Fanatec CSL DD – Fanatec’s new and very cheap Direct Drive wheelbase

fanatec csl dd

As the newest member of the Fanatec family, the CSL DD is already causing an almighty stir in the sim racing industry. Appropriately dubbed ‘The New StandarDD,’ by the manufacturer, this brand-new piece of kit is now available (currently for delivery on December 9th 2021) and at an estimated price point starting at $350, this wheelbase will be much cheaper than any of the other DD wheelbase options available currently.

The full 8nm torque setup (with the “boost kit” power supply) is priced at 479.95 EUR (incl. VAT), 479.95 USD (excl. VAT), 829.90 AUD, 65,500 JPY.

Fanatec CSL DD
Fanatec CSL DD

What makes DD so special?

Until now, direct-drive wheel technology has been reserved to the upper echelons of the sim racing community, with Fanatec’s flagship Podium series wheelbases fetching north of $1000, while other competing brands also put hefty price tags on anything with the highly sought-after DD moniker attached to it.

This is why the release of the CSL DD is causing such a storm. By making DD technology much cheaper and more affordable, Fanatec has forced the hand of every other manufacturer to compete with what is now undoubtedly going to be the best entry-level wheelbase on the market.

And anyway; how much power do you need?

I say entry-level because while the CSL DD is indeed a DD wheelbase the motor delivers around 5Nm of torque on the standard power supply, but this can rise to 8Nm with the optional “Boost Kit 180”. Fanatec says that there’s no need for active cooling, with the chassis — machined from aluminium — acting as a heat sink. For the small additional outlay, it seems to make a lot of sense to add the extra torque, which brings it past the maximum power of the very popular but now obsolete CSL Elite wheelbase.

CSL DD's hub is compatible with all Clubsport steering wheels
CSL DD’s hub is compatible with all Clubsport steering wheels

Obviously, this is a lower-powered unit at about a third of the price of the flagship Fanatec Podium DD2, which offers 25Nm of torque. While it’s pretty clear that the CSL doesn’t quite match up to this level of power output, I would argue huge torque isn’t necessary most of the time!

It’s a widely known fact that most sim racers actually dial the power output of their ultra-strong DD2 machines down to 70%, 60%, or even 50% at times, as they simply do not need that much resistance. So maybe for those new to sim racing, which is precisely the market the CSL DD is targeted towards, 5-8Nm is more than enough.

CSL DD Breakdown

There’s a fair bit of marketing lingo in their launch announcement. The long and the short of it is there’s a new “custom motor” with a carbon fibre composite shaft. It looks pretty standard, really – and a move away from their preferred, outrunner style motors found in the DD1 and DD2 wheelbases. They say that reducing the motor shaft mass makes for a more responsive feel; although higher torque achieves this perfectly well in Simucube’s Sport and Pro units. They make reference to an idea called “fluxbarrier”. What they mean by this isn’t clear – perhaps it’s a method to reduce the EM interference associated with a budget level motor power and speed controller.

Inside the CSL DD wheelbase from Fanatec
Inside the CSL DD wheelbase from Fanatec

Expect the usual compatibility in the Clubsport steering wheel range, and naturally the ability to connect Fanatec’s shifters and handbrakes directly into the back of the unit via the usual RJ12 ports.

What we know – technical specifications:

  • Direct-Drive system
  • 5 Nm peak torque
  • Optional Boost Kit 180 unlocks maximum torque: 8 Nm peak
  • “FluxBarrier” technology optimises motor efficiency and smoothness
  • Fanatec SDK support ensures game compatibility out of the box for all major racing games
  • Standard and advanced Fanatec Tuning Menu
  • Hall-position-sensor, similar to Podium Series
  • Steering axis made from carbon fibre-enhanced composite
  • Fanless: wheelbase housing is made from aluminium
  • Automotive-grade QR
  • T-nut rail system on sides and bottom for easily adjustable hard-mounting
  • Ports:
    • Power supply
    • USB-C to PC / console
    • Fanatec DataPort-C
    • Shifter 1
    • Shifter 2 (Sequential only) o Pedal
    • Handbrake

With the announcement of the CSL DD, rumors and speculation on sim racing forums now point to the next product Fanatec will unveil. CSW DD, anyone?

Thinking of upgrading to the Fanatec CSL DD wheelbase?

As you progress through your sim racing career, you might find yourself wanting to take a leap from the less expensive budget wheelbases such as the Logitech G29 to something that is considered a little more high end, and in particular, Fanatec provide some really easy upgrade options with simple compatibility between their wheels, hubs, wheelbases and pedals.

But other than people saying the benefits from upgrades to the better belt and direct drive wheelbases are worthwhile, what are the benefits? Firstly, we probably need to understand where the limitations are set with cheaper wheelbases such as the Logitech G29.

Will the CSL DD have Playstation / PS4 / PS5 Compatibility?

Yes – a variant based on the CSL DD known as the “DD Pro” is now available for pre-order and is fully licenced for Playstation 4 and Playstation 5.

Fanatec DD Pro is a direct drive wheel compatible with Playstation 4 and Playstation 5
Fanatec DD Pro is a direct drive wheel compatible with Playstation 4 and Playstation 5

What are the limitations of cheaper wheelbases?

With the Logitech wheel, the FFB (force feedback) is very simple and not very strong. So on track, it’s hard to tell where the grip levels are making it difficult to tell what the limit of grip feels like. Driving at the ultimate pace, therefore, becomes more of a trial and error process rather than something a track driver would do (look for the ultimate grip level by taking the feedback into account and learning to use this information at the corner entry and exit).

This all makes being consistent much harder. Because the feedback isn’t significant enough for you to really get a feel for what’s happening in real time. This is especially true when you’re having an accident, it’s like you don’t get the information fast enough to be able to respond in time.

The G29 can be a very fun bit of entry-level kit but I get the sense that the faster drivers are doing it from memory and pure practice alone, rather than responding to a dynamically changing car, circuit and overall level of grip. So if you don’t have 10 hours a day to practice (like me!) you’re probably never going to improve past a certain point with your G29.

So if you don’t have a lot of time to practice, a G29 might be holding you back from finding your ultimate pace efficiently and might be preventing you from learning to drive in the sim more dynamically. Learning new circuits and cars will be much harder and will take more time.

If you want to feel the wheel as it should in a real car, you need proper force feedback from a more serious wheel.

What does upgrading to a Fanatec CSL DD Wheelbase feel like?

When I upgraded for the first time myself, I was immediately blown away not just by the strength of the force feedback in my new wheelbase, but also I was able to gather a genuine understanding of what the car was doing, the overall grip level on the track and the track details such as riding the kerbs and rumble strips. Simply put there are details missing with a low-end wheelbase with little torque; so when you jump on a CSL DD you’ll feel a huge difference in the detail (or “fidelity”) in the FFB coming from the wheel.

With a good direct drive wheelbase, cars are often a bit easier to drive in the simulator. Making oversteer corrections becomes far easier because you’ll feel like you have a better warning of what the rear of the car is doing – especially in corners. When you’re in a slide, the opposing rotation in the wheel is clear and strong where previously it might feel weak. It’s something you fight, physically, to save the car – just like you would in a real situation. It’s more addictive and quite simply, more fun to drive!

There’s a good chance that with the additional torque from a CSL DD you might need a better cockpit for the torque. If that’s the case, read this article.

Fanatec CSL DD – Fanatec’s new and very cheap Direct Drive wheelbase