Looking to upgrade and improve my sim racing rig, I stumbled upon Fanatec after hearing about them from a friend. With their focus on technology and gear for enthusiasts made by enthusiasts, it didn’t take much convincing for me to buy their products for myself!
Fanatec’s story of origin is one of humble beginnings. They were founded under the header name of Endor, and the owner, Thomas Jackermeier, started to produce gear for PC gaming. After they made the first-ever steering wheel for the PS2 system, history was well and truly made.
Mr. Jackermeier turned his passion for video games into a profession, and that was how Fanatec was born! You can see the definite trend in their products of quality entertainment value, intermingled with bursts of pure excellence and brilliance.
Through the course of this article, I’ll be turning my passion for Fanatec as a sim racing manufacturing brand into something productive; sharing my knowledge on all their steering wheel products and giving insight into which one(s) you should buy for yourself.
Main Features of Fanatec Wheels
If you browse through the website of this sim racing manufacturer, you’ll soon start to see a pattern of the products offered. Fanatec split their wheels, wheelbases, pedal sets and other gear into one of three categories; CSL, ClubSport and Podium (more on that below). However, across all of their competitive racing wheels, there is a collection of features you can expect to see in every one of them.
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- Technology: Every new racing wheel made by Fanatec is always packed with the latest innovations in the sim racing sector. No matter the tier of product, every wheel will come equipped with tried, tested tech that will enhance the driving experience. More specifically, they develop new levels of innovation and technology based on feedback from the consumers who use their products! If a wheel has seamless buttons, bells and whistles attached, you can guarantee that it’s made by Fanatec.
- “Germaneering”: A phrase that Fanatec themselves have coined; this feature refers to the process in which all of its products are built. Every product they make is done so by German engineers. Ever heard of German automobiles being some of the most complex, high-grade cars in the world? Fanatec wanted to bring that to the sim racing market! The electronics of their products are designed and implemented using this methodology and as such, you’ll rarely see any failings in the varied pieces of technology on their wheels.
- Raw Quality: Just by holding one of Fanatec’s wheels in your hands, you’ll be able to feel the quality of all the materials used. There’s a certain heft about them, and you’ll often feel as if you’re actually driving a real racing car! Because of their focus on absolute quality, you can count on the products being live-tested by sim racers, and new products can often take over 3 years to be released to the public.
Different Lines of Fanatec Products
I briefly mentioned the fact that this manufacturer offers three different lines for their products, so let me expand on that! It’s a very important thing to know if you’re planning on purchasing a Fanatec wheel, after all.
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There are three categories into which all of their products fall.
First, you have the CSL line of hardware. The wheels and other products that fit into this category are described by Fanatec to be for entry-level racers. The technology seen in this line is actually shared with ClubSport models, the next line up on the ladder, but CSL is specifically designed with a view of balancing performance with value.
Next up, you’ve got ClubSport products. These pieces of hardware embody the very essence of premium, between the high level of technology and robust materials used to make them. Fanatec builds these products with a view of enhancing the performance of sim racers, to the point that even experienced enthusiasts are sated by the quality.
And at the top, as you can possibly guess by the name alone, sits the Podium products. Everything in this line of hardware is best described as the absolute pinnacle of sim racing excellence. After all, to take the podium in motorsports you need to be the best of the best, and in Fanatec’s own words, only the highest performance hardware can replicate that.
The fact that Fanatec have dedicated such resources to three distinctly different categories for different types of sim racers displays their passion for the past-time, and speaks volumes about their dedication to all of their products! Now that I’ve talked about the three lines of hardware, it only makes sense to look at the best wheels within each of those categories, no?
Fanatec CSL Racing Wheels
As a sim racer who started with a rickety desk, barely-working wheel mount and second-hand gear from eBay, I understand how important budgeting can be for sim racers out there who aren’t made of money. When looking at Fanatec’s website, it can be immediately off-putting due to how expensive everything looks; especially with their headline products often being from the Podium or ClubSport range.
However, all you have to do is filter your search for CSL products and you’ll immediately find far more budget-friendly options that offer the same level of technology and excellence as even some of the priciest hardware Fanatec makes.
