Last updated: September 29th, 2023
Featured Image: Fanatec CSL DD with new QR2 quick release
The CSL DD, first launched in 2021 really shook up the direct drive owners club. No longer was direct drive the pinnacle of sim racing reserved for the high budgets. In fact, pretty much overnight the CSL DD made belt and gear drive wheelbases obsolete. Since then, a few low-budget entrants have entered the market – most notably, the Moza R5 / R9. I’ve recently reviewed the R5 so you can read that review here. Today’s big news, of course, is that Fanatec has revised the QR system on Fanatec wheels and wheelbases – the QR2.
The QR1 quick release we’ve been so used to now for over a decade. The QR2 is a fundamentally different proposition that solves the main problem that some of the original QR1s presented: play (or flex, if you like). There were solutions to the original problem (via the Z-Ring) but finally, Fanatec’s weakness is now a strength. We’ll cover the QR2 throughout this review, which looks at the following gear as a bundle:
- CSL DD wheelbase with boost 180 kit and desk clamp
- CSL Universal hub V2
- CSL Pedals with the optional load cell brake kit
- Clubsport Wheel Rim 320
I specifically asked for the desk clamp – so that I could do a like-for-like comparison to the Moza but also, I suspect there’s a huge market for desktop-mounted wheels and pedal setups, and if that’s the gear you have, fair enough – you can still crank out a great race whether you’re sat in a rig or not.
But, back to the point of the review – the CSL DD with the QR2 quick release. The TL;DR – Fanatec is the obvious choice at this level. It’s well-supported, versatile, and nicely built and the new QR is a zero-play gamechanger.
The new QR2 mates the wheel to the wheelbase with a satisfying “clack” and then, no movement. It’s a strong QR and the Pro version has FIA approval. Looking at it from a racer’s point of view I can’t find a reason why I wouldn’t use this quick release on my (IRL) racing car – it’s clearly extremely strong, and simple.
What Makes the CSL DD Special?
Direct-drive technology, once exclusive to elite racers, is now accessible thanks to the CSL DD.
In a few short years, this unit has disrupted the market, forcing competitors to rethink their pricing strategies. With the QR2 Quick Release, Fanatec takes it a step further. This quick-release system isn’t merely a new accessory; it’s a game-changer. The QR2 ensures seamless wheel changes and critically, solves the original problems associated with the QR1.
The QR2 is a significant change, but it’s quite a simple one. By looking at the QR2 specs for each variant you can quickly and easily work out the differences and which is right for your setup. Here are the wheel side QRs:
|QR2 Pro Wheel-Side||QR2 Wheel-Side||QR2 Lite Wheel-Side|
|Meets FIA standards||Motorsport-derived quick release (wheel-side)||Upgrades compatible CSL / CSL Elite Steering Wheels with an exchangeable quick release to the QR2 system|
|Spring-loaded locking pin mechanism and tapered shape naturally ensure a tight fit||Diecast aluminium with CNC-machined and black anodised finish||Motorsport-derived quick release (wheel-side)|
|Can be attached to QR2 Base-Side without touching the spring-loaded sleeve mechanism||PTFE coating for easy detachment from the Wheel Base||Spring-loaded locking pin mechanism and tapered shape naturally ensure a tight fit|
|PTFE coating for easy detachment from the wheel Base||Can be attached to QR2 Base-Side without touching the spring-loaded sleeve mechanism||Carbon fibre-reinforced polyamide construction Uses recycled carbon fibre|
|Fits all Fanatec Steering Wheels with exchangeable quick release (see compatibility page) Connects to all QR2 Base-Side variants||Fits all Fanatec Steering Wheels with exchangeable. quick release||Spring-loaded locking pin mechanism, and tapered shape naturally ensure a tight fit|
|Connects to all QR2 Base-Side variants||Connects to all QR2 Base-Side variants|
I’d like to upgrade my system to QR2
Of course, you may own a Fanatec unit with the QR1 quick release on it. If you wish to upgrade, here are your options:
Before mounting the QR2 Wheel-Side to your steering wheel, it’s essential to swap out the existing metal washer surrounding the connector pins with the provided plastic one. The Quick start Guide will indicate whether you need the included Torx bolts for certain Fanatec steering wheels. Every QR2 Wheel-Side can be paired with any QR2 Base-Side. Compatibility for the win!
