Fanatec CSL DD 8Nm & McLaren GT3 V2 & WRC wheel rim | Long Term Review
Fanatec has completely dominated the sim racing hardware market in recent years. Having reviewed almost 20 wheelbases since I started this channel, it’s difficult to believe that this is the first Fanatec wheelbase I’ve ever reviewed. With all this perspective on the competition, how will the CSL DD fare in my hands? I’m Laurence, welcome to the channel
Product links for this bundle (affiliate links):
Fanatec Europe: https://fanatec.com/eu-en/racing-wheels-direct-drive-bases/racing-wheels/csl-dd-racing-wheel-wrc-for-xbox-pc-8-nm?utm_medium=FAP+Banner&utm_source=5ecd40d820ab1&utm_campaign=General+Links&a_aid=5ecd40d820ab1
Fanatec USA: https://fanatec.com/us-en/racing-wheels-direct-drive-bases/racing-wheels/csl-dd-racing-wheel-wrc-for-xbox-pc-8-nm?utm_medium=FAP+Banner&utm_source=5ecd40d820ab1&utm_campaign=General+Links&a_aid=5ecd40d820ab1
Fanatec Australia: https://fanatec.com/au-en/racing-wheels-direct-drive-bases/racing-wheels/csl-dd-racing-wheel-wrc-for-xbox-pc-8-nm?utm_medium=FAP+Banner&utm_source=5ecd40d820ab1&utm_campaign=General+Links&a_aid=5ecd40d820ab1
Fanatec JP: https://fanatec.com/ja-en/racing-wheels-direct-drive-bases/racing-wheels/csl-dd-racing-wheel-wrc-for-xbox-pc-8-nm?utm_medium=FAP+Banner&utm_source=5ecd40d820ab1&utm_campaign=General+Links&a_aid=5ecd40d820ab1
On the left you’ll see all the sections in this video. I’ve put timestamped links to each section in the description below. While you’re down there please hit the thumbs up button to help YouTube to suggest this video to others like you. 70% of the people who watch my videos are not subscribed. Please consider subscribing and hit the notification bell if you want to be notified about upcoming reviews.
By now most of you know that Fanatec is incredible at marketing their products. This very product began life as an April fools joke and upon release, eclipsed the sales of its more powerful siblings and has even been preferred by some reviewers. You see, usually, I never watch any reviews about a product that I’m likely to review in the future. But with the CSL DD, it was unavoidable. Both the good and the bad.
All of the products in this review were sent to me free of charge for the purposes of this review and nobody other than me has had any say in the content of this video. The links to this product and its competitors in the description are affiliate links and if used will earn this channel some money at no extra cost to you.
- First Impressions
Receiving and unboxing these products felt very like I went and bought something in the high street. Lovely simple boxes with cheesy slogans, well thought out packaging and nice shiny products. It was immediately clear though that the quality of materials was nowhere near as good as some of the competitors. The Fanatec Steering Wheels creek and squeak in your hands when you squeeze and manipulate the grips. However, and we’ll cover it in more detail later, Fanatec doesn’t have many competitors in this space. For the purposes of this review, I have focused on the 8Nm power supply. As standard these wheelbases are 5Nm and it seems that most people in my community just upgraded straight to the 8Nm as soon as they could.
I loved the wheel rims. In fact, I was asked by Fanatec which products I’d like to review and I specifically chose this wheelbase, the WRC rim and the McLaren GT3 V2. And right from the get go, it was a pretty damn good combo to be honest.
The CSL DD wheelbase alone is currently €499. If you already have a CSL Elite wheelbase, it’s a nice upgrade. However, if you still have a Fanatec Clubsport v2.5, I’d hold tough. I haven’t reviewed the CSW v2.5 on my channel, but I have owned and used one for many hours. It’s still a great wheelbase, so if you want a bargain, pick one up second hand in your local classifieds.
Anyways, I digress! I got the CSL DD Racing Wheel WRC version which is on sale at €649. The WRC rim on its own is €199. There are sometimes offers available. Recenly, Fanatec was selling the CSL DD with a rim and pedals for only €400! Keep an eye out for bargains especially if you’re not in a rush.
The other rim I got is arguably the best value steering wheel in sim racing: The Fanatec Mclaren GT3 V2 steering wheel. This thing has it all, and if you’re on a budget, it’s perfect. I even know people with DD1 and DD2 setups who still swear by this rim. Heck I even know people who changed wheelbase manufacturers and USB converted their Fanatec McLaren rim just so they could keep using it! That’s pretty telling. The McLaren rim comes in at only €199 too, so going by today’s prices, you can pick up this whole bundle for just over €1,000. Of course, you still need pedals, and even though this isn’t a pedals review, I highly recommend the Fanatec CSL Elite v2 pedals. They’re only €299 and feature a brake elastomer stack that some pedal sets twice its price would be jealous of.
