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Thrustmaster T248 Racing Wheel – A Great First Step for Curious Car Nuts

Thrustmaster T248 1
Image: Thrustmaster

The world of racing games is huge. For as long as video games have been around, we’ve been driving flashy cars around twisting circuits and bustling streets in pursuit of first place. Of course, most vehicular titles are perfectly playable using a regular controller, but hardcore enthusiasts will all tell you that a racing wheel peripheral provides the best experience. The fact racing wheels got their start in arcades and are now almost exclusively used for simulations is quite funny, but let’s move swiftly along.

Like most people, we’ve been using pads to play racing games for decades without a problem, but when the opportunity came to dip our toe into the more serious world of racing wheels, we had to investigate. The Thrustmaster T248 is not a brand new wheel, launching at the end of 2021, but it’s billed as a solid starting point for novice users. After many hours of testing, let’s see if that holds true.

What’s In the Box?

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Image: Thrustmaster

The Thrustmaster T248 includes the wheel and its base unit, a set of pedals, the manual, and all the requisite wires. You also receive a black spring — this is related to the brake pedal, which can be customised to make it easier or harder to press down. We’ll get to that later on.

Setting It Up

It’s when you’ve pulled all the equipment from the box that you realise a racing wheel will take up a fair amount of room. You can’t just pop the Thrustmaster T248 on your lap — it’s a serious bit of kit you need to set up properly in order to effectively use it.

Fortunately, it isn’t too tricky. After plugging everything in where it all needs to go, you may have a few wires strewn around, so try to keep those tidy. The main thing you need to worry about is the wheel itself, which needs to be clamped down to a flat surface. For most people, this is going to be a table or a desk, unless you’ve invested in a dedicated racing rig.

Anyway, you put the wheel on the desk where you want it to sit, and then you use a clamp underneath the desk, securing it all in place using a provided screw. Don’t worry — this won’t do any damage to your furniture. You might struggle if your table or desk has a lip or a frame, as the clamp may not fit over it. We only just made it work with the clamp’s feet resting on the frame beneath the desk’s top — not ideal, but it got the job done.

The pedals plug into the wheel base and obviously go on the floor — not much setup required there. After that, the wheel needs a power outlet, and plugs into your PS5 (or PS4) via USB. Oh, one important tip: the Thrustmaster T248 would not work for us when we tried to use an alternative USB cable. We wanted a longer wire, but the wheel wouldn’t function unless we used the provided USB cable, so bear that in mind.

The next bit’s important! When you turn on your console, the wheel will automatically begin its calibration process. This sees it turn all the way to the left and right before re-centring. Be ready for this, as you don’t want to do any damage to the wheel, or yourself.

Provided everything is done properly, the wheel should recognise which system it’s operating on, and you just need to push the PS button and assign a player, as you would with a regular pad. You’re good to go!

Design, Quality, and Comfort

The Thrustmaster T248 is predominantly made of heavy plastic parts. Other similarly priced wheels on the market include metal in their design, so the T248 can come across as a little on the cheap side. However, we never felt the device is of poor quality; it’s sturdy and can clearly stand up to a decent amount of punishment.

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The steering wheel itself is comfortable to hold, with an outer surface that feels sort of like a faux-leather. All the buttons found on a regular controller (save for the analog sticks and touch pad) are present on the wheel, and they’re cleverly positioned. Most of the buttons you might need while racing are relatively easy to reach once you learn where they are, though we would say mucking about with inputs other than physically steering during a race takes some getting used to.

An LCD display sits atop the centre of the wheel, and this is pretty handy. It can be used for changing some settings, such as how much the wheel rotates, the strength of force feedback etc., but it can also display in-game information like your speed, what gear you’re in, and so on. We’d say it’s mostly handy for those settings, as while you’re racing, looking down at the wheel for information that’s probably already onscreen feels a little pointless.