Please note that all QR2 units have been subjected to quality assessments, including attach-detach and connectivity evaluations. As a result, minor markings might be present.
Performance and Compatibility
The CSL DD performed flawlessly in iRacing. Although very early testing (back in 2021) faced some driver issues, the unit now offers a consistent experience across multiple games and importantly (to our readers. I think) needs almost no knowledge of sim racing setup to get racing. The QR2 Quick Release enhances the experience, allowing for quick wheel swaps without compromising the integrity of the force feedback or the user experience.
While I appreciate there’s some cost involved with updating your equipment – there’s no rush if you’re happy with what you own.
However, Fanatec has made the update process very easy. Each QR, be it the base side or wheel side, comes with instructions and the tools you’ll need to modify your equipment. if you decide to buy a new wheel, that might be a good time to do the wheelbase side upgrade.
The pedal kit arrived in two boxes – the CSL kit itself and the loadcell pedal upgrade:
Here’s the Load Cell (LC) kit, which I immediately installed:
As a reviewer I made a point of jumping straight to the CSL DD from the Moza R5. They both come with “comparable” pedal kits, a load cell or load cell update kit and are generally considered low-budget pedals. So expectations were not high.
Since testing these pedals, I’ve changed my mind about them – once built up and upgraded with the CSL Load Cell kit, I find heavier brake pedals that are far easier to control, the throttle works really well and the brake is super smooth.
Because of the load resistance, it’s easier not to lock up the front wheels. I really like these pedals – and was gently surprised by them!
From a design perspective, these pedals don’t start to tip at higher brake loads – they’ve been designed not to! Another place where it’s obvious that Fanatec is doing a better job than Moza on the Usability details.
Direct Drive: Fidelity, Dynamic Range, and Force Feedback
The CSL DD’s force feedback, amplified by Fanatec’s patented FluxBarrier technology, is really, really impressive. It offers nuanced, crisp, and dynamic sensations that are easy to reconcile to real driving conditions.
When you pair the CSL DD with the Boost Kit 180, the peak available torque increases from 5Nm to 8Nm. The detail and feedback take a step up too; there’s just more feedback – leaving me to wonder if 8Nm is the torque sweet spot.
Force Feedback (FFB) Analysis
The CSL DD’s force feedback, simply put, is shockingly good, especially at this price point. I expected something that felt similar but less powerful than the DD2, but this is on another level. If the CSL DD had 25Nm of peak torque I think it would destroy a DD2.
Harnessing Fanatec’s “FluxBarrier” technology, the wheel delivers feedback that’s both nuanced and lifelike. The immersive sensation isn’t just about the quality but also the consistency of forces across the wheel. Every bit of the road, from subtle asphalt textures to more pronounced oversteer moments, becomes palpably clear. With the standard 90W power supply, the CSL DD offers a smoother, gentler experience, making it ideal for novices. But, throw in the Boost Kit 180 (which I strongly recommend you do), and it’s a game-changer. The heightened feedback makes it easier to anticipate and react to the car’s behavior, especially when it’s on the edge. And while I played around with the settings (I confess, I immediately cranked up the FFB% to 100), the default configuration offers an accessible and safe experience, cushioning you from potential jolts during intense crashes.
Configuring Force Feedback (FFB) for Fanatec CSL DD:
Connect to Fanatec Wheel Property Page:
Ensure the CSL DD is connected to your computer.
Download and open the Fanatec Wheel Property Page on your PC.
Install Fanatec Driver 451, and access the ‘Tuning Menu’:
This menu allows users to individually customize the behaviour of their Fanatec wheelbase.
Adjust the ‘SEN’ Setting (Steering Angle):
This determines the number of degrees you turn the wheel compared to the number of degrees in-game. Auto (‘A’) mode lets the game decide the steering angle.
Configure the ‘FF’ Setting (Force Feedback Strength):
Adjust the overall strength of Force Feedback effects. Set the value between 0 (no force) and 100 (maximum force).