So, to take some of the guessing out of your buying process, let’s take a look at the best racing wheel models within the CSL category, best suited for entry-level sim racers:
CSL Elite McLaren GT3 CSQR
| Price: $249.95 | Compatible Consoles: PC, Xbox One | Compatible Products: All CSL pedal sets & accessories, ClubSport Wheelbases V2 & V2.5 |
This full replica wheel is truly astounding to look at! Having it in front of you will feel just like you’re inside the cockpit of a McLaren GT3, and what can be better than that? Right now, this wheel is available for pre-order, and the features it comes with are well-worth the wait!
Compared to every other Fanatec wheel on the market, this beauty is the lightest currently available. It weighs in at around 942g, so it won’t feel as if you’re handling a toy, but it won’t feel cumbersome, either. The wheel comes with analog clutch and shifter paddles made of anodized aluminum and featuring their trademark Snapdrome technology; responsive, positive-feeling shifting.
In spite of being in the CSL product line, the McLaren GT3 wheel comes with high-level tech you’d otherwise see on their more expensive hardware. It has an OLED display on it through which you can access the tuning menu for the wheel itself, and this can be programed to display crucial in-race info while you’re gaming.
This wheel is compatible with PC and Xbox One. It is also more likely to work with upcoming sim racing games as standard without lengthy upgrade times. And with its quick-release system (QRS), you can switch out wheels in-race with ease without dropping a second.
Due to the rather compact wheel size without it feeling small, the buttons on the wheel face are all within easy reach. Rocker switches were developed to be flicked and pressed with ease while driving, reducing the need to take your hands off the wheel itself. And if you ever re-map the button functions, you’ll find that all the caps are exchangeable to match their functions; making it easier for visual recognition.
It’s a truly fantastic wheel with all the features you need to dominate in sim racing, while keeping a reasonable price tag and exciting allure for fresh sim racers!
CSL Elite P1 Steering Wheel
| Compatible Consoles: PC, PS4, Xbox One | Compatible Products: All CSL pedal sets, CSL Elite Wheelbase V1.1 (for PC & Xbox), ClubSport Wheelbases V2 & V2.5, Podium Wheelbases DD1 & DD2 |
The elite version of the now-retired regular P1 racing wheel, this wheel is designed with Xbox sim racing in mind! But that doesn’t simply pigeon-hole it into being used with that console. With the proper wheelbase attachment, this can be easily adjusted to be PS4-ready, making it one of the most affordable wheels that Fanatec offers for this platform.
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Covered in Alcantara and stitched in racing red, this wheel is a lot more familiar due to its circular shape. The material it’s covered with is a high-grade fabric designed and used for racing cars to provide the best hand grip possible, so it feels hugely realistic to wield! Specially curved Snapdrome paddle shifters make it easier to drive in whatever position you prefer, whether it’s 3 and 9 or ‘10 to 2’.
The buttons on the wheel’s front can all be exchanged by using different caps, so you can choose between console-specific buttons or general racing ones. Its realistic wheel diameter of 30cm makes it feel as if you’re in a real racing car’s cockpit, unlike some other brands who offer smaller wheels that feel very toy-like.
If you own an Xbox One, your set-up will take less than a few minutes; plugging it into a compatible wheelbase connected to your console will immediately configure everything, ready to play! It’s a bit more involved for PS4 set-up, but provided you have a PS4-compatible wheelbase already hooked up, the wheel will recognize the console and configure to it all the same.
An affordable wheel that doesn’t compromise on excellence; that’s a great way to sum up the Elite P1!
Fanatec ClubSport Racing Wheels
Let’s take a step up and look at the level of hardware for sim racing enthusiasts who want excellence and competitiveness in equal measure. For the level of material quality and absolutely phenomenal technology, money shouldn’t be an object. But, even taking that into account, Fanatec’s ClubSport range actually offers great value when compared to other elite manufacturers!
There’s a wider range of ClubSport wheels available when compared to the CSL line of products, so my job was far harder! Nevertheless, here are the wheels I think represent the best of the best within the ClubSport line of racing wheels:
ClubSport Formula V2 Steering Wheel
| Compatible Consoles: PC, PS4, Xbox One | Compatible Products: ClubSport pedal sets & accessories, ClubSport V2 & V2.5 Wheelbases, CSL Elite Wheelbases, Podium