Fanatec CSL DD


Many of us still remember April 1st 2021. A Fanatec Direct Drive wheelbase with a price tag of €349.95 seemed to be the April fool’s joke of the century, given the prices of the existing DD1 and DD2. However, nothing turned out to be less true! The Fanatec CSL DD was soon officially announced and a few months later the first orders were already shipped and delivered. The first impressions look very promising and now it’s our turn to test and review this new, and maybe even revolutionary, wheelbase!

We are going to test the Fanatec CSL DD with a ClubSport F1 2020 Limited Edition steering wheel on a FormulaSimRigs FXU cockpit with standard Side Mount. When FSR releases an Ultimate Wheel Mount for the CSL DD, a short update on this will be added later. We tested the Fanatec CSL DD at the same time as the new Fanatec CSL Pedals with Clutch Kit.

Fanatec CSL DD

The CSL DD is Fanatec’s new showpiece, or as they call it; The New StandarDD. This all-new wheelbase introduces Direct Drive technology, which means there’s a motor in the wheelbase that transfers power directly to your steering wheel without addition of gears or belts to dilute the force feedback, for the first time in their CSL line. The result of this is a Direct Drive wheelbase which is much more affordable than the Podium wheelbases and which directly replaces the previously very popular CSL Elite V1.1 single-belt driven wheelbase. This makes the Direct Drive technology available to a larger group of users than before. The CSL DD is compatible with PC and Xbox, Fanatec has communicated that a PlayStation compatible wheelbase will be released at a later date.

The Fanatec CSL DD Wheelbase sells for €349,95 excluding shipping costs. For that price the wheelbase comes with the standard 90W power supply with which the wheelbase can deliver 5Nm of torque at its peak. As a comparison; the CSL Elite V1.1 delivered a maximum of 6Nm of torque. Optionally, the CSL DD can be purchased with the so-called Boost Kit 180; a power supply that can deliver 180W and thus boost the CSL DD to a maximum of 8Nm of torque, which is comparable to the Fanatec CSW 2.5 wheelbase. The CSL DD with Boost Kit 180 bundle is available for €479.95 excluding shipping. Purchasing the bundle you will receive the Boost Kit 180 power supply instead of the 90W variant. If you want to purchase the Boost Kit 180 separately, it costs €149.95 excluding shipping.

Packaging & Contents

As always, the Fanatec shipment is delivered neatly and on time by UPS in the characteristic brown outer boxes. When we open it, we immediately see the sleek, white product boxes of the CSL DD and the Boost Kit 180. Our CSL DD also comes with the standard 5Nm power supply so that we can test and assess the CSL DD with both adapters!

When opening the product boxes, the contents are nice and straightforward. In the box of the CSL DD we first see the recognizable black polystyrene foam that protects the wheelbase, with the booklets and stickers that you can expect with every Fanatec product on top of it. When removing the foam, which has been completely cut out internally in the shape of the wheelbase, we immediately see the CSL DD, which has been given some extra protection with a plastic bag around it. In addition, you will find a small white box with the USB cable and T-nuts which you can use to mount the wheelbase. If you want to make use of those to mount the CSL DD to your rig, it’s important to know that there are no matching m6 bolts included; the required length for this depends on the mount of your sim rig.

Engineering & Quality

The Fanatec CSL DD has a Direct Drive motor which has been completely developed by Fanatec, in Germany, for sim racing. According to Fanatec this is the first industrial motor to use a carbon fiber composite motor shaft, which should provide a faster, more precise experience thanks to a lower rotational mass. The FluxBarrier™ technology used should ensure an efficient and smooth transfer of the force feedback. The entire motor is passively cooled, which means there are no fans in the wheelbase that will blare on windmill setting during an intense racing session. Furthermore, the same CSL DD uses the same Hall-effect sensors as is used in the Podium wheelbases.

The CSL DD is housed in a body which largely consists of CNC-machined aluminum supplemented with plastic parts. The aluminum frame of the wheelbase has rails similar to those of aluminum extrusion T-slot profiles, which allows for very versatile mounting options with T-nuts. The CSL DD has the standard aluminum Fanatec Quick Release which can be upgraded to the Fanatec QR2 quick release, which has yet to be released. The following inputs and outputs can be found at the rear of the CSL DD; power supply, shifter, shifter 2 (sequential), pedals, handbrake, USB-C and Fanatec DataPort-C.

Despite its compact size, the CSL DD has a significant weight and feels very solid. The aluminum frame adds to this solid feel and suggests that what you’re holding is definitely not a toy. The output shaft of the wheelbase rotates smoothly and play is nowhere to be found. If we really have to mention something that in our view could have been better; we think the power button feels quite plastic and pressing it does not give any particularly pleasant feedback. Now this is only a small complaint, but it is in fact the only part of the wheelbase that you touch on a daily basis, so despite the fact that the button looks nice, we would have appreciated it if it was given just that little bit of extra attention.

Usage

To get things started we firstly mount the CSL DD Wheelbase on our FormulaSimRigs FXU cockpit. With the FSR CSL DD Side Mount and the handy T-slot rails in the housing of the CSL DD, this is easy peasy. Then it’s a matter of adjusting everything, tightening it definitively, connecting it and starting it up for the first time! To start with, as usual, we first checked the Fanatec drivers and firmware for updates and updated them where necessary. Fanatec now has a new software package that makes managing and updating your Fanatec hardware a lot easier and more pleasant. New to this software is the choice between a ‘standard’ and ‘advanced’ tuning menu, in which you can adjust the settings of the wheelbase. This comes in useful for the sim racers who are just starting out and aren’t ready to adjust a lot to their settings. After we’ve prepared everything, it’s time to test!