Modify the ‘DRI’ Setting (Drift Mode):
This setting can either add resistance or assist your steering input. Positive values help in turning the wheel more quickly, suitable for drifting. Negative values add resistance.~
Set the ‘FEI’ Setting (Force Effects Intensity):
Adjust this to set the intensity of Force Feedback effects. It filters the sharpness of the feedback. A lower value might feel smoother, while a higher value will feel rawer.
Adjust the ‘FOR’ and ‘SPR’ Settings (Force and Spring Effect Strength):
‘FOR’ adjusts the strength of the constant force effects in games.
‘SPR’ adjusts the strength of the spring effect in games.
Configure the ‘DMP’ Setting (Damper Effect Strength):
This setting determines the resistance to turning the wheel when stationary or moving slowly. Adjust according to your personal preference.
Save and Test:
After making the desired adjustments, save the settings.
Test the wheel in your preferred game/simulation to ensure the force feedback feels as desired. Adjust further if necessary.
It’s essential to understand that the in-game FFB settings and the settings in the wheel’s tuning menu both influence the final FFB output. You might need to adjust settings in both places to achieve the desired effect.
Remember that FFB settings (read this for a more in-depth guide to iRacing torque / FFB setup) can be highly subjective. What feels good for one person might not feel good for another. It’s recommended to start with the default or recommended settings and adjust incrementally based on personal preference.
Importantly, the QR2 quick-release system has also been identified as an “enhancer” of the FFB experience. The solid connection it provides, with no noticeable play, ensures that no details are lost between the wheel and the base. It feels nice and rock solid. This guarantees that the force feedback remains consistent and reliable.
However, it’s worth noting that while many users find the standard 5Nm torque more than sufficient, some experienced racers and sim enthusiasts I spoke with suggested that upgrading to the Boost Kit 180, boosting the torque to 8Nm, is a worthy investment. The added torque enhances the feedback’s dynamic range, allowing for more detailed force reproduction, especially in high-force scenarios like hard cornering or collisions. It improves things, of course.
Software and User Interface
Fanatec’s user interface and software for the CSL DD are comprehensive and user-friendly. Having tried numerous other supplier’s early software efforts, I’m afraid it’s bad news for them. Fanatec software has just got to the point of no messing around, everything just works and makes perfect sense.
I like the windows driver apps – all of the FFB settings can be changed in there. Installation presents no concerns, the software detects the wheelbase immediately and that’s the installation done.
It’s the simplest and easiest beginner experience and if you’re migrating to direct drive for the firs ttime, you’ll find the transition extremely simple. That’s what I like the most about the CSL DD.
Mounting Options and Compatibility
The CSL DD offers robust mounting options compatible with a wide range of devices. The introduction of the QR2 Quick Release is a layer of versatility, ensuring compatibility with Fanatec’s new range of QR2 wheels and other peripherals. If you’re mounting to the desktop it’s worth adding that the Clubsport base also works with the CSL DD and in my view is stiffer than it’s plastic counterpart.
The CSL DD can be mounted to a table or desk using the provided table clamp. This is a convenient option for those who don’t have a dedicated sim racing rig (yet) and want to temporarily attach the wheelbase to a table. Just ensure the surface is stable and can handle the force exerted by the wheelbase during use.
The CSL DD has side mounting holes that allow it to be attached to 8020 profile rigs (or other rigs that support side mounting). Adapters for 8020 profile rigs are absolutely everywhere – your own rig manufacturer will have one – and, if now – the Fanatec DD2 side mounts match the dimensions of teh CSKL DD. Rig mounting is preferred, but the CSL DD can be mounted via the base onto a wheeldeck. I’m struggling to think of a sm rig manufacturer that doesn’t support Fanatec!
The Fanatec CSL DD, especially when paired with the QR2 Quick Release offers an impressive balance of performance, build quality, and affordability. Its wide game compatibility, powerful force feedback, and quiet operation make it the go-to option for both newcomers and veterans. It’s on that note that I would choose the CSL DD over the Moza R5/9 every time. If you’re looking to invest in an immersive sim racing experience that’s also future-proof, the CSL DD with the QR2 is the latest wheelbase to beat. The only bit of advice I’d give you – build a rig to go with this fantastic wheelbase: how to build a cheap simulator cockpit.