The CSL Elite McLaren GT3 V2 wheel from Fanatec is one of the best looking entry level wheels on the market in my opinion. The key phrase there is “entry level,” as it’s very competitively priced. But is it worth buying as a beginner, or indeed as a more experienced racer looking for a GT style rim?
In this review, I’ll dissect what I think are the main pros and cons of this wheel rim, discuss whether I think it’s good value for money overall, and tell you what kind of sim racer I think should buy it (and who should avoid it). At the end, I’ll also go through a few similar alternatives to consider picking up instead.
Note: I’ll be reviewing the V2 version of the McLaren wheel, but I will reference the V1 where relevant (as there are some significant improvements here) and I’ll also compare them directly towards the end.
Pros & Cons Of The Fanatec McLaren GT3 V2 Wheel Rim
|Great looking wheel||It does feel cheaper than Fanatec’s other wheels (because it is)|
|Replica of the real thing||The carbon fiber isn’t real (sadly)|
|Lots of buttons and functionality||The push/pull shifter paddle could offer a little more travel|
|Very competitively priced|
|Ideal for beginners in the Fanatec ecosystem|
The Design Of The McLaren GT3 V2
Let’s start with the design of this wheel rim, because I think that’s the best bit about it. I’m a McLaren fan, so I’m 100% biased here, but you can blame my dad for that one (and their F1 team’s knack for employing some of the sport’s most likeable drivers over the years). However, there’s no doubting that this wheel looks brilliant.
It’s a replica of the real thing you’d find in a McLaren GT3 race car, so it has true racing pedigree behind it. This will make it a particularly attractive choice for some collectors out there, and for sim racers that like to enhance their realism in every aspect (and McLaren fans too of course). However, it’s not a complete 1:1 replica, as things rarely are when moving from the real world to the virtual world.
Differences Between This & The Real Thing
For example, Fanatec have added a small OLED screen in the middle of the top of the wheel, which is a fourth rotary encoder on the real thing (more on that soon). It also features a nice big Xbox button at the bottom right, which as you can imagine doesn’t feature on the real car. And finally, the carbon fiber weave pattern on the face plate is actually plastic. It looks great, but it’s not real, which sucks.
Obviously it’s not a dealbreaker, but I’m not a fan of fake carbon fiber. To me it just feels a bit tacky, and I don’t think this wheel would have lost anything if it was just a metal or even hard plastic face plate with no design. But as I said, it does still look great, and I’ve seen many reviews online falsely say it’s real carbon fiber, so Fanatec have at least fooled some people!
Pet peeves aside, let’s move on to the rest of the wheel’s design. Starting with the grips, you get nice, fairly chunky rubber handles on either side. These may be a point of contention for some, but I really like them. I’m quite used to racing with the likes of a Thrustmaster T300 RS, which also has a rubberized finish on the rim itself, and while this rubber isn’t perforated like the T300’s, I still found it fairly comfortable.
It’s not all that squishy, but it’s soft enough. It does mean your palms can get quite sweaty over the course of a race, but I don’t find it gets so bad to the point I need to stop or change rims. But this will vary from person to person, and it may be a wheel that is best used with sim racing gloves. However, it will likely be a relief for some sim racers that don’t like using Alcantara wheels, as it won’t wear as easily.
The grips feel good in your hands, and they’re a decent thickness that shouldn’t be an issue for those with smaller hands as well. The diameter of the wheel is 300 mm, which won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but I think it’s a good middle ground that most will be able to use comfortably. It’s a good size for both GT racing and formula style cars, and you can definitely use it for other track cars too.
It is a rectangular GT style rim, which should be obvious from the pictures! This clearly means it’s not going to be suitable for rallying or drifting. So, on that note, I also won’t try and sell you on the fact that the analog clutch paddles can be used as a handbrake, as you’re very unlikely to need one of those outside of drifting and rallying!
Note: You can use the middle rotary encoder to change the clutch paddles’ functions, and a handbrake is one of them, but I never used it for this
Instead, I’ll go into more detail on how the clutch paddles feel to use as clutch paddles in the performance section of this review. For now I will note that you can also use them as gas and brake pedals if you are otherwise incapable of using a set of foot pedals (or if you just want to do it anyway, as I’ve seen many people perform pretty well doing this!).
