs and a host of lap times – being able to see your current PB at a glance never gets old.
The only thing is, whilst the display is lovely and all that, the vast majority of what it is delivering is probably thrust towards your eyes in the game you are playing. Looking down from the screen, just to view a gear isn’t something that is required in, say, F1 2021. In fact, look away from the screen and you’ll likely end up in a world of trouble. It just makes it a little redundant, even if it may be different should this be attached to a sim.
Away from the front and around the back of the wheel are a couple of paddles, primarily used for gear shifts whilst racing, doubling up nicely to help navigate through certain in-game menus. The magnetic paddles are pretty loud in use, clicking and clattering away, but they come with a 30ms response time and – much like everything else with the wheel – feel utterly immediate. Some may have a concern about the noise, yet we’ve found it to be more of a reassurance, safe in the knowledge as we’ve moved up and down through the gears. There’s no debating that everything on the wheel is designed to ensure optimum feedback and to make sure there is no excuse for not hitting an apex.
And then we have the pedal set – the T3PM Pedal Set if you’re after the correct name. This is basically a large slab of plastic that comes complete with three pedals attached. Working left to right are the clutch pedal, brake and throttle (as you’d expect), all with a ton of spring and pressure behind them – again, something which is adjustable should you wish.
Adjustability is available for those needing it, with players capable of switching the throttle around to bring it lower, whilst pedals can be moved left and right to allow for larger feet. We’ve found the standard default out-of-the-box setup to – once again, much like the wheel – be near perfect for our size 11’s, left foot braking whenever we don’t need to utilise the clutch.
The only real issue with the pedal set is that unless you’re weighing the system down with your feet, or have it firmly attached to a frame, you may find that it slides a fair bit. A decent amount of pressure needs to be placed in order to deliver proper feel, especially through the brake pedal as you’re going from 200-zero in a couple of seconds, and that in turn does occasionally see the pedal set slide. The large rubber feet on the bottom are good, but could possibly be better.
It must be said that the pedal set looks the business though, with metal foot plates ensuring that once again Thrustmaster have failed to skimp on quality.
Connection between the units and your gaming device of choice is a cinch, albeit one that can feel slightly messy with a multitude of wires. We’ve mostly tested this with our Xbox Series X, and occasionally our gaming laptop, but it is also compatible with Xbox One and Series S.
A single cable runs from the wheel unit to your device, connecting into the USB-A port on the front of your console. That then connects to the wheel via USB-C, with a power cable attaching via a barrel plug. The pedals then attach to the wheel through an RJ12 connection, clipping into place.
Cutouts and wire channels guide each cable neatly under the wheel, held in place further thanks to a velcro strap. There’s even a quick release USB-C cable that you can further add for times when you don’t want to mess around disconnecting the wheel totally. That’s a really nice little addition and has ensured the wheel can stay in place when not being used.
See, removing the wheel over and over again could be a bit of a drain as the wheel itself needs to be strapped down to a desk before use. It does this through the use of a well worked clamp that screws neatly into the bottom of the wheel, clamping tightly to your desk. It’s pretty much impossible to use the T248 without having it firmly situated and in place – the auto-calibration of the wheel as it is switched on has enough power in itself to warrant that.
For us, and aside from the very slight issue of movement of the pedal set, the only real downside to the Thrustmaster T248 is the need for setting up on a desk. If you were hoping to have this resting in your lap as you pumped out lap upon lap then you should think again. Full setup is an essential part. Thankfully as long as you’ve a desk and a chair, you should be sorted. If you’ve got a sim frame, even better.
If you do have a setup that allows for it, we’d say that the Thrustmaster T248 seems cheap at the £300 asking price. For the quality of the units, the feedback it brings whilst racing and the opportunity it allows for you to begin to raise your racing game, we expected a higher price to be attached. It’s hard to say that it’s an absolute steal for it’s still a sizeable chunk of cash you’ll need to drop, but you certainly won’t be disappointed in what you find.
It helps too that using the T248 immediately immerses you into whatever racer you prefer; mostly in ways that a standard controller just cannot. Aside from a few laps for setup and then getting used to the feedback and understanding the touch of the pedals, we soon got into our stride and started pumping in purple lap times on the likes of F1 2021 without a care in the world. Even though we’ve got decades of racing with a controller in hand, we now look forward to the upcoming launch of EA Sports F1 22 with even more interest than we previously had.
There’s a chance that should you invite the Thrustmaster T248 Wheel into your life, you’ll fast struggle to be able to do without it. We’re not sure it’s perfect for every racer; it’s likely to try and break your wrists if you spend too much time bumping and grinding over the Mexican desert in Forza Horizon 5. But bring it to a track day in the latest F1, the track-based Forza Motorsport 7, Assetto Corsa Competizione or possibly even something like GRID, then there’s a chance it could well massively enhance your racing experiences.
Huge thanks go out to Thrustmaster for providing us with their T248 for review. Should you wish to open the wallet, you’ll find a purchase with them direct.
The Thrustmaster T248 wheel and pedal combo is compatible with Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC.