Fanatec Clubsport Review
For the past two months I’ve been playing with some new sim racing hardware (you may have seen a few posts on social media a while back), we’ve got our hands on the full Fanatec Clubsport lineup and thought it was about time to do an in-depth review on all of the products.
The presentation quality of the Fanatec goods is noticeable from the moment you remove them from the plain brown-box outer packaging that they are delivered in, and reveal the glossy, photo-lined inner packaging, giving you a glimpse at the products that wait inside.
I must admit to not having many unboxing photos, simply because I was like a kid at (2 weeks after) Christmas, and had everything out in a big mess, going sporadically from one high end item to the next and back again, oohing and ahhing over each product. The look and feel of everything here is miles above anything I’ve experienced before, it’s a bit overwhelming.
No time for that now though, onto the Hardware Setup.
After removing everything from it’s packaging, and having already removed my old hardware from my ‘rig’, it was time to mount the Fanatec Clubsport Range. I setup everything in stock form, the way it came out of the box in order to give it a go at default setting before using any of the adjustments, differently tensioned springs or the different pedals faces included in the package.
I had no issues mounting any of the Clubsport range to my lowly GT Omega Wheel Stand, which comes pre-drilled for the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2 and V3 Pedals. Everything went mounted and plugged in easily, especially as I had already read that it’s best to connect all cables before mounting to your rig, as the ports to plug things in are pretty difficult to get to once everything is screwed down and solid.
I will note that when I tried to hard mount the wheel without the triangular mount that angles the wheel up towards you, the mounting points direct on the wheel were different, and I would’ve had to drill extra holes on my wheel stand wheel plate in order to mount the CSW V2 without the angled plate on my GT Omega wheel stand, a job for another day.
To get the Clubsport SQ Shifter 1.5 mounted, I had to break out the power tools and drill two holes in the gear shifter mount on my wheel stand. There was already two on the right hand side of the shifter mount which matched with the mounting points on the right of the SSQ shifter and once I had made another two at the left, I quickly and easily secured it with the included allen screws solidly to the rig.
Because of the sheer size of the shifter unit and length of the shaft ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) on the SQ shifter, it is a bit higher up and further forward than I’m used to (and would like it to be), but I’m sure I’ll adjust in due time.
The last item to secure was the Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake which would’ve posed a bit of a challenge space-wise on my rig if I hadn’t already seen this very informative video by TJRSim on how to ingeniously mount the handbrake to the side of the SQ shifter.
After all of this was mounted securely the only thing left to do was put a wheel rim on the Universal Wheel Hub for Xbox One and slip it onto the shaft of the CSW V2’s real racecar like quick release system (which by the way, is one of the coolest actions you can do and I can’t EVER imagine it getting old).
Naturally, I had the Fanatec Clubsport Drift Rim, and decided to go for the clean look, so I quickly and easily removed all the button boxes from the Universal Wheel Hub (not sure how quickly and easily they will go back on though), and mounted the rim on hub, before sliding it onto the CSW V2’s base using the bad-ass quick release system.
Connection wise, I had the Fanatec Clubsport V3 Pedals and the SSQ Shifter 1.5 connected directly to the CSW V2 base with the included RJ-?? cables, and the Clubsport Handbrake connected directly to the V3 Pedals via the same type of included cable. Once all the cables were plugged into the devices, I was only left with one USB cable coming from the wheel base to be plugged into my PC (which is a nice touch) and everything would be be connected up.
The software setup side of things was very straight forward. I installed the Fanatec driver software first before connecting anything and then connected the USB from the wheel base to my PC.
Once I powered up the wheel and switched to PC mode (it defaults to Xbox mode with the Universal Wheel Hub for Xbox One) only one device showed up in Windows, the ‘Fanatec Clubsport WheelBase V2’ but when double-clicked to open the properties, a control panel window appears showing the inputs of the wheel, buttons, pedals, handbrake, and gear shifter. From this screen you will also find there are buttons to calibrate everything and update the firmware on the devices.
I pressed each pedal all the way down pedal and spun the wheel to confirm the calibration was correct on-screen and then started up my go to sim, Assetto Corsa, to configure the Fanatec hardware in-game.
In-game it was no different to setting up any other sim racing hardware, you choose the action you want to use in game, and assign a device or button to it. For example, we will choose throttle in game, then it asks you to press the throttle pedal. You will need to do this for the gas, brake, and clutch pedals, the handbrake, and each gear on the H pattern shifter.
Now that everything is connected, it’s time for the best part, The Driving!
I decided to try out the Porsche 911 GT3RS street car on the Nordschleife, as it’s a track I know well, it has plenty of bumps, dips, undulations and lots of force feedback from the road in Assetto Corsa, and the GT3RS also has great force feedback from the suspension and wheels, so I fired up the Rift and jumped in. Straight away I was overwhelmed by the fact that every part of my sim racing hardware had been replaced in one fell swoop.
Things were not where they used to be, the wheel was larger and stronger, the shifter feels completely different when selecting gears, the pressure and travel required to depress the throttle pedal was more than I was used to, same with the the brake pedal, but that is on another level in the pressure department. The clutch pedal has this kind of really nice two-phase step feel to it, which gives you a great reference to where the bite point is, but none of this was helping me drive to my usual standard.
