Here at Treq we were one of the lucky few who got their hands on early on Fanatec’s latest wheel base: the CSL DD. And of course we strapped it on as soon as possible to give this new base a go! Usually we don’t write reviews, but since we got so many questions about our opinion of this new product, we thought: why not? We hope it helps those who are still left wondering. It’s tested by Jim, who has quite a lot of experience with Fanatec’s CSL v1.1 and the Thrustmaster T300, and owns a Fanatec DD1 at home with a scary amount of driving hours on it!
WHAT’S INSIDE THE BOX
As usual, Fanatec delivers on their packaging. They know it’s part of the experience and they make sure it’s a joy to unbox. After opening the box you’ll find your power supply on top: this is either the standard supply, or the ‘Boost Kit 180’, which ramps up the torque of the wheel from 5 to 8 Nm. If you order the Boost Kit, you will not get the standard power supply. Which, environmentally speaking, is a good thing. Luckily, we have both. We started the test with the standard power supply, and switched to the boost kit later on.
This is what you’ll find after unboxing the CSL DD:
What we’ve got:
– CSL DD Wheel base
– USB C to USB A data cable
– Power supply with UK and EU connector
– 4x M6 slide-in-nuts
– Fanatec sticker set
– User manual
At the back of the wheel base you’ll find all the inputs to connect your pedals and shifters.
MOUNTING THE CSL DD
The mounting options for the CSL DD must be one of the most versatile on the market. The base is made from extruded aluminium (just like our simulators) and is delivered with 4 M6 slide-in-nuts. You can either choose to slide these into the side of the base to have the cool looking side mounting, or you can slide them in the bottom to get the more regular bottom mounting. The profiles are aligned in such a way, you can create the same mounting pattern as the older Fanatec wheel bases. This means the base is hugely compatible with all rigs, frames and stands in the market.
The shaft sticking out of the base is quite long though. We don’t really know why, but this does mean that you have to adjust the setup of your rig after upgrading from a CSL or CSW base. The steering wheel will be a bit closer to you.
Once mounted, installed and ready to go, it’s time for the most important thing: racing! We’ve hooked it up to the Fanatec Formula V2 wheel (the blue PlayStation edition) and took the F3 car in iRacing for a spin. The first thing you notice is that this wheel base is incredibly smooth. It took some time to get the right Force Feedback settings, but once dialed in, you can feel every little detail this sim has to offer. And the base is so quiet! You can only hear the magnetic shifters doing its work, but the motor is absolutely silent. That’s a big difference coming from the old belt driven CSL. It’s a huge plus if you’re using speakers instead of headphones. The amount of force available was a little let down though. Because of the price gap it’s difficult to compare it with a DD1 in this regard, but the torque available doesn’t do the term ‘direct drive’ justice just yet.
After a session in iRacing we booted up F1 2020. It took a lot of time to get the wheel and our pedals calibrated (but this is more on Codemasters than on Fanatec), but once we got going properly you could definitely notice improvements compared to the CSL v1.1. The base offers much more details, especially on kerbstones.
CSL DD VERSUS THE CSL v1.1
The CSL v1.1. was a belt driven wheel and seems discontinued by Fanatec. It is replaced by this new CSL DD, and it is definitely an improvement! It starts off with the build quality. The DD is mostly made out of aluminium and feels quite heavy. The v1.1 is made mostly from plastic. You notice the v1.1 has some flex inside the base when you put some up and down forces on the wheel shaft. The DD has none of this!
Once turned on, you notice how smooth the CSL DD is. It also produces much less noise compared to the v1.1. When driving you quickly feel the DD has a lot more detail. You can feel every rumble in the kerbstones shaking underneath you. Over and understeer are also better to be dealt with. If you compare force: they are more of the same. This is the only thing the CSL DD falls short compared to its bigger brothers. But overall, in terms of smoothness, build quality and noise production: it’s definitely a plus compared to its older brother.
CSL DD VERSUS THE DD1
In terms of detail, both the CSL DD and the DD1 are almost on the same level. The CSL DD might even feel a bit smoother! But the DD1 has one huge advantage: immersion. The CSL DD falls short in holding force. Although you can feel details and correct your car better than with belt driven wheels, you just don’t have to ‘work’ for it. The DD1 (and other high-end direct drive wheels) really make you sweat. They give you the feeling you’re driving a real race car. They also give you the fear for crashing (hitting a wall at the right angle might slap the wheel out of your hands). The CSL DD unfortunately just doesn’t. But of course this has to be expected, seeing the price gap between both wheel bases (€350,- for the CSL and €1200,- for the DD1).
BOOST KIT 180
An additional option for the CLS DD is the so called boost kit. This replaces the original power supply with a 180 Watt version, boosting the maximum amount of torque from 5 Nm to 8 Nm. And wow, this makes a huge difference! Much more than expected. It transforms the wheel base from a nice entry level base to a serious piece of machinery. During normal driving the base gets close to the feel of a DD1. It maintains its super smooth delivery, but feels so much more powerful compared to the smaller power supply. It won’t try to break your wrists in a crash like the DD1 or DD2, but we are probably going to switch back to the standard supply when we let kids under the age of 14 drive our simulators. The higher holding force in the middle of a corner just gives a much better and more realistic experience.
The boost kit also helps with bigger wheel diameters. The bigger the wheel, the harder the base has to work to give you the same feeling of power. A 270mm Formula wheel is okay for the standard supply. But if you wish to use, for example, the 320mm Porsche rim, you’re going to want the extra power.
The CSL DD is a fine piece of kit. It’s a definite improvement over the belt driven CSL v1.1. It’s a very good entry level wheel base, and a great way to get into the Fanatec Ecosystem. But although it’s a direct drive wheel base, it still falls short on power. If you’re already racing with a DD base like the DD1 or a Simucube, you’re not in the market for this one. And if you already own a T300, an older CSL or a CSW, we don’t think it’s worth upgrading to the CSL DD without the boost kit. But if you have a proper sim rig and are really into sim racing, we recommend the base with the Boost Kit add-on for 100%! This transforms the wheel base from an entry level kit, to a serious piece of equipment. We figure that people without the boost kit will want to upgrade later on. With the boost kit though, the CSL DD might be the last wheel base you’ll ever purchase.
Disclaimer: we have no affiliation with Fanatec. We bought the CSL DD ourselves because we thought it would be the perfect base for our coaching sessions. And our honest opinion is: it probably is!