The Shifter Paddle
Above the clutch paddles (which are sadly plastic) sits the rocker-style shifter (that’s right, it’s one single piece of metal). It’s a nice orange color, true to the McLaren brand’s color scheme, and it has seen an upgrade over the V1 edition. It now uses magnets rather than being a mechanical switch, and boy is this an improvement.
I do still feel they’re a bit lackluster in the travel and overall feel departments, but for the price, I think they’re excellent. More on how they feel and perform later on. It is a (sturdy aluminum) rocker shifter paddle, so you can use one hand to move up and down the gears if you want or need to. Not everyone will love this design, but I got used to it quite quickly.
I’ve seen other reviews point out that it allows you to use your phone while you drive, but the real boon of these in terms of sim racing (and real racing) is that you can use one hand to shift if your other hand is making an adjustment elsewhere on the wheel, and this will likely be the case when using the multi-position/rotary encoders, as they’re central on the wheel.
You can reach the buttons and toggle switches fairly easily with your thumbs (of which there are 9 and 2 respectively), but the extra tactile rotary switches will need you to move your hands off the grips. This is when the rocker functionality of the shifter paddle is most useful, but I’ll be honest and say I use it as a standard pull paddle 95% of the time. But still, it’s handy to have.
Note: It can also be a very useful feature for those with hand injuries or other cases where you’re unable to shift with two hands
It’s worth noting that there are no rev LEDs on this rim as they’re not on the real thing (and it’s a replica). This doesn’t bother me, but it may be a more important feature for others.
To give a summary of the buttons, you get:
- 7-way funky switch
- 2 toggle switches
- 9 push buttons (2 of which have hard plastic shrouds around them)
- 3 rotary encoders
The shrouds on the top buttons are handy for those racing in VR, as they can act as reference points for your fingers. As for the rotary encoders, one is a multi-position switch that’s only used to set the clutch bite point or change what the clutch paddles do, while the other two (at the top) can function as multi position switches or they can be rotated 360 degrees and used more like toggle switches.
A Note On Compatibility
This means they should function properly in most sim racing titles, including those that don’t register the positions of them (as they can at least still be used as toggle switches). Compatibility may vary on console, and I’ll note here that it is Xbox compatible but will only work on PlayStation with a PlayStation compatible wheel base.
Note: There is no L2/R2 functionality on PS4/PS5 with this wheel rim. You will need to use your controller for those inputs.
The Quick Release
I’ll close this section by discussing the design of the included QR1 Lite quick release. It’s common on some of Fanatec’s other budget wheel rims, and it works using a twisting lock mechanism rather than a sprung sleeve system. It’s made of plastic, but glass injected plastic at that. This means it might feel cheaper than Fanatec’s proper quick release, but it’s definitely very sturdy.
It’s fairly easy to attach and remove this wheel from your wheel base, and I’ve had no problems using it. However, it’s worth pointing out a few important things here:
- If you plan to use this wheel rim with a DD1 or DD2 wheel base, you will need to buy the ClubSport adapter separately to unlock high torque mode (it won’t activate without that adapter).
- If you’re using the DD1 or DD2, there is a specific way to lock the quick release over the shaft’s rubber section (see point 2B here for more details). If you don’t follow these instructions you can end up with a lot of flex at the quick release itself.
- The included QR1 Lite will work with all Fanatec wheel bases. Fanatec’s website confusingly says the QR1 Lite is not compatible with Podium wheel bases, but this just means above 8 Nm (it’s limited via a plastic nub on the QR1 Lite that activates a switch on the wheel rim to tell the base it won’t support high torque levels – this switch is not activated with the ClubSport adapter).
Overall, I’ll give the McLaren GT3 V2 wheel a 7/10 for design. It does a great job of sticking to the real thing’s design while still being very usable in many forms of sim racing. However, there are some small things I’d like to have seen done better that drop it a few points.
What About The GT3 V2’s Build Quality?
I’ve already alluded to a lot of the construction of the wheel in the design section, so I will avoid repeating myself too much here. The wheel is primarily made of hard plastic, and that includes the face plate with its false carbon fiber effect. The P word shouldn’t scare you off though, as it’s a very solid wheel rim, and you will not notice any flex while you race.
If you aggressively try and twist the rim in your hand you will feel some flex and hear some creaking, but there’s no need to do that! Sure, at very high torque levels (which as I said above you won’t reach without the ClubSport adapter anyway), you might push it to these limits.
