Fanatec CSL Elite V2 Pedals | Long Term Review
After a few months of intensive use in competitive circuit racing, rally and drifting, I’ve drawn some big and potentially controversial conclusions with these Pedals. Has Fanatec’s involvement with real life motorsports raised the bar? (for product links, click “Show more”)
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Fanatec is renowned for its entry and mid level hardware. And without spoiling this review, I feel that this product has somewhat broken the matrix. If this is the new standard for a mid level Load Cell brake, we’re in for a hell of a year from Fanatec! I’m Laurence, welcome to the channel!
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The CSL Elite V2 Pedals are Fanatec’s mid level offering and come in at a very reasonable price tag. They’re an evolution of the unremarkable CSL Elite V1 Pedals which I had used before but never reviewed. I’ve used them since completing this review and it only reinforced everything I feel about how different the two iterations are. They look almost identical but looks can be deceiving. Without spoiling this review, these Pedals, namely the brake pedal, absolutely blew me away.
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.
- First Impressions
Despite having used the previous model, the CSL Elite V1 Pedals, I had never handled and installed them. To me, they looked identical to these V2s but I couldn’t be sure. I also make a point of avoiding Reviews of products that I haven’t reviewed yet so that my opinions are not influenced in any way. Needless to say, I was confused by these Pedals. As you’ll see in later sections, their performance doesn’t really match the price tag.
When I first sat into the rig and pressed the brake pedal I thought to myself: “Hang on a minute”. Bear in mind that I had just come from a €1,000 set of Pedals and I thought I’d need a few sessions to adjust to these Pedals which cost less than a third as much. Don’t get me wrong, the throttle and clutch are average. They’re completely functional and what I expect from Pedals in this price range. The hall sensors are nice and smooth and they don’t have any major flaws. The brake however is a different story. It’s exceptional and makes me want to spout cliché phrases, but I’m going to try to resist.
These Pedals can be mounted individually without the baseplate which is ideal for those on motion rigs or those who like running inverted Pedals. There’s no flex of note and these Pedals are very well built. They’re made from cast and machined aluminium with a powder coated finish.
These Pedals have been on sale for a few months now and retail at €299 or $299 USD. This is an exceptional price tag for a pedal set that offers an incredible driving experience. At this price point, many will never need to upgrade and it’s ideal for sim centres, eSports teams or anyone who is budget conscious. $299 would have been a great price for just the throttle and brake, but you also get a clutch AND they’ve included the performance kit with elastomers and spare spring. The brake is so good in its default configuration that I honestly believe they have included the performance upgrade kit for free because otherwise very few would ever bother to buy it.
- Installation – Hardware
Installation was nice and easy on my profile rig, although I had to provide my own t-slot nuts and bolts. For traditional rigs Fanatec has stuck to their proven mounting pattern and CSL Elite V1 owners will be delighted that Fanatec has listened to your feedback regarding the front mounting holes. There are handy little access holes with rubber plugs which allow you to get your Allen key in there for easy installation. The mounting holes for the bolts are also not fully enclosed making it a lot easier for you to slot the Pedals onto your rig.
The Pedals are quite modestly angled, mainly to accommodate a desk setup where the Pedals are on the floor. The rubber feet are surprisingly grippy but under heavy braking I highly advice having these Pedals mounted to a solid rig.
The pedal faces are covered with a rubber case which can be removed if you prefer a slippier pedal. I left mine on and found that they performed well with both boots and socks. These Pedals even come with both a USB cable to connect straight to the PC and a cable to connect straight to your Fanatec wheelbase. They’re really thought of everything and with console compatibility, this pedal set has a very bright future.
- Installation – Software
Software installation is super easy and not even really necessary for basic use. These Pedals came well calibrated and are super simple to use. There’s even an auto calibrate feature which works quite well. I mainly played with the manual calibration though so that I knew exactly what was going on. There’s a brake force slider which is basically a quick calibration for your maximum desired brake pressure and it doesn’t require you to press the Pedals at all when changing this setting. You don’t get fancy things like graphs to alter your force vs your pedal throw but honestly, at this price point, I wouldn’t expect that.
As I alluded to before, this throttle is pretty unremarkable. It’s definitely not bad, in fact it’s what I expect from a mid range throttle. I expected it to be more of an issue for me but my throttle control was really good out of the box and I don’t have many complaints other than the lack of adjustability which I didn’t expect to have at this price point anyways.
The magnetic hall sensor is accurate and stable. This is a high quality solution in a very simple design. I used these Pedals for months and initial concerns about the torsion springs used on these Pedals don’t worry me as much anymore. That said, I cannot guarantee their longevity or how they will fatigue. During my long term review, they’ve been flawless.
Many people want a clutch and only really use it for standing starts. With clutch paddles on wheels becoming more popular and less and less cars requiring a clutch, it’s refreshing to see that Fanatec still wants to offer a pure driving experience with these Pedals by including a clutch without any complex options.
As with the throttle, the clutch is unremarkable but very functional. Clutches in sims are a relatively binary thing anyway so other than lacking a bit of simulated immersion in the form of a bite point, this clutch is fine.
I already told you that this brake is exceptional but now I’m going to tell you why. Firstly, I always run hardware in its default configuration at the start of every review because that’s going to be the first experience for most customers. With a pedal set in this price range, most people come from inferior Pedals and their expectations are low, so many manufacturers put the weakest and cheapest elastomer stack in and allow people to be further blown away by their ability to upgrade the feel of the brake. The Fanatec Clubsport V3 Pedals are a good example of this.
