Thrustmaster 458 Spider Racing Wheel Review

The Ferrari 458 Spider racing wheel from Thrustmaster is one of the cheapest sim racing wheels on the market. This makes it an ideal choice for those on a budget, but it’s worth learning more about this wheel before you click the buy button.

The Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Spider racing wheel is a good choice for those new to sim racing that want to get a feel for things without spending too much money. It comes with decent functionality, but it doesn’t have force feedback and so it’s really only great for beginners.

In this review I’ll go through every aspect of the 458 Spider racing wheel in detail, to help you understand if it’s the right choice for you. Let’s start by going through an overview of the wheel, before focusing more on the design and functionality.

Overview Of The 458 Spider Racing Wheel

The Thrustmaster 458 Spider racing wheel is a cheap wheel that’s designed for the entry level sim racing market. It’s made of plastic, with the red and black color scheme matching that of the car it’s supposed to be emulating. It is in fact a 7/10 scale model of the steering wheel found inside the 458 Spiders you might see on the road.

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It features metal paddle shifters that are about half the size of most sim racing wheel shifters, but again this seems to be an attempt to keep things looking close to the real thing. The pedals are made of plastic and are fairly standard for cheap sim racing pedals. The plastic construction of both components makes this wheel very lightweight and highly portable.

Xbox Compatibility

The wheel is made for Xbox and PC only, with it being compatible with older Xbox consoles all the way up to the Xbox Series X/S. This puts it on fairly level ground for comparison with the Hori Apex wheel that is built for the PlayStation, coming in at a similar price point. You can see my review of that wheel here.

Like the Hori Apex, the 458 Spider racing wheel uses a bungee cord system rather than force feedback, and the pedals use potentiometers too with no resistance on the brake pedal other than the spring to push it back up. It also only offers 240 degrees of rotation, and it attaches to your sim racing rig via the included clamp.

The wheel comes with plenty of buttons and some decent functionality, so let’s take a closer look at the design of the wheel before we talk about how it performs in game.

The Design Of The 458 Wheel

The black and red color scheme looks great, and while the red rubber makes the wheel feel about as cheap as it is, overall, it does look quite nice. If you’re a Ferrari fan that wants to get in on sim racing on a budget with a lightweight, portable wheel, this could be the perfect choice.

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It plugs directly into your console or PC via USB, with the pedals connecting to the wheel via an RJ connector. The pedals are lightweight too, and the base is wide enough to fit on my Playseat Challenge pedal mount without sliding around. However, you will still probably want to strap them down to keep them secure.

Plenty Of Buttons

There are lots of buttons on this wheel, starting with two metal paddle shifters. While I personally prefer full length paddle shifters, the half-sized design of these ones didn’t take too long to get used to. They’re solid metal too, which is quite nice on a wheel at this price point, and it adds a bit of a quality tactile feel.

Then you have your standard Xbox buttons, with one for every corresponding button on your controller. There’s a nice-looking engine start button which might be the first thing to catch your eye, but this actually functions as the traditional d-pad, albeit with some very limited movement.

While it looks the part, it’s a bit of a cheap gimmick to make it look like a separate button. However, I’m not sure I’d ever need an engine start button in sim racing anyway! It does continue the style of the real 458 Spider steering wheel, so it does well in that regard.

Some Deceiving Design Choices

The next thing you might notice is the manettino dial on the right-hand side. This is another rather deceiving one, as it looks like it offers up 5 settings. However, it’s really just an elastic switch that can be moved up or down, auto-centering when you let go. Plus, it’s double mapped to the Home and View buttons too, so it’s just another way of doing something that other buttons do anyway.

The rest of the buttons are fairly standard, and there’s an Xbox Guide button too. Watch out for the buttons on the back of the wheel just below the paddles. They’re easily missed, but I assume they are designed to correspond to the L3 and R3 buttons on a controller. The manual refers to them as LB and RB, but it’s not clear about where they are!

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Finally, you have the clamp to secure it to your rig. This is like most clamps, in that it’s secure enough to cope with the forces that the bungee cord system exerts, but only when it’s secured tightly. This is hard to do with a thin mounting point like that on my Playseat Challenge (see picture above), so I placed a book underneath to give it some extra depth to allow the clamp to secure tightly.

This isn’t a big deal, and you won’t need to worry about it if you have a thicker mounting point or plan to use a desk or table instead. However, it is worth noting. While I would have liked to see some screw holes for mounting this wheel, it’s not a big loss, and once it’s set up it doesn’t affect the performance of the wheel. But how well does this wheel perform in game?

How Does The 458 Wheel Perform?

I’ll state once again that this wheel is definitely designed for beginners. From the lack of force feedback to the controller-style design, it’s definitely not a high-end wheel. However, it still does perform fairly well in games. The bungee cord mechanism takes some getting used to, as do the cheap pedals, but you can still have some fun with this wheel and put in decent lap times.

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Limiting Performance

While it’s just a matter of getting the feel for the wheel, the pedals are an aspect that I really struggled with having come from using load cell T-LCMs before. The brake pedal doesn’t offer a great amount of control, and just feels cheap. Again, that’s because they are, and they’re fine for beginners but they do limit just how fast you’ll be able to go as a result of this lack of fine control.

The wheel is also clearly made to work best with arcade racers rather than sims. The 240 degrees of rotation isn’t great for some games, but for other arcade racers it can make it easier to handle. The chances are you’re not looking at this wheel if you’re used to 900o+ force feedback and load cell setups. For beginners, it offers enough feel to paint a picture of what to expect from sim racing.

You can fine tune the amount of feel to an extent, via the in-game settings. This will probably be a must, as each game will be suited to different setups. The main setting to change will be the wheel sensitivity, but you can actually do this in-game on the wheel itself by holding down the two paddle shifters along with the Y and B buttons.

Changing Things On The Fly

This will change the sensitivity of the wheel between 4 different settings, with a light changing on the wheel base next to the Xbox Guide button every time. One flash is for “normal” sensitivity, and 4 is for the least sensitivity. I found this to be invaluable when trying to save time, bypassing menu screens when I wanted to try and find the right sensitivity.

This certainly offers enough control for arcade racing games, along with simcade racers too. One of the real selling points of this wheel is that it’s essentially plug and play, with no software to download or setup screens to go through. This once again makes it very beginner friendly, and most games will recognize the wheel without any hassle.

One final note I’ll make with regard to compatibility is that I did try to use the wheel with Thrustmaster TLCM pedals, and I experienced some major bugs in Forza Motorsport 7, with the pedals being stuck on or off when pressed or released. Looking online it seems like this may be a bug that can be fixed with firmware updates, but I decided to just stick to the pedals that came with it anyway.

Who Should Buy This Racing Wheel?

The Thrustmaster 458 Spider racing wheel would make the perfect gift for a Ferrari fan that wants to see what the world of sim racing is all about. It’s a good entry-level choice for anyone that’s curious to see what sim racing is like and doesn’t have a big budget to spend on force feedback wheels.

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The wheel looks great and offers some functionality that other cheap wheels don’t, but it’s not worth it if you’re planning to really get into sim racing or have already used something with force feedback. In this case, I’d say spend the extra money on something with force feedback and load cell pedals.

Final Thoughts

With great functionality, design and plenty of buttons, the Thrustmaster 458 Spider racing wheel is one of the best cheap sim racing wheels on the market. While the lack of force feedback and load cell pedals limits how much feel you’ll get with this wheel, it’s still good fun to use and offers beginners a great introduction to sim racing.