Home » Sim Racing » Fanatec CSL DD Review: Features, Boost Kit & More (2021)

Fanatec CSL DD Review: Features, Boost Kit & More (2021)

Any self-respecting sim racer with petrol in their veins gets excited when they have new toys to play with. So when Fanatec announced that they’re releasing a new direct drive wheel base for under four hundred bucks, it got tongues-a-waggin’.

CSL DD wheel base close up
A close-up of the CSL DD

Sim racing isn’t cheap. Even if you race on Xbox or Playstation, shelling out for a console and wheel and pedal set will still cost about $800 if you want any degree of realism. Moving to PC will empty your wallet of thousands of dollars.

So, seeing an industry giant like Fanatec releasing an affordable direct drive wheel base got our attention. 

Direct drive wheel bases perform, as their name suggests, by directly driving your wheel. Your steering wheel is mounted straight into the motor, and there are no gears or belts, so the feedback you get when you kiss the apex, ride the rumble strip, or (as happens from time to time) crash is instantaneous.

The CSL is designed and engineered in Germany, which is the gold standard for quality. Some of the best and most reliable road cars are German, so we’ve got our fingers crossed that some of that Bavarian magic has rubbed off on the CSL DD Wheel base to give us a solid and reliable product. ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ and all that.

There’s relatively little information about the CSL DD at this moment in time, but we’ve scoured every corner of the internet (does the internet have corners?) to bring you everything we could find.

Here’s what we know so far.

Pros

  • Most Affordable Direct Drive Wheel base On The Market
  • Compact Footprint
  • Carbon Fibre Composite Motor Shaft
  • Upgradable For Compatibility With Future Fanatec Products
  • Standard Tuning Menu Helps Beginners

Cons

  • Not Compatible With Playstation
  • No Table Clamp Included

Price

$349.95 – Considering the CSL DD wheel base is direct drive, the $350 price point is super respectable. It gives people on a tighter racing budget the opportunity to sample some direct drive goodness, so you won’t have to remortgage your house or sell the family dog.  

If you shop around and look for “budget” direct-drive wheel bases, you’ll still get stung for about $700, which is (if you’re not great at math) twice as expensive as Fanatec’s CSL DD. 

Of course, as this wheel base hasn’t been released yet, we still don’t know what the performance is like, but Fanatec is a savvy company that builds premium peripherals.

Release Date 

As I write this sentence, Fanatec is taking pre-orders for the CSL DD Wheel base ready for their November 8th, 2021 launch. So, if you’re going to order one, it’ll arrive well in time for a Christmas treat for yourself or another petrol-head in your life.

Compatibility

PC: For PC racers, this wheel base is PC-ready when you combine it with most Fanatec steering wheels. 

Xbox: While it’s great that this wheel base is Xbox compatible, it will only work with Fanatec steering wheels that a licensed by Xbox. The CSL DD will work on Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X.

Playstation: Unfortunately for Playstation racers, this wheel base is NOT compatible with any Playstation console. And we’re not sure there are any plans to change that in the future.

Here’s a list of Fanatec wheels and other peripherals that are compatible with this wheel base.

  • Podium Wheels 
  • ClubSport Wheels
  • CSL Wheels
  • Any Fanatec Pedals (adapter cables might be required on pedals without RJ12 connection)
  • ClubSport Shifters (including ClubSport Static Shifter Paddles)
  • ClubSport Handbrake V1 and V1.5
  • RennSport Cockpits
  • ClubSport Table Clamp V2
  • CSL DD Table Clamp
  • Boost Kit 180
  • Podium Mounting Brackets

What’s In The Box?

We haven’t been able to get our racing gloves on one yet, so we haven’t experienced first-hand what comes with the CSL DD wheel base. However, the Fanatec website lists the following items as being included in the box you’ll receive.

  • CSL Wheel Base
  • Rail Mount System T-Nuts (x4)
  • USB Cable (Type C to Type A)
  • Quick Guide
  • 90 Watt Power Cable (Regional)

If you choose to upgrade to the Boost Kit 180, you won’t receive the 90-watt power cable, as you won’t need it as an energy source.

A Closer Look

Until the CSL DD wheel base becomes available to the public (or Fanatec starts handing out review units), we won’t truly know how good it actually is (when it drops we’ll do a full CSL DD review). We have to wonder how many corners Fanatec cut to be able to justify such a massive price drop.

Imagine Aston Martin released a new Vantage and dropped the price from $140,000 to $70,000. You’d hear the alarm bells ring from miles away and wonder, “How much fat did Aston Martin trim to so drastically reduce the price of the car?” 

It’s not only the price point that Fanatec has cut in half either (almost); the size of this wheel base is remarkable considering it’s a direct drive motor. While the width and height of the unit are relatively similar to the DD1 and DD2, they’ve managed to chop approximately 13cm off the depth when compared to its big brother and sister.

When you’re struggling for space, a smaller wheel base is hugely beneficial.

There’s an old US Navy acronym: K.I.S.S. or ‘keep it simple stupid. It’s built around the premise that the more components a device has, or the more complex an idea is, the more significant the chance is that it will fail.

More affordable wheel bases and sets are belt or gear driven which, as well as not being as forthcoming with feedback, are more likely to break down given the additional parts it takes to drive the wheel.