However, attached to something like a CSL DD base at 5-8 Nm, you won’t notice anything, at least not for a long time. It may begin to creak later on in its life, but what doesn’t (humans included)? This wheel rim will hopefully last you years, as long as you don’t abuse it too much.
Other Aspects Of The Wheel Rim
The rubber grips are also high quality and shouldn’t show much wear over time, but they will eventually begin to degrade slightly. That’s another reason I recommend you wear gloves while using this wheel, which will help avoid the sweaty palms issue too.
The buttons and switches all feel fairly high quality, but they are a bit squishier than those on more premium wheels. In my opinion they feel great, but I’d understand why someone who is used to using a $1,500 wheel rim might think these aren’t quite as good. For the price here, you will not be complaining about the button feel.
It’s worth noting that the two shrouded buttons have much more resistance than the rest and offer a more tactile response. These two are supposed to replicate the feel of those on the real thing better than the others, and while I can’t say how realistic they are as I’ve never been lucky enough to get a ride in a McLaren GT3 car, I can say they feel amazing!
Switches & Paddles
The toggle switches feel fine, but there is a noticeable bit of movement in them. The shrouded buttons feel more solid and tactile than the rest as noted above, but all three rotary encoders feel robust and satisfying to use. The funky switch is also fine, but nothing special.
On the back, the solid metal shifter paddle feels high-quality, and the magnetic mechanism is a joy to use. The plastic clutch paddles have a honeycomb structure inside, so they feel solid enough, but I’d have liked to see metal (or even carbon fiber) ones here, but that’s asking a bit much at this price point.
The quick release is also plastic, although it’s reinforced, but it’s solid enough for the job it needs to do (and you can always upgrade this later). But we need to remember this is an entry level wheel, and so I’d give it an 8 out of 10 for construction. I’ll talk more about value for money shortly, but let’s now discuss how this rim performs in-game.
How Does The McLaren GT3 V2 Wheel Perform?
The Fanatec McLaren GT3 V2 wheel looks and feels premium, and it manages to perform really well in the simulator too. It’s obviously designed for GT racing, but it works well for formula style racing and pretty much anything else on the track as well. I will not be considering its off-road potential for obvious reasons.
I have this connected to my CSL DD wheel base, so I don’t need to worry about high torque mode or connecting the ClubSport adapter. This means attaching the wheel (and removing it) is super easy with the QR1 Lite, and I don’t notice any flex in the wheel rim or at the quick release. It also runs like a charm with the DD base, and I get all the direct drive feedback I’ve come to expect from it through the rim.
It’s A Good Size
I like the size of the McLaren GT3 V2 rim, and it works well both in GT racing on the likes of Assetto Corsa Competizione, and in the F1 games too. It feels premium, despite the low price tag (at least relative to Fanatec’s other options).
In terms of the shifter paddle, I found it to perform very well, again considering the low price. It doesn’t offer quite as much travel as I’d ideally like, but it’s only short by a millimeter or two at most. Shifting feels satisfying thanks to the magnetic design, and while I primarily upshift with my right hand and downshift with my left, it also feels fairly satisfying to use one hand and push and pull to change gears.
How The Paddles Feel
However, it does feel like it needs a bit more effort to push than to pull, but that’s a minor thing that doesn’t bother me specifically. The paddle isn’t that tall, meaning you’ll likely only be shifting with two fingers, which may take some getting used to. However, I was used to it within a couple of laps and found it easy enough to adjust.
As for the clutch paddles, they feel somewhat heavy, which definitely isn’t a bad thing. There’s a real heft to them, which is ideal for finding the bite point and it does make using them as gas and brake pedals far more achievable than some of the lighter options out there (although I only use them as manual clutches).
Tweaking The Settings
You can tweak the bite point really easily through Fanatec’s tuning menu, using the middle rotary encoder, and you can use the funky switch to change all the important settings on your Fanatec wheel base and pedals. The buttons themselves all feel good enough to use, and the rotary encoders specifically feel very nice, offering satisfying clicks with every turn.
They’re also very useful for in-game functionality, especially in the F1 games, where you might have plenty of things to adjust on the fly. You might be a bit more limited in some sims and on console, but you’ll be able to make the most of them on PC.
Overall, this wheel rim performs at a high level considering its price point, so I’d give it an 8 out of 10.
Is The Fanatec CSL Elite McLaren GT3 V2 Wheel Good Value For Money?