However, Fanatec ships these CSL Elite V2 Pedals with an exceptionally configured 2 stage spring and elastomer stack on the Load Cell. The spring takes up the slack of the calipers and makes for a nice trail braking experience without too much thought or effort while the elastomers pick up the rest of your braking force. The spring is designed in such a way that it cannot deform when compressed meaning that when its job is done, the elastomers receive 100% of the remaining force.
Seeing one elastomer on a pedal set in this price range is already nice. Seeing 2 would be impressive but having 3 on here as well as the spring really sets these Pedals apart from the competition. The elastomers are all nice and short meaning that they are very difficult to deform. Fanatec could easily have saved lots of money on this design by including only one longer elastomer in this assembly but they’re really gone all out. Without beating around the bush, this brake setup in its default form is better than the CSP V3 Pedals with the performance kit. I know that that’s a big statement but this brake brings high end performance at a low end price tag. I’m blown away.
The Load Cell design is fundamentally different to the CSL Elite V1 Pedals and really behaves like a completely different product in a far higher class. This is by far the best value brake in sim racing and it’s incredibly difficult to beat.
The only real physical adjustments other than the brake elastomer stack is the distance between the Pedals. The design for doing this is modular and clever albeit a little time consuming and awkward. The heel plate is comfy and has a little rubber rest for your heels and if you want to make this into a kart style 2 pedal setup, you can do so quite easily.
The brake adjustments are great. Just look at this elastomer set. This is a $299 pedal set. I cannot stress this enough. Look at how well presented and clearly labelled these elastomers are. The default brake setup features 3x 65 shore elastomers. Fanatec has steered clear of using coloured elastomers, instead opting for sleek black styling instead. The shore of the elastomers, or the strength of the elastomers is clearly marked on each one. There are 9 elastomers and 2 springs. that’s over 50 possible combinations. For most, the default 65 shore elastomer stack will be plenty and will take some getting used to. If you need more, there’s plenty more on offer. I recommend keeping the lowest shore elastomers closest to the pedal face when coming up with your favourite combos. For example here, I use the harder spring, the 65 shore elastomer is closest to the pedal face, the 75 shore is in the middle and the hardest 85 shore is furthest away.
Swapping out elastomers is dead easy. You get these two orange handle thingies which are a bit odd until you know what they’re for. In theory, it’s a tool-less adjustment but these orange finger protectors make the job that much easier. Just make sure to remember the order you had the elastomers in. I always take a photo of the previous elastomer configuration with my phone just so I’m 100% sure that I can go back to the previous configuration without any doubt. Note that using more of the harder elastomers will reduce your brake pedal travel also. You cannot make this brake pedal rock solid like some high end Pedals, but I’m not sure you’d ever want to.
One thing to be aware of is that these Pedals are designed so that they are a compromise between a desk setup and a solid rig setup. If you have a solid rig but can not adjust the pedal plate angle, you will struggle with the angle of these Pedals and any other Pedals in this price range. The pedal faces are static so you don’t get any vertical adjustment in them which may bother some people.
Another thing which I’m used to doing with higher end Pedals but again, I cannot expect at this price point, is the ability to adjust the throw of the throttle. The throttle is lighter than I’d like it to be and it’s also a longer throw although in practice, there was no effect on my driving. This is just a personal preference and more comfortable during longer stints.
Finally, if you use a Fanatec wheelbase, you can adjust your maximum brake force on the fly without needing to open the software. This is really useful, especially for console users.
- Final Thought
This is by far the best brake pedal that you can buy in this price range. If you’ve skipped straight to this section, you’ve missed a lot of context. These Pedals enforce excellent braking techniques even if you’re not aware that those techniques exist. In my opinion, this brake pedal is better than the ClubSport V3 Pedals even with the performance kit. I have had to think long and hard about getting the guts to say that because on paper, it doesn’t make sense. Sure, the V3’s throttle and clutch are better, but the brake is the pedal that justifies the cost of high end Pedals. This brake is so good that you may never need to upgrade again, even if money was no object. These Pedals are worth every cent and then some. Their resale value will remain very high as I can’t imagine many coming available second hand. Console compatibility is also a major selling point.
While visually this looks like a minor change to the CSL Elite V1 Pedals, there are 2 main differences which make this a massive upgrade over its predecessor. The first one is minor but it’s the ability to mount it easily which takes some frustration out of the equation. The second is the completely redesigned Load Cell system and fully functional elastomer stack with simulated multiphase braking. The pedal face can handle a claimed 90kg of force while the Load Cell apparently is good for 200kg of applied force after leverage is taken into account. To be honest, I haven’t taken the brake pedal apart and I cannot confirm or deny these claims. I can confirm though that as a reviewer of multiple 200kg Load Cell pedal sets, this brake is up there with the best of them. So much so that if you put this brake pedal on a top end set of Pedals, I’d report to you that it belongs there. That’s how good this brake pedal is.
I usually let people make up their own minds about products and try not to sway them in one direction or another. However, as far as I can see, this pedal set is in a league of its own right now. I worry about the ClubSport v3 Pedals. They’re still good Pedals and decent value, but I can only imagine that the CSP V4 Pedals are just around the corner. Or better still, maybe we are finally getting Fanatec Podium Pedals this year? Has Fanatec’s exposure to real world racing raised the bar for all of its products going forward? Has Fanatec set the bar too high now?
I hope to be here to find out. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this review.
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 competing products with similar benefits are also listed. I’m Laurence, I stream every Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm UK/Irish time. Thanks again to Fanatec for making this review possible and to you for taking the time to watch, hit the thumbs up or comment. I’m Laurence, and I’ll chat to ye later.