While we’re not 100% sure (because we haven’t got one yet), it’s more than likely that the CSL DD will run a lot more quietly than belt and gear-driven wheels too.

Fanatec has incorporated what they called their patented “FluxBarrier Technology,” which, according to the brand, gives you a smoother driving experience and gives you crisp feedback straight into your hands. We won’t know whether this technology is the real deal or if it’s just more marketing hype until we test it out. 

To save weight and increase the responsivity of your steering wheel inputs, Fanatec has implemented a carbon fiber composite motor shaft which they claim is an industry first on a wheel base of this type.

One area that we know Fanatec has made cuts is torque. The CSL DD wheel base comes with standard peak torque of 5Nm, though you can upgrade this, which we’ll get to shortly. 

This level of torque is significantly lower than the DD1 (up to 20Nm) and the DD2 (up to 25Nm), which is not surprising when you consider you could buy four or five CSL DDs for the same price. 

Boost Kit 180

If you want more torque at your fingertips and have a little (lot) extra cash, you can buy the optional boost kit, which is functional with the CSL DD wheel base. 

This power supply was designed specifically for the CSL DD and increases the standard peak torque from 5Nm to 8Nm, which improves the strength of the forced feedback while simultaneously letting you feel each nuanced bump and movement through your hands.

Fanatec will charge you almost $150 for those extra 3 Nms. We suggest trying out the standard motor base first to see how it works for you.

Features

Despite the exceedingly low price point of the CSL DD wheel base, Fanatec has tried to include as many features as they could so you can get the most out of your product and your racing experience. These include:

Ports: You’ll get nowhere fast with your brand new wheel base if you can’t plug your other peripherals into it, right? You can plug a power supply, USB-C, Fanatec Dataport C, Shifter 1, Shifter 2 (sequential), Pedal set, and handbrake into this wheel base.

Upgradable Quick Release System: This system uses what Fanatec calls an “automotive-grade all-aluminum quick release system” so you can quickly install or remove a compatible Fanatec steering wheel onto your rig.

With the impending release (if you’ll pardon the pun) of the QR2 (Quick Release 2) system, this wheel base is primed and ready for the upgrade if that’s the direction you want to take.

Passive Heat Sink: The wheel base’s housing is designed and machined, so the wheel base automatically keeps itself cool, which is not only energy-efficient, it’ll probably be pretty quiet too.

Tuning Menus: There are standard and advanced tuning menus so beginners and advanced sim racers alike can tinker with their settings like a race mechanic under the hood of a race car.

Optional Extras

As this wheel base is still pre-release, there aren’t many accessories you can buy to enhance your CSL DD experience; in fact, there are only two, and we’ve already looked at the boost kit.

The only other accessory at this moment in time is the CSL DD Table Clamp. Now we initially listed the lack of a table clamp as a “Con” at the start of the article, but in reality, it all depends on your current setup.

If you’re going to install this wheel base into your cockpit or playseat, you don’t need a table clamp, so not having a clamp as standard helps keep the price point down. However, if you need a table clamp, you’ll have to pay extra.

That said, the clamp is a little under thirty bucks, so it’s not going to break the bank.

Alternatives

If you feel the CSL DD wheel base isn’t for you, what are your options? 

If the new budget-friendly wheel base doesn’t suit your needs, there are a few options if you’re looking for a more premium rig or if you’re looking to get out on the race track for the very first time.

We’ve listed listed below a few of the vast and varied choices available to the sim racing community.

Fanatec DD1 or DD2: From the same garage as the CSL DD, you have the Podium DD1 and the DD2 wheel bases. While these wheel bases appear to be superior in every way to the CLS DD, they’re also way more expensive. $1200 and $1500 respectively.

Simucube 2 Sport: For a similar price point to the Fanatec DD1, you can pick up the highly-rated Simucube 2 Sport direct drive wheel base. 

While the Fanatec base is the equivalent of an Apple product (only compatible with Fanatec products), the Simucube 2 sport gives you a little more freedom with accessories and attachments.

Logitech G920/G29: If you’re looking to test the sim racing waters and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a high-end racing rig, consider an out-of-the-box setup. You can buy the Logitech G920/G29 for a similar price to the CSL DD wheel base, but you’ll get the wheel base, steering wheel, pedal set, and (in some cases) the shifter.

The wheel base on this setup is gear-driven, and you’ll have to temper your expectations; you’re not going to get an authentic sim-racing experience from the G920/G29, but it can act as an excellent gateway into sim racing if you’re on a tight budget.

Final Thoughts

Though we still have so much to learn about the Fanatec CSL DD motor base, we’re still super excited to see premium peripherals becoming more widely accessible to sim racers.

Sim racing is an expensive hobby by its very nature, so bringing additional members into our community with more affordable equipment is a step in the right direction.

It’s not just newbies who can benefit from this cut-price wheel base. Thanks to its reduced footprint, racers might consider down-sizing their base if they’re short on space or if they want their monitor closer to their wheel. Additionally, they could save a few bucks by selling their old motor base.

There’s a multitude of reasons to buy the CSL DD, but we’ll have to wait until the motor base is out in the wild until we find out if it will live up to our expectations.

Last Updated on July 4, 2021