The all-important question for many sim racers will be whether the McLaren GT3 V2 wheel is worth the price tag. This is a much easier question to answer than for some other wheel rims on the market, as it’s a simple but resounding yes. It’s priced very competitively, and it is aimed at those on a budget, but I think it looks and performs a level above what the price tag suggests.
Sure, it’s made of a lot of plastic, and it lacks some of the premium feel in the shifters and buttons, but it’s a very nice replica of a real race car’s steering wheel that ticks many of the boxes of a good sim racing wheel as well. It’s also highly functional, offering 20+ input options across all of the various switches, buttons and paddles.
I give it a 9 out of 10 for value for money, but who should pick this wheel up? And more importantly, who should avoid it?
Who Should Buy The McLaren GT3 V2 Wheel?
I think this wheel is most suitable for:
- McLaren fans (obviously)
- Sim racers on a budget
- Beginners looking for a good GT/formula style wheel rim
- Collectors of replica wheels
- Those that need a cheap but functional option for their sim racing rig
People I think shouldn’t buy this sim racing wheel include:
- Those after a premium wheel rim (it’s just not going to cut it)
- Sim racers with a very high-torque wheel base (although you can use the ClubSport adapter, there are more robust options out there)
- Rally and drift racers
Fanatec CSL Elite McLaren GT3 V2 Specs
|Buttons/Switches||7 push buttons, 2 high-bezel snap-dome buttons, 7-way FunkySwitch, 2 toggle switches, 2 endless rotary encoders, 4-way positional encoder|
|Materials||Plastic / Aluminum (shifter paddle)|
|Weight||1.8 kg / 4 lbs|
|Display||1” OLED display (white)|
|Compatibility||PC / PlayStation (with compatible wheel base) / Xbox|
Fanatec McLaren GT3 V1 vs V2 Wheel Rim
Before I offer up some alternatives to the Fanatec McLaren GT3 V2 wheel rim, let me illustrate the key differences between this and the V1 version of the wheel.
The first main and most noticeable difference is in the paddle shifter. It’s still a rocker style obviously, but it’s magnetic rather than operating on a spring type mechanism. This means it feels far better to use and it’s more durable too.
Clutch Paddle Change
The clutch paddles now feature a honeycomb structure in them. They’re still plastic, but they’re much stronger than before.
Two of the rotary encoders can now turn endlessly and work as both positional switches and selector switches. The middle one is a 4-way switch only.
The OLED screen is now white, whereas on the V1 wheel rim it was blue.
Replacement vs Upgrade
Overall, this is definitely a replacement for the V1, and shouldn’t probably be thought of as an upgrade option if you already own the older wheel and it still works fine. If you feel the above changes are enough to warrant an upgrade, you won’t be disappointed. But if your V1 still works well, I’d probably recommend holding off on this as it’s not enough of an upgrade in my opinion.
Alternatives To The McLaren GT3 V2 Wheel
Fanatec CSL Steering Wheel P1 V2
The first alternative I’ll suggest is another Fanatec option, and this is for those that find the budget friendly aspect to be most important. This is currently Fanatec’s cheapest wheel rim, and it’s a round wheel that’s designed to be usable in pretty much any sim racing game or discipline.
It’s not going to be quite as GT or formula friendly as the McLaren wheel, but this is a cheap and simple solution for those either just getting into sim racing, those that need a spare wheel, or those looking for one they can drift or rally race with. It doesn’t have all the encoders or magnetic shifters of the McLaren wheel, but it still does a solid job as a budget friendly sim racing wheel.
Fanatec ClubSport Steering Wheel F1 Esports V2
The next alternative is the ideal choice for F1 fans that can’t afford one of Fanatec’s more premium formula style wheels. It’s a small (270 mm) wheel rim that’s designed for F1 racing (and is officially licensed by Formula 1 itself). It has a simple aesthetic, but it still has plenty of buttons too.
You even get magnetic shifter paddles with this as standard, although you do lack analog clutch paddles and rotary encoders. For me, I’d say that just emphasizes how good a deal the McLaren GT3 V2 wheel is!
The Fanatec CSL Elite McLaren GT3 V2 sim racing wheel is one of the best options on the budget market. It’s the ideal choice for McLaren fans obviously, but its comfortable size, high level of functionality, and low price make it a great option for beginners and more advanced sim racers alike.
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