I crashed and burned about five times at the first corner or two before realising I needed to slow down and start driving like I would given a different car in real life. You wouldn’t just jump into a car you had never driven before and try and go flat out, you need time to get used to where all the inputs are in relation to each other, the weight of the controls and how the car reacts to those before you start trying to drive quickly (especially at the Green Hell).
With the CSW V2 wheel, straight away as soon as I set off, I noticed there was absolutely no deadzone whatsoever, the wheel feels perfectly tight at every point in the rotation and the strong, smooth feel of the feedback coming through the large diameter, leather covered drift rim instantly put a massive smile on my face. There was no notchiness from the force feedback, and the spongey rubber-banding feel you usually get from belt driven wheels wasn’t noticeable. It felt so much more realistic in my hands than I had ever felt from a force feedback device before and I hadn’t even travelled a couple of hundred meters yet. I really like this wheel.
Once I started getting up to speed I kept checking if the traction control was on, as I couldn’t seem to get the car to slide much at all, but as it turned out I just wasn’t pressing the loud pedal hard enough, I had to get much heavier with my right foot if I wanted to make the car slide.
Once I got used to the feel of the throttle pedal I had so much more control over what the car did. Previously in most sims I always felt the difference between driving quickly round a bend before it turned into a full on drift sideways was a very fine line, now it feels like that line is much bigger, and there is so much more between quick cornering and full sideways drift, that can be called upon with my right foot whenever I want.
The Fanatec Clubsport V3 Pedals are very, very good. The force feedback from the wheel feels much more realistic in my hands, but the pedals are making all the difference to my driving. I don’t know if it’s the increased resolution or just the pedal travel / spring rate, but I feel like I have much more control of the inputs in game, I don’t ever lock the brakes in non ABS cars anymore, and I can translate how much throttle I need in-game with my foot so easily, whereas previously, I was always correcting the amount of throttle because I was giving either too much or too little, but now I can just give exactly how much I want and there is no need for any correction. I wasn’t really impressed by the vibration motors on the back of the pedals, they never kicked in at the right times for me and I’d have to use Fanaleds to tweak the threshold differently for each car, so just turned that function off for the time being from the wheel rim menu.
The Fanatec Clubsport SQ 1.5 Shifter I like but I’m still unsure about it on my rig, the shift action itself feels great in H-shifter mode, but it’s still positioned too high and far away in my rig, and I need more time to get used to it (or build a custom mount for it). I really like the spring tension (also adjustable) and the feel of the shifts but it’s certainly not making me faster, quite the opposite in fact. I can’t slam it between gears like my plastic toy G27 shifter, and trying to go into reverse after a spin to recover and back to first takes me much longer than it used to.
To change the shifter to sequential mode, all that is required is just a quick a flick of a switch at the bottom of the shifter (Fanatec had the good mind to put one on both sides of the shifter, incase you have it mounted in such a way that one side is inaccessible). Once in sequential mode a nice firm push or pull is all that is required to move up and down the gears and there is nice tactile feedback to let you know the gear has been changed.
The Fanatec Clubsport Shifter is much more realistic feeling, but it’s making me slower. I need more time with this one for sure.
The Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake I really like. It’s an analogue device, so you configure it as an axis in-game which means it’s not just on or off, it’s everything in between. I have it mounted completely vertically so the handle is pulled down towards me like in a drift car, and the short distance from the steering wheel means you’re able to just give it a quick jab to get the back end out or cure a bit of understeer if required. The spring tension is very tight on the Clubsport Handbrake too so it requires a fair bit of force to fully engage, allowing you to easily vary the amount of locking you get by just adjusting your force on the handle.
Once I got used to everything for a few weeks, I started getting much more confident and pulling off some nice moves.
Now that I’m absolutely comfortable with all the products, onto The Conclusion.
There is no doubt the Fanatec Clubsport range of sim racing products are of a very high quality. They look amazing, the finish on every single little part is to a very high standard, and everything feels high quality to the touch, but best of all is that these products excel at the tasks they were made to do. The pedals allow you to control your braking and throttle much more accurately. The same goes for the CSW V2 wheel, it allows you to control your steering much more accurately, therefore you need to make less corrections to any of your inputs, making you drive better. They also have the bonus of making everything seem much more natural and realistic due to the physical feel from them.
The only real negative I have with any of these products is the price for them in the UK and Europe is pretty expensive, especially compared to the price in the USA (I know, I know, taxes etc.) The cost of the full kit I have is roughly €2,000 and that is a lot of money for what is essentially controllers for video games. So if you are just getting started in sim racing and aren’t sure if it’s the right hobby for you yet, I don’t recommend you go down this route, but for anyone else who is serious about your sim racing, I cannot recommend the Fanatec Clubsport lineup of sim racing hardware enough.
UPDATE: Just as I was about to publish this review, I got an email from Fanatec stating that they have introduced the new and improved ClubSport Wheel Base V2.5 which will replace the ClubSport Wheel Base V2. It also comes with a pretty large price reduction of €200.00, as the new Clubsport Wheel Base 2.5 is only €549.95. More Info coming soon.