Just behind the wheel are two paddles, also made of plastic. These are magnetic paddles you’ll mostly use in-game to change gears, and while they feel great to press in, they make quite a bit of noise. In fact, most of the buttons are fairly loud — not ideal if you’re set up in the living room.

As for the pedals, they feel great underfoot with lots of travel allowing for pretty nuanced control. The brake pedal can be customised, depending on how hard you want it to be. Two springs and a rubber part are provided in order to give you four levels of stiffness for the brake. We opted for the lightest setting, as we found the default to be too hard for our setup, but it’s great that you can change this to suit you. We will say that removing the spring housing from the brake is tough — you might need to use a tool to get underneath it and jimmy it up, rather than using your fingers.

Initial Impressions

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Image: Thrustmaster

Using the wheel and pedals for the first time, we were kind of unimpressed. Our biggest problem was the pedals. The base has rubber grips to prevent the pedals from slipping, but they were sliding out from under us constantly on a hard floor. You might do better with carpet, and obviously you can also screw the pedals down onto a rig if you’re going that deep, but for us this was an issue. We ended up having to block the back of the pedal unit with something to reduce their movement. Alternatively you could have them up against a wall, but that’s probably not ideal if you want to play on a decent sized TV.

The wheel itself, meanwhile, feels a little strange while turning it. Unlike an actual steering wheel in an actual car, there’s a noticeable grinding sensation you can feel and hear when you turn. We’re sure this is part of the wheel’s force feedback design, which uses a hybrid belt and gears setup, but it doesn’t give you a super smooth experience.

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Image: Thrustmaster

Speaking of force feedback, the T248 can really throw you around. It depends on the game, of course, but its pushback when you go into a slide, oversteer, or slam on the brakes is pretty remarkable. You really do have to wrestle for control at times. In fact, so strong is the force feedback that between it and our attempts to maintain control, the wheel would dislodge from its position on our desk, and we’d need to put it back. We’d also say the slightly dodgy setup of the clamp’s feet resting on the desk frame also contributed to this — we’re certain a more secure position would keep it locked down.

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Playing any racing game using a wheel and pedals is a big learning curve if you’ve spent years using a pad. It took us a long time to get a good feel for driving digital cars this way, so we’d say that, if you’re just getting started, stick with it a bit, because it’s not going to click immediately.

The T248 is supported by a fairly large number of games — you can find the official list through here — and we took a number of them out for a test drive.

F1 22 PS5 PS4

We began our racing game bonanza with F1 22. As it turns out, this is a great place to start. The cars are lightning fast, but they also have insane grip and downforce, which means turning is extremely responsive. We set up a time trial on a fairly easy circuit and ran it over and over to try and get a feel for the T248.

When you’re focused on the game itself, that grindy feeling of the wheel kind of fades away. The force feedback feels nicely balanced in this game, alerting you when you’re on the curb or fighting you as you scream along at top speed. Once we got a better handle on things, making turns and managing the throttle and brakes is much more nuanced than using a regular controller. F1 22, with all its accessibility options, is ideal for beginner wheel users looking to get their feet wet.

DIRT 5 PS5 PS4

By contrast, the other Codemasters game we tested is actually a pretty tough one for new wheel users. DIRT 5 is a pretty arcadey off-road title we’re quite fond of, as sliding through the mud and dust feels great on a pad. However, it’s a whole other story when using a wheel.

While it’s totally compatible, driving powerful cars off-road is almost a different skill; you need to really measure your pedal usage, as you’re dipping in and out of drifts and slides constantly. You kinda need to know how to actually manage a drift, countersteering against the force feedback just enough to maintain the slide and then straightening out without losing the car the other way. It’s pretty easy on a DualSense, but tough with a wheel unless you know what you’re doing.

Assetto Corsa Competizione PS5 PS4

The total opposite end of the spectrum is Assetto Corsa Competizione, probably the most hardcore racing simulator on console. Even the way the game is presented isn’t particularly friendly — it took us a second to find a way to just practice driving and learn the ropes.

