Thrustmaster's Ferrari 458 Italia Cockpit Just Misses the Finish Line

It may look like an ideal solution to a common problem, but unfortunately, the Ferrari 458 Italia Cockpit is held back by a series of minor issues.

Gaming steering wheels fall into two camps: hardcore, pricey kits aimed at simulator enthusiasts, and affordable models with basic steering functionality. What most models share is the need to clamp onto a table or desk. Granted, there are solutions that let you balance the wheel across your lap or, more awkwardly, grip an apparatus by clamping your knees together, but neither is a competent replacement for the traditional table-clamp design.

Recognizing the need for an alternative to the norm, Thrustmaster is back with its next "cockpit," the Ferrari Vibration GT Cockpit 458 Italia Edition for the Xbox 360. It's a follow-up to the Ferrari Wireless GT Cockpit 430 Scuderia Edition for the PlayStation 3. This time, Thrustmaster opted for a wired design, likely due to Microsoft's pricey licensing fees for wireless peripherals. The added power coming through the USB cable provides enough juice to enable vibration this time around. Sadly, there is no force feedback on the new cockpit, a feature that is usually reserved for high-end wheels. Of course, because it's priced at $300, you might assume the 458 Italia Cockpit is a high-end accessory, but it's most certainly geared toward the casual racing fan, trading performance for ease of use.

The core feature of Thrustmaster's cockpits is their unibody design. The obvious advantage is the ability to use your wheel and pedals wherever you wish, negating the need for a clamp. The wheel attaches to a telescoping column that's built into the base. The angle and length of the column are secured by tightening screws with plastic knobs. Unfortunately, even with the screws at their tightest, the column tends to exhibit a small yet noticeable amount of wiggle. While it's not faulty per se, it's an unfortunate detail that could have been avoided.

When redesigning the cockpit for the Xbox 360 model, Thrustmaster changed the way the wheel connects to the column. In the old model, an external cable connects the wheel to the wheel base, which itself is attached to the column. In the Xbox 360 version, the cable resides within the column rather than outside of it. The 458 Italia Cockpit's wheel rotates only about 270 degrees, so there was never a risk of the cable becoming entangled to begin with, however, the overall presentation is sleeker as a result of this change.

One thing that hasn't changed is the battery compartment, which remains a part of the new 458 Italia Cockpit for absolutely no reason. In the past, it was used to house the four AA batteries that powered the Scuderia cockpit, but in the wired Italia model, it's useless. Open the compartment, and you'll see four AA battery slots without metal contacts. Its presence was obviously a cost-cutting move, negating the need to alter manufacturing procedures. The thing is, moves like this make the manufacturer look lazy and, in turn, unnecessarily damage the product's image. It makes you wonder, if they overlook details as obvious as this, what else has fallen victim to their thriftiness?

Functionally, for reasons already mentioned, the Ferrari 458 Italia Cockpit works well as a peripheral for casual racing fans, but should be avoided by racing enthusiasts. Without high-end features like force feedback and a larger rotational threshold, it will never appeal to the hardcore, regardless of its unique form factor.

For the right customer, however, the clampless design is reason enough to warrant a purchase. It's compact, unique, and adequately functional as far as racing wheels go. The handle and foldable design make it easy to carry and store. Plus, the unibody design prevents pedals from sliding across the floor during use, a typical issue with traditional units. If you need a solution to the common clamp requirement, and can accept a bit of thriftiness on Thrustmaster's part, the Ferrari Vibration GT Cockpit 458 Italia Edition might be the perfect fit. Just be aware that all that convenience comes at a cost.

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Discussion

19 comments
mattcake
mattcake

Without force feedback you can't feel the car or the bite of the tyres on the road. It's a bit worrying they thought this piece of overpriced, branded plastic was worth even making - you'd expect better from a company like TM who (in my day at least) always based their products on accurate simulations of real world controls.

speedracer3190
speedracer3190

Can anyone recommend me a seat and something to put my brake pedals on so they wont move. I am quite new to buying these things. I am getting into racing sims that is why I am asking here.

B-boy
B-boy

is better the logitech for ps3, I wup ass on need for speed

ender707
ender707

No Force Feedback is a deal breaker.

pal_080
pal_080

I'm what you'd call a "casual" racing fan I suppose, but even so I'd consider Force Feedback an absolute must for a steering wheel peripheral, and I'd strongly wish to see an H gearbox if I were to pay anything close to $300... which I think is very pricey for something aimed at "casuals".  They really dropped the ball on this one! 

Halloll
Halloll

I got a play seat and a Logitec G27 for slightly less than 300.but this thing doesn't even come with a H gearbox. not worth it.

anotherone10
anotherone10

The price is a complete miss for this product, for around $300 you can get a Fanatec or Logitec G27 wheel set and they are far superior to this wheel/ pedal combo.

ilantis
ilantis

Lol , I paid my Logitech wheel 25€(30$) and it HAS force feedback

andartop
andartop

I got a "wheel stand pro" for my wheel and it's brilliant.

Build quality is excellent, it's very sturdy, easy to set up or tuck away in 5 min, had it for a year now and used it a lot and it's still as good as new.

The price is a steal for the quality you get, and their customer service was excellent. Would strongly recommend it to any serious racing fan.  

pl4yer_f0und
pl4yer_f0und

I'll stick with my fannatec csr, which is one of the best wheels out there... for $50 less than this with pedals. How do they expect to compete with a $300 price tag?

slippship
slippship

I'll stick to my G25, and PS3.

mlcarter815
mlcarter815

 @buccomatic Controllers work fine for arcade console games. Get on a PC simulator and a wheel is a must.

Halloll
Halloll

 @speedracer3190 I don't recommend getting the same play seat that I got because it have an annoying metal bar between your legs. look for yourself http://www.logitech.com/assets/27528/27528.png. you could get used to it but it will still give you trouble when you try left foot breaking and such. try for a good price look for a used one or try Amazon.

garysingh34
garysingh34

Play seat evolution of Amazon is fairly decent for not too high a price. I got the Driveforce GT and its perfect with GT5 and F1 games!