The first couple of days we used the CSL DD with the 90W power supply which delivers peak power of 5Nm of torque. We tested the wheelbase in F1 2021 and Assetto Corsa with GT3 and DTM cars. In both games we initially started from the recommended settings as they can be found on the Fanatec forum, in our experience this usually provides a good basis with a balanced experience where the Force Feedback comes through well across the board and will not clip when exerting heavier forces. At the time of writing it is still necessary to use the CSL DD in the “CSW V2.5 Compatibility Mode” because the CSL DD is not recognized as such by all games/sims. Using the compatibility mode, the CSL DD will be interpreted as a CSW V2.5 meaning you can use it in your favorite sims.

Our very first impression of the CSL DD at 5Nm can be summed up in one word; smooth! The wheelbase is simply extremely smooth and immediately provides a very pleasant driving experience. Our second impression however is that the power of the wheelbase still feels somewhat underwhelming, especially compared to the CSL Elite V1.1 which only has 1Nm extra but seemed to have some extra punch all throughout. We dug into both the ingame settings and the Fanatec Tuning Menu to play around with the settings and try to get a little more out of it. Increasing the FFB in the games provides that little bit of extra feedback that suddenly gives you a lot more information. However, this causes clipping very quickly, so that’s not quite what we want. Increasing the ‘damper’ setting in F1 2021 provides more overall perceptible resistance felt through the wheels, but comes at the expense of the wonderfully smooth feeling of the CSL DD and makes it more difficult to react quickly to sudden feedback. In the end we arrived at FFB value just slightly above recommended and a higher representation of the kerbs/rumble strips. This gives us more moments of noticeable feedback and allows us to feel a little more of the car when needed without losing out over the rest of the range.

The information that the CSL DD at 5Nm presents to you is fast, smooth and precise, but not very convincing in what it wants to tell you, so you have to be more aware of the information that the wheelbase is trying to convey. After a few days we are used to it and still are very positive about the pleasant, smooth driving experience and we conclude that for the money and the position it occupies on the market it is just a very pleasant wheelbase to drive. If you already have a CSL Elite V1.1 wheelbase and you want to buy the CSL DD with standard 5Nm power supply, we would not immediately say that it is a must-have upgrade, unless you do this for the looks, the possibility to upgrade later, because your old wheelbase is broken or because it fits better in your sim rig. If this is your first Fanatec wheelbase to get on, it is definitely a good buy that will provide a very pleasant driving experience and the possibility to boost it when you’re ready.

Despite the fact that the first days with the standard 90W power supply felt wonderfully smooth certainly were a pleasure to drive, we became more and more curious about the Boost Kit 180, which upgrades the wheelbase from a maximum of 5Nm to a maximum of 8Nm of torque. Disconnect the 90W power supply, connect the Boost Kit 180, and start up! This small change creates a whole new first impression; Wow! This is a slight understatement, because what a big difference it is. From the first few meters, the CSL DD feels like a completely different wheelbase and we immediately feel the real feeling of a Direct Drive coming through our steering wheel, slightly hinting to the feeling a Fanatec DD1 gives us in the back of our mind. During our testing laps in 2021 F1 and Assetto Corsa, we feel more consistent forces across our steering wheels across the board, making the overall driving experience feel a lot heavier and more immersive. We receive more information and therefore feel the smaller details better, but even with more strenuous actions we have to work harder to get the car around and we also feel the wheelbase doing its work on our (untrained) arm muscles . We soon notice that, compared to the standard 90W power supply, we get a much better idea of ​​what the car is doing on the track and that finding the limit is a lot easier. Where with the 5Nm/90W adapter we mainly had to work with the more subtle information we received, which made anticipation more difficult, the Boost Kit 180 makes it a lot easier to feel when we start to oversteer before it actually happens. This makes catching the car a lot easier and immediately provides more immersion. Of course we also dived into the settings after this, but in the end we made no further significant adjustments compared to the previous test. You can of course always still try to adjust it to your tase, in the end it remains personal preference and ‘trial & error’.

Conclusion

After prolonged use in both F1 2021 and Assetto Corsa and participating in several online races, we are very positively surprised about the Fanatec CSL DD. The passively cooled wheelbase remains nice and cool and is wonderfully quiet thanks to the absence of a fan. The CSL DD is a very smooth, pleasant experience with the standard 90W power supply, but with the Boost Kit 180 transforms into a completely different wheelbase that puts you to work, provides more immersion and offers you much more information to work with.

The CSL DD Wheelbase is available at Fanatec with the standard power supply for €349.95 excl. shipping, which gives you a very nice, smooth Direct Drive wheelbase with a maximum of 5Nm of power. The CSL DD with Boost Kit 180 bundle is available for €479.95 excluding shipping. With this bundle you will receive the Boost Kit 180 power supply instead of the 90W variant with your CSL DD. If you want to purchase the Boost Kit 180 separately, it’s price will be €149.95 excluding shipping.

We get the feeling that the CSL DD is designed and intended to be used with the Boost Kit 180, and see this as a very competitive wheelbase for its position in the market. If you come from, let’s say, a CSL Elite V1.1 the CSL DD with Boost Kit 180 is a very good upgrade, especially if you find the DD1/DD2 just too expensive. With the standard 90W power supply, we do not think the CSL DD is a must-buy if you already have a CSL Elite V1.1, for example, unless you just personally feel like it’s a nicer looking wheelbase, you would like to prepare to upgrade to 8Nm in the future, or when the CSL DD is a better fit for your rig. Still, we think it’s good to see a Direct Drive in a lower price range available from now on and we think Fanatec, as claimed, certainly sets a new standard with this wheelbase. We are curious to see what this will bring to the sim racing world in the future!

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