The first two games we’ve brought up auto-detected we were using a wheel, but this one didn’t, and we needed to select the Thrustmaster settings in the controls menu. Once this was sorted out, we took a supercar to a relatively simple track and set off. While you can play this game with a controller, using a wheel feels optimal in this case, though it’s extremely tough either way.

This title more than any other we tested demands precision, with slip-ups leading to spinning out quite dramatically. Gradually learning proper control and getting around a circuit cleanly feels very rewarding, though. If you’re new to racing with a wheel, or racing titles in general, we’d steer clear of this for now, but it’s clearly a rewarding game for those who want to really push themselves.

WRC 10 PS5 PS4

This is a fairly realistic sim racer, though there’s extremely little asphalt, making it a different beast. It’s a very entertaining game on a pad, but using the T248 here was very tough. Similar to DIRT 5, you need to master the art of powersliding, and WRC 10 is much less forgiving.

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Just getting around one of the training tracks is very hard using a wheel and pedals. Add onto that the strongest force feedback we experienced, and it’s seriously challenging to keep these powerful rally cars under control. Like Assetto Corsa, we’d only approach this one once you’re more confident.

Gran Turismo 7 PS5 PS4

Sony’s flagship racing series has been a longstanding supporter of racing wheels, and the T248 is of course compatible. While Gran Turismo 7 makes fantastic use of the DualSense’s capabilities and the handling feels perfectly fine, driving with the wheel and pedals just sort of felt right in this instance.

As with other games we’ve brought up, there’s a smoothness that is lost when you’re using a pad, and it’s quite noticeable in GT7, which offers up a superb handling model. For us, this game became a firm favourite in terms of playing with a wheel. The combination of the balanced, realistic-but-not-insane driving and less aggressive force feedback gave us a sort-of ideal experience. Alongside F1 22, we’d say this is a perfect place to begin re-learning how to drive in games.

Should You Buy the Thrustmaster T248?

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Image: Thrustmaster

Initially, we were a little discouraged by our experience, as mentioned. The pedals sliding around, the wheel feeling oddly crunchy, and even coming loose on occasion — it just felt like it was a bit beyond us. If you don’t have much space to work with or your setup is compromised in some way, it’s easy to come away from using a wheel thinking it’s impossible.

However, we stuck with it and made our admittedly rocky setup work. As we became more familiar with the T248 wheel and pedals, our issues slowly faded. We braced the pedal unit to stop it moving, but what helped more was a softer approach rather than leadfooting the throttle all the time. Our wheel control also got better over time, and a more precise driving style meant those moments the unit came loose were much less frequent. Basically, we got better with practice, and consequently started to enjoy and appreciate what a wheel brings to the table. As for the grindy feeling, it stopped bothering us so much when we were having fun cruising around, though smoother travel would still be great.

After spending just over a week wrangling with the Thrustmaster T248, we’ve come away with a newfound appreciation for racing wheels. We get it. The extra dexterity and control you gain is clear. While some games are better suited to a wheel than others, the benefits are obvious. In fact, going back to GT7 with a DualSense after the T248, we couldn’t help but notice jittery analogue stick movements that would be smoothed out using a wheel.

As for the T248 itself, it feels like a great all-rounder for racing fans who are curious to try a wheel without totally breaking the bank. It’s not exactly cheap at an SRP of $399.99 / £299.99, but for that price range it offers very strong force feedback, solid build quality, and relatively simple setup.

If you’re looking into racing wheels and aren’t sure where to start, the Thrustmaster T248 gets a recommendation from us. It’s not a throwaway toy, but nor is it some expensive, top-of-the-line investment. Our main advice would be to ensure you have the space required and the desire to ditch your controller habits. For the right player, it will take your racing up a gear.

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Do you use a wheel and pedals for racing games on PS5 and PS4? What do you think of the Thrustmaster T248? Fasten your seatbelts in the comments section below.

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