Also worth noting that Fanatec were good enough to send me 2 of their metal QR1 quick releases which I did use. These QR1s cost €100 each which add 33% cost to each wheel. However, thanks to Milex from our community, I got to experience the plastic QR-lite also. I’ll cover how that went in a later section but it’s worth noting that my recommendation in this video is to save your money and just stick with the QR-lite.
- Installation – Hardware
Installation was relatively straight forward. There are two t-slot channels at the bottom of the base which accommodate custom oversized t-nuts. This makes it nice and easy to adjust your wheelbase forwards and backwards. However, the t-slot nuts fall out really easily so be careful.
I didn’t require any special mounting hardware and I am happy with the nice short form factor which meant that I could get nice and close to my screens. However, the fins on the outside of the wheelbase make this device a lot taller and wider than some of its main competitors.
Installing the quick releases on the Steering Wheels was a little bit cumbersome but not the end of the world. Personally I’d prefer to receive the wheel with the QR already attached, but given the various quick release options, I understand why this is the case.
The button caps were easy to change and make it nice and intuitive for someone to change their button layout. I had no issues with the hardware whatsoever.
- Installation – Software
I installed the Fanatec Control Panel and was also advised to install Fanalab software. Needing two pieces of software was a bit of a drag to be honest. It was hard to tell where one piece of software ended and the other one begun. Instantly I was met with firmware upgrades that were needed, so I followed the instructions. Both my base and wheel needed updating to the latest firmware so I did a one click all installation. I was met with very worrying times as my wheelbase and wheel rim stopped responding completely! There was a button to recover faulty device drivers and I clicked it and crossed my fingers. Luckily it did exactly what it was supposed to do and I was able to update the firmware of the base and steering wheel separately.
After that when I hooked up the second wheel rim it was plain sailing. So all in all, a nice and easy software experience despite the apparent need for two pieces of software. You can save profiles in Fanalab but you can’t name them. That was a bit confusing as I bounced between sims. Maybe I was missing a trick, I’m sure someone will tell you how to name your profiles in the comments section.
- Shipping, RMA and Returns
When a company makes hardware on this scale, there are going to be plenty of stories of bad experiences. Luckily, it’s not difficult to find lots of great stories too. While this is the first Fanatec wheelbase I’ve ever reviewed, it’s not the first Fanatec product I ever reviewed. In fact, both my Fanatec handbrake and Fanatec shifter both failed on me. I bought mine second hand and got some good mileage out of them but I feel like I need to be completely transparent.
I’ve not had any issues with this wheelbase though, and I believe that the general reliability of Fanatec hardware has improved over the years. I must stress that the materials are much more flimsy that all of Fanatec’s competitors. The Moza, Simagic and Logitech hardware are all far superior when it comes to the quality of materials used. I’m mainly referring to the QR and steering shaft, and I’ll cover those in the next section.
Finally, shipping from Fanatec is very expensive, especially for small items. I remember ordering a USB adapter for my shifter before and it cost me €27 to ship it even though the adapter cost less.
- Quick Release
It seems like forever ago that Fanatec announced their QR2, and I was lucky enough to actually use is at the Sim Racing Expo last year. I’m not sure what the hold-up is, but the only quick release options we have right now are decidedly average. The QR-lite feels like a mod that someone made for a Logitech G923. The QR1 is decent but still has lots of play in it which in this day and age is not well accepted by the sim racing community.
I’ll put it out there that even though I used both quick releases intensively for this review, I didn’t see any reason to justify the €100 per wheel ‘upgrade’ to the QR1. It still exhibits a lots of flex but honestly, it didn’t affect me or my driving. This was maybe down to the fact that this base has 8Nm of torque, which while plenty for an excellent force feedback experience, it’s not enough to put either of these quick releases to the test. That’s just my opinion, but honestly I expected to hate this QR based on everything I’ve heard. The QR-lite wasn’t exactly quick, but it was functional.
With the QR1 you get a little screw which reduces the play between the QR and shaft. I found that it made more of a difference with the WRC rim than it did with the GT3 rim. But I can only imagine after forking out €100 to upgrade my QR, how crap I would feel needing to screw in a bolt with an allen key every time i change wheels. If you don’t ever change rims, it may not be an issue for you. But for me, the QR-lite allowed me to forget about the bolt and just turn the collar to fasten the wheel to the base.
In a blind test, while driving normally, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which QR was installed on the wheel rim I was using. Perhaps with a higher torque wheelbase, but not with an 8Nm CSL DD.
- Steering Wheel Options
I specifically chose the WRC wheel and the McLaren v2 wheels because if I was in the market for a DD wheelbase, these two rims would give me everything I need and then some. They’re really really great value.
Let’s start with the WRC rim. Despite looking a little arcady, it’s a nice looking wheel with nice orange accents on the stitching and paddles. The buttons are basic but functional and plentiful. You do get a 5 way hat and it’s in a great position. As I mentioned before, the materials aren’t amazing. You can feel some creaking when you grab parts of the wheel but while driving, creaking wasn’t an issue for me. If you’re in the market for a round rim and on a budget, I actually recommend this wheel quite highly despite being realistic about your expectations. It’s light and nimble so the CSL DD can transmit every single detail. The 300mm size is plenty for all types of driving too. There’s an LED rev light and gear/speed indicator on the top of the wheel rim. This is really nice functionality.
