It can be a struggle to decide which product is best for you when it comes to bedding into the, sometimes unnecessarily complex, world of sim racing. It’s a given that a wheel and pedal set is a must if you want to immerse yourself in the experience as a beginner – you can add all the other bells and whistles at your own pace, budget and desire.
Even if you’re not a beginner, it can still seem like there’s an almost bottomless wealth to your options. Wheel models that complement all forms of motorsport from open-wheel cars to sportscars, GT cars, historic cars – so on, and so forth. Then, there’s the dilemma of prices.
Some start from as little as £50. Others can reach the thousands, just for a wheel rim. Fortunately, renowned brand Thrustmaster has hit the sweet spot in so many different categories with its new TM Open Wheel Add On.
So when The Checkered Flag‘s friends at Swipe Right PR approached us with the offer of sampling said product, we jumped at the opportunity.
When the rim is taken out of its slender packaging, the first noticeable quality is that it is incredibly light. In fact it is the lightest wheel Thrustmaster has produced yet, at just under 900g. And the daintiness is added to by its dimensions – boasting a diameter of 28cm, making it very easy to grip and access all the rim’s buttons.
The shape of the wheel is typically modern Formula 1. No grip or exterior on the bottom half, instead it’s rounded off – only adding to the slick style of the rim.
The core of rim is brushed aluminium, a feature of multiple Thrustmaster wheels through the years. In comparison to the main body, the wheel grips look rather chunky. But, don’t let this perturb you. The suede covered grips are very comfortable to hold in anything from short to long sessions, the result of Thrustmaster’s “careful selection of materials and components”.
And, if the metal plate is removed from the top of the wheel, there’s even space for your own LED display to add to the immersion. Thrustmaster also sell those, but for £30 more than the wheel itself.
The six black buttons, D-pad and single three-stage rotary switch, all backed by colourful stickers that show their configuration, pop out and possess very satisfying clicks when pushed. The same goes for the aluminium gear selection paddles, but – unlike other Thrustmaster rims – these are purely one-directional and not on a rocker hinge. So no impersonating Jacques Villeneuve or Robert Kubica…
In fact, an hour could have been spent setting up an ASMR-based YouTube channel and just clicking the paddles. Another time, maybe.
COMPATIBILITY, CONFIGURATION & IN-GAME FEELING
There’s good news for owners of any T-Series wheel bases in Thrustmaster’s “ecosystem”. The rim add-on is perfectly compatible and easy to attach. For this review, we used the T500RS base. A few screws later and the wheel is ready to go -instructions can be found either online, but it’s very easy to figure out for yourself.
It is worth checking Thrustmaster’s support section to ensure that your drivers (if on PC) and firmware are up to date and performing a simple, five minute update if needed – otherwise setting up the wheel’s functions up may be tad difficult. The upshift paddle may become the accelerator all of a sudden.
The wheel itself is also supported by any games that are compatible with your base of choice. Again for the sake of your knowledge, Kunos Simulazioni‘s Assetto Corsa and the early access version of Assetto Corsa Competizione were used in the test on PC. But PlayStation 4 and Xbox ONE users can enjoy the wheel just the same.
When driving, the feather-like weight to the wheel is perfect for communicating all the Force Feedback coming your way. The wheel is easy to manoeuvre and use, but if you’re used to a certain button configuration – the first session might be spent pressing thin air or a spot of metal unless you take a quick glance downwards. Did I mention the different tone clicks produced by the paddles at the back of the wheel, depending on whether you’re up or downshifting?
At £119.99, the price is hardly a light purchase, but not Earth-shattering either. For the look it has, the versatility it holds and the durability, performance and ease of access it gives – your money would be well spent. After all, this is a product for those interested in sim racing and want to get as close to the real thrill as possible.
Last month, Thrustmaster unveiled the wheel at the Circuit Paul Ricard during pre-season testing for the Blancpain GT Series. Thankfully, this product is far beyond the test stage and is now widely available to buy direct from Thrustmaster, or through selected retailers; just in time for the soon-to-be fully released, Blancpain GT-inspired, Assetto Corsa Competizione title.
If the open wheel style is not to your liking, in mid-June Thrustmaster are releasing an equally compatible add on inspired by the Sparco P310 wheel – for that unmistakably GT1-style feel. Thrustmaster are now accepting pre-orders at the slightly dearer price of £189.99.
If you have any of the bases in Thrustmaster’s ecosystem, then waste no time in making the upgrade – particularly if you are on console. While the relative lack of buttons can be an inconvenience to PC users, a button box or keyboard can be used as a supplement.
Light, stylish, easy to set up and use, this is an excellent addition to the Thrustmaster family. And, in case I glossed over it, the gear paddle clicks are wonderful.