Fanatec CSL DD

Fanatec CSL DD Review

The CSL DD has made headlines with its incredibly affordable price entry into the Fanatec direct drive ecosystem.

Have you ever considered transitioning to a Direct Drive wheel, but found it just too expensive? I’ve certainly been on the same boat as you. However, look no further as the Fanatec CSL DD wheelbase provides the perfect entry price for consumers who are interested in experiencing the most realistic way to interact with a driving sim.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to receive this unit before the expected delivery date and I have to say, the CSL DD has far exceeded my expectations. Prior to this upgrade, the Logitech G29 was my primary driver, which adequately covered all my sim racing needs from Assetto Corsa Competizione to F1 2021. However, since using the a direct drive system, my appreciation for sim racing has beyond elevated.

What is Direct Drive?

A direct drive wheelbase delivers force feedback by using a motor that directly transmits forces to the shaft and wheel rim, without the use of gears or belts. With Gear and belt-driven systems, there is invariably a mechanism between the the wheel rim and the motor which diminishes the feeling of the force feedback. Additionally, Gear and belt-driven systems are usually built with lower quality parts that don’t have the same ability to deliver forces exceeding 25 Nm (i.e. Fanatec Podium Wheel Base DD2).

Pricing

In April 2021, Fanatec CEO, Thomas Jacermeier gave the sim racing world a tease on Fanatec Forums – “Millions of you asked for this product and we listened! A direct-drive wheel base with near-Podium performance at the price of an entry level wheel base!”. Prior to the CSL DD, direct drive wheelbases were known to be notoriously expensive, usually costing upward of $1,000, as they were the pinnacle of sim racing wheels.

However, thanks to the CSL DD, the cost to experience direct drive racing has dropped significantly. Starting at just $349.95, there is just no other wheelbase that offers the same level of precise force feedback at this price point. From the onset, the CSL DD can be purchased as a standalone device or it can be part of various bundles.

Product & PricingCompatibilityLink
CSL DD (5 Nm)PC XboxBuy Now
CSL DD (8 Nm)PC, XboxBuy Now
Gran Turismo DD Pro Wheel Base (8 Nm)PC, Xbox, PSBuy Now
Gran Turismo DD Pro (5 Nm)PC, Xbox, PSBuy Now
Gran Turismo DD Pro (8 Nm)PC, Xbox, PSBuy Now

The unit we have at The Downforce is the CSL DD (8 Nm), which is essentially the CSL DD (5 Nm) paired with the Boost Kit 180 which gives it an extra 3 Nm. It’s important to note that, unless you are buying the Gran Turismo DD Pro versions, you will need to buy a CSL DD compatible steering wheel which might set you back an extra few hundreds.

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Fanatec CSL DD (8 Nm)

The Unrivaled King of Price to Performance.

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Build Quality and Design

Right out the box, the CSL DD delivers in terms of build quality. The outer edges on the unit are constructed with aluminum and the front and rear of the wheelbase is constructed with plastic. The heavy duty materials, can be felt throughout the unit and the small form factor design is considerably heavy given that it is 5.51kg. Additionally, because the CSL DD is constructed from aluminum, the grooved body functions as a silent heatsink capable of sustaining lower temperatures over hours of use.

The barrel that is protruding out from the front of the unit is the quick-release shaft, which is built with aluminum. It’s important to note that the CSL DD is future-proof, meaning that it will also support the upcoming QR2 system. The automotive grade Quick Release system ensures strength and durability when connected to compatible Fanatec Steering wheels. Currently, I am running QR1 on my ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2.5 and the reliability of the connection between the wheel and wheelbase is impeccable.

Overall, there shouldn’t be any concerns with the build quality of the CSL DD because it is sturdy and rigid, especially when attached to a sim cockpit or stand.

Fanatec CSL DD
CSL-DD-TheDownforce

Direct Drive Force Feedback

Prior to entering the Fanatec ecosystem, I was using the Logitech G29 which utilizes a gear-driven system. The Logitech G29 is an excellent choice for those who are on a budget or are new to the sim racing experience. However, the feeling of the G29 compared to the CSL DD is night and day. The G29’s gear driven system often felt notchy and vague, diminishing the immersion of the simulator. This differs from the CSL DD as the direct drive system outputs precise feedback, giving you the confidence to drive drive to the absolute limit.

It’s certainly impressive how this torque can be achieved without the need for active cooling through the extruded and CNC-machined aluminum casting acting as the structural chassis as well as the heatsink. It’s honestly quite hard to believe that such a small device can deliver such incredible performance. The fidelity and smoothness that the wheelbase produces when on track in Assetto Competizione is spectacular. The finer details on surfaces like road, gravel surfaces and rumble stripes made the overall driving experience very immersive as I knew exactly when the car was going to lose traction and when driving off track. It’s no wonder that this wheel is advertised as ‘Not Suitable for Children’ on the Fanatec website. Every detail on the road can be felt and even the slightest damage to the car feels significantly amplified, thanks to the exceptionally crisp and dynamic force feedback.

The standard peak torque is 5 Nm, which can be upgraded to a maximum of 8 Nm with the optional Boost Kit 180. Personally, I purchased this wheelbase with the Boost Kit 180, and in my opinion, it is a must buy. At 5 Nm, the force feedback feels noticeably weaker compared to the 8 Nm of torque.

Compatibility

The CSL DD wheel base is currently compatible with most of the other products offered by Fanatec and is also designed to accommodate for future products such as the QR2 system. In terms of system compatibility, unfortunately the CSL DD only supports PC and Xbox and not PlayStation (cannot be upgraded to achieve compatibility). Alternatively, the Gran Turismo DD Pro is officially licensed for PlayStation 4 and 5 consoles.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Fanatec CSL DD offers an incredible price entry for a direct drive racing system that just isn’t rivaled by its competitors currently. Ever since I’ve upgraded to the CSL DD and the Fanatec ecosystem, I just can’t turn back to Logitech or Thrustmaster. This product is contrary to the saying, ‘you get what you pay for’, because the value far exceeds its price. However, I definitely do recommend the Boost Kit 180, if you’re serious about utilizing the technology to its fullest because there is still a stark difference between 5 Nm and 8 Nm.

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