Instead of stickers you get interchangeable button caps which I actually quite like too. Sure, the quality isn’t going to blow your mind, but I didn’t have any issues with them during my weeks of using these products.
Last but not least, the McLaren GT3 V2 wheel is a great piece of kit. Again, the quality of the materials isn’t amazing. But you get a pseudo carbon fiber effect on the face and some buttons in several shapes and sizes. The two larger N and P buttons are significantly heavier to press and protected by a plastic collar which makes them perfect for things you don’t accidentally want to press like pit limiter and ignition. The smaller buttons are replaceable. Rather than attaching stickers, the whole button cap is replaceable which is really cool and leads to a high quality end product. At first I didn’t know what these dots on the front of the face plate were, but a community member highlighted that they are for easy sticker placement which again, is a pretty nice addition.
But the functionality goes far beyond the basics here. There’s a full 7-way hat but it’s a little bit low on the wheel so you need to adjust your grip to access it. There are toggle switches too which are ideal for lights and wipers. Again let me remind you that this is a €200 steering wheel. There’s no way they’re making any money on this, surely? There are two functional rotaries on the front plate and a third to switch between various clutch paddle modes. Yep, that’s right! This thing has clutch paddles. They work great. If you’ve never experienced a clutch paddles launch, you’re missing out. This wheel costs less than some high end wheels charge for the paddles alone. That’s crazy good value. Finally, the lightweight shifter paddles are a single piece meaning that you can grab a drink on a straight and still shift up and down with either hand. The shifts actually feel really nice and aren’t too loud. The ergonomics of the grips are decent but I’d prefer for them to be a bit more chunky. At 300mm, this wheel is a great size for gt3 and formula driving. There’s even a little screen on it that shows the gear you’re in and the speed you’re going. It’s really rich in functionality.
I could talk about this wheel all day long, but let me leave you with this: If you’re in the market for a CSL DD, you’d be mad not to buy this steering wheel rim.
I would go as far as to say that if Fanatec released a higher quality version of this exact wheel, they could easily charge twice as much and people would queue up to buy them.
- Force Feedback
The force feedback was surprisingly good. I get to use wheelbases with all levels of power so this is one of the lower powered DD wheelbases that I’ve reviewed. With that, there were some details that lacked but none that affected my driving adversely. I was more than happy with the force feedback. If I didn’t have additional wheelbases to review, I would have kept it on the rig for a bit longer. It’s a great all rounder and it performed really well in every sim I threw at it.
The force feedback clarity comes in part by the lightweight and small diameter wheels, but I also think that Fanatec have done quite a good job in interpreting what the sims are trying to tell us. I wasn’t around for the earlier firmware versions but when I expressed my delight with the force feedback of the CSL DD, community members told me that their firmware updates over the past two years have made it a completely different beast.
- Final Thought
That’s a lot to digest. While on the one hand, I have quality concerns and these products don’t feel as rewarding to touch as some of their competitors, they come to life when you use them and all the things that people love to complain about kind of become a little less important. I’m used to high end equipment, but there’s some functionality like the little leds and screens that you just don’t get with the competition. It feels kind of similar to when I upgraded my Fanatec Clubsport V1 pedals to a different brand and missed the little rumble motors. I think that Fanatec broke the mould with some of these features and didn’t quite realise that they bring people like me a lot of joy.
But therein lies my main concern. While this product is great in its own right, I’m worried about Fanatec. I’m worried about their lack of stock. I’m worried about their delayed releases of products like the BMW and Bentley rims, and the infamous QR2. Fanatec feels a little stale right now and it would be a shame for them to fall from grace. They need to crank out a 12nm and 18nm version of the CSL DD as soon as possible along with a hardcore quick release. I think that the force feedback that I experienced lacks nothing other than power. It seems such a simple prospect for Fanatec to fulfil.
If you are in the market for your first Direct Drive wheelbase and considering Fanatec, I recommend this wheelbase without any hesitation. There’s plenty of power in the 8Nm version and the wheel rims are affordable and feature rich. For console owners it’s an absolute no brainer. It’s much better value than the Logitech or Thrustmaster offerings. I do lack console experience these days so I didn’t cover that aspect in this review. If you’d like to know more about console compatibility, I highly recommend watching Boosted Media’s highly informative videos that go into more detail about compatibility.
Should you decide to buy this product, I have included links in the description which when used earn some money for this channel. There’s no obligation to do so but your support is appreciated immensely. Details about other companies with similar benefits are also listed. I’m Laurence, I stream every Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm UK/Irish time. Thanks again to Fanaec for making this review possible and to you for taking the time to watch, hit the thumbs up or comment with your experiences or opinions. I’m Laurence, and I’ll chat to ye later