Just a few months ago, the Fanatec’s CSL Elite was the new ultra premium racing wheel du jour for PlayStation 4 owners, but now it’s already been surpassed. Not only is the Thrustmaster T-GT built in tandem with Sony and Polyphony Digital, but in amongst its bevy of technological buzzwords and acronyms, it’s a fantastically well constructed wheel and even manages to surprise in completely unexpected ways.
That does, however, depend entirely on your racing set up. This is a £650 wheel – you can find it for under £600 if you look hard enough – and it’s senseless to pair that with an awkwardly positioned coffee table and a distant and diminutive TV. If you’re even considering a wheel of this price, you at the very least need to be able to pair it with a racing wheel stand – mine is the Omega GT, but there are a number of alternatives – and you’ve probably got enough cash to splash on a PlayStation 4 Pro and swanky 4K HDR TV as well. Of course, £100 is an extravagance that only died in the wool racing game fans would even consider.
Thrustmaster have really gone all out… to come up with needless acronyms and buzzwords for this wheel. T-LIN means it’s going to pass along 100% of the force feedback the game intends, T-DFB is for ‘depth feedback – we’ll come back to this one – T-40VE is the 40 watt motor, while T-M.C.E. is the patent pending cooling solution and T-F.O.C. actually encapsulates the former H.E.A.R.T. acronym! There’s even T-Turbo, which is for the external turbo-shaped 400W power supply, because of course that’s a thing.
Barmy acronyms aside, this really is a premium racing wheel and it shows in practically every facet. The wheel base itself is surprisingly compact and with a stylish and subtle asymmetry, while also letting you peek inside through cooling vents to see the mechanism and motor that drives it. The T3PGT pedals will be familiar to many Thrustmaster fans, as a slightly more refined version their T3PA triple pedals with solid construction and some minor customisation of the pedal faces and the rubber cone that you can place behind the brake pedal. So much of the wheel pushes Thrustmaster to new heights, it’s a slight shame that the pedals couldn’t also push further to try and challenge the more premium feel of the Fanatec CSL Elite’s pedals.
Another place I feel the T-GT falters in comparison to the CSL Elite is with the feel of the wheel in hand. It’s just a touch smaller than Fanatec’s wheel, and the leather almost doesn’t feel like leather to the touch. It is leather, as I double checked the wheel’s website, but it’s the same kind of ultra-smooth overly processed leather that you will find on Apple’s cases and accessories. That’s fine and it’s nice to the touch, but dimpling to at 9 and 3 on the wheel would not have gone amiss to give just that tiny bit more grip.
The face of the wheel has all of the PlayStation buttons you could want and then some, though they are very, very clicky sounding. Polyphony’s penchant for additional controls continues here, going beyond their previous partnership with Logitech. There’s now four coloured dials that you can turn and click in, each corresponding to a particular function you might want to adjust mid-race. There’s blue for traction control, red for brake bias, and so on, but it’s difficult to remember which does which and whether your car even has a torque diff to fiddle with, meaning that I was simply trying all of the dials until I’d find the one I wanted.
One simply adorable little touch is the inclusion of a pair of tiny little analogue sticks. I didn’t test the theory of using this to play through Uncharted 4, amusing as I find the notion, but it does mean that this is the only wheel that can fully work with GT Sport’s Scapes photo mode, positioning cars in 3D space without having to pick up a DualShock 4.
Let’s come back to the wheel stand though, because it’s this that enables one of the most remarkable effects that the wheel is capable of: it made my pedals vibrate. Developed in tandem with Polyphony, T-DFB is a system that transfers force feedback to you via the steering column within the wheelbase, but the side effect here is that the directional vibrations channelled the thrumming of car’s engine, the suspension, running over kerbs and more down the wheel stand and into the otherwise neutral pedals. It might be a somewhat unintentional effect, and certainly not one that can be advertised when many will be strapping this to a desk and other wheel stands might work differently enough to dampen the effect, but it’s truly remarkable and surprising for those with a set up that does enable it.
Even without this effect, the force feedback that GT mode and GT Sport enable is more refined and nuanced than when set to the “Other” compatibility mode and translating T300 RS or T500 support to this new wheel – disappointingly, T-DFB is exclusively for Gran Turismo games. T-DFB can only be described as channeling the vibration to the wheel, as opposed to the more lateral side to side force feedback that other wheels make use of. Will it dramatically improve your driving? No, but might help you understand what a car is trying to do just that tiny bit better, and when racing games give you such sensory tunnel vision, that can only help.
Of course, it’s still a great wheel to use for other racing games, reverting to the older force feedback signals intended for the T500. There is a tiny bit of bite from the gears that you can feel when turning the wheel, but it’s still a very smooth driving feeling and it will work just fine with any released since the PlayStation 4 came out. The wheel’s force feedback is also remarkably quiet thanks to its unique characteristics, and dramatically less noisy when compared to the clickety-clack of the CSL Elite at launch.
Another dramatic advantage over other premium wheels is just how incredibly quiet the wheel is. The cooling in the compact package can easily be mistaken for your games console tucked under your telly, right up until the point the fan cuts out during a lull in your racing and you suddenly miss the sound. The one exception to this is a quiet clicking sound that sounds like a hard drive happily reading or writing data. That clicking can be a touch intrusive, but it’s very easy to drown out with the game noise from your TV and certainly won’t be audible with a pair of headphones on.
The Thrustmaster T-GT is a truly remarkable wheel, but just as with the Fanatec CSL Elite, it’s priced to meet a very particular premium niche in the racing wheel market. There’s many lower priced alternatives that will suit the majority of racing fans, including Fanatec’s rival, but if you’re looking for the very best wheel going and are primarily plan on filling your racing time with Gran Turismo Sport, the T-GT is the new top dog.