Here's How The New Thrustmaster T-GT II Wheel Compares To Fanatec's Direct Drive On Paper

It's an exciting time for sim racing hardware, and with that comes many new choices.

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Image: Thrustmaster

This week Thrustmaster announced its new T-GT II sim racing wheel. Once again Gran Turismo-branded (it’s the official wheel of the game’s FIA championship series), the T-GT II replaces the first model that launched alongside GT Sport about five years ago. It’s priced just like the outgoing one, at $800 (£700/€750). The T-GT II is available in Europe now, and customers in the U.K. and North America can buy it in the fall.

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From the outside, the T-GT II doesn’t look markedly different from its predecessor, and indeed much of its hardware is the same — this is still a belt-driven wheel. Just like Logitech’s G923, all the enhancements have been made underneath the base.

Bear with me here, because Thrustmaster went a little acronym-crazy with this one, just as it did with its last flagship wheel. There’s a new feature called T-DCC, which stands for “Drift Curve Calculation.” Supposedly, it helps manage slides with the help of some math, whether you’re actively trying to drift or attempting to keep your cornering nice and tidy. Thrustmaster hasn’t gone into detail as to how exactly the feature works, though it has supplied us all with a rather arcane line graph.

This is how T-DCC works, apparently
This is how T-DCC works, apparently
Image: Thrustmaster

There’s also T-RTF — real-time feedback — which is designed to mitigate force feedback delay and supposedly works with all games on PlayStation or PC. And then there’s T-AEC-Q, which is less a techy feature and more just another way of saying Thrustmaster has designed the circuit boards on the T-GT II to meet Automotive Electronics Council standards. This seems like a bit of a gimmick, like those “MIL-spec” smartphones lots of companies advertise, but hey — if Thrustmaster’s made a more durable wheel, that’s great.

Otherwise, the T-GT II has the same leather-wrapped rim with the same dials and buttons as before, is backed by the same T-40VE brushless motor and comes with the same T3PA three-pedal set, no load cell included.

That brings us back to price. If you already have a T-GT, you can upgrade to the new base for $500, or you can get the T-GT II wheel and base, sans pedals, for $700. If you go the latter route, and choose to upgrade to Thrustmaster’s $200 T-LCM load-cell pedals, it’ll cost you $100 more than if you just bought the existing bundle with the T3PA set.

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To recap, that’s $800 or $900 for what will probably be a very good all-in-one, belt-drive sim racing setup. Up until recently, that was about standard for the market. But then Fanatec showed up with a $350 direct-drive base in April and kind of flipped everything upside down. Or at least that’s what every other YouTube comment underneath the T-GT II announcement video would have you think.

Image for article titled Here's How The New Thrustmaster T-GT II Wheel Compares To Fanatec's Direct Drive On Paper
Image: Thrustmaster
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Now look, I’m not saying the CSL DD doesn’t look like a great value, but in Thrustmaster’s defense, the concept of a direct-drive base that costs a fraction of a trip to the emergency room is a very, very new concept in this industry, and it’d be unreasonable to expect every single competitor in the business to get on Fanatec’s level overnight. Second, if we’re going to accuse the T-GT II of being overpriced for what it is, perhaps first we should do a little math to get a clear picture of how the two compare.

Again, the T-GT II is going to cost most people either $800 or $900 if they desire load cell pedals. With that, you’re getting everything you need to go sim racing, and the experience is certainly going to be a cut above a $400 Logitech setup. Easy.

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Fanatec’s new CSL DD wheel base, attached to a ClubSport Formula V2 rim
Fanatec’s new CSL DD wheel base, attached to a ClubSport Formula V2 rim
Image: Fanatec

Now, if you go the Fanatec CSL DD route, you have choices to make. That base costs $350, but if you spend another $150 for the optional Boost Kit, you’ll jump from 5 Nm of torque to 8 Nm. For comparison sake, the original T-GT offered 6 Nm and the T-GT II will probably be the same. Those who have gone hands-on with the CSL DD say you’re going to want that Boost Kit for a noticeable step up from a midrange belt-drive wheel.

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For the purposes of this experiment, let’s say you forgo the Boost Kit. Then it’s time to select a pedal set, and you can really save going the Fanatec route. If you don’t want load cell pedals and don’t mind losing the clutch pedal, the CSL Elite set is just $100. If you do want those things, you’re spending $230. For the best comparison to the T-GT, we’ll choose the $100 option.

Here, in my view, is where Fanatec sort of sticks you. As much as folks in this hobby like to obsess over direct drive versus servos and such, the quality, convenience and ergonomics of the rim you choose matters. And most of Fanatec’s are very pricey. They’re very nice, but very pricey.

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Fanatec’s McLaren GT3 V2 steering wheel
Fanatec’s McLaren GT3 V2 steering wheel
Photo: Adam Ismail

The cheapest is the McLaren GT3 V2 that I recently tested — it’s a good formula-style wheel, and it costs just $200. But I wouldn’t personally pick it, because I like to drive a range of cars, and a rim shaped like that would be absolutely hell for rallying. The build quality is fine, though the rubber handles have become a little sticky with continued use, which is another mark against it for me personally. For the same price, Fanatec sells the CSL Elite WRC that’s wrapped in Alcantara, but it’s sort of scant in terms of buttons and dials.

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The problem is that if you want anything better, or at least closer to the T-GT II’s rim, you’re going to be spending at least $350, more likely $380. At that point you’re getting into Fanatec’s modular ClubSport Universal Hub wheels, which offer a lot of choice in terms of style, but don’t come cheap. That’s how what was a $450 build ramps up to $800, and all of a sudden you’re neck and neck with the T-GT II where price is concerned.

Are they equal? I haven’t used either, and of course, the appeal of direct drive looms large. Fanatec is going to have that advantage for some time, and hopefully rivals won’t spare a minute developing their answers to the CSL DD. I did briefly use a first-gen T-GT during an FIA Gran Turismo Championship Pro-Am race, but you’ll have to forgive my inability to remember too much about it because I spent the whole warm-up session and race shaking and trying not to piss myself. Because I was sharing a track with some of the greatest sim racers in the world and Juan Pablo Montoya.

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All this is to say sim racing hardware is going through a transformative time now, and that’s exciting news for all of us. It also places the T-GT II and, frankly, everything else in CSL DD’s price range a bit behind the curve. Not bad — just behind the curve. For what it’s worth, unlike Fanatec products which practically never go on sale aside from Black Friday, there were a few occasions over the last several years where retailers offered the T-GT for a third or even half off. Should that opportunity arise again, I’d strongly consider it.

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It's a "Porch-uh"

Thrustmaster went a little acronym-crazy with this one,

Acronyms are initials that form a “word” (are said word-like): SCUBA, NATO, NASA, etc.

Initialisms are initials said as letters: SUV, TT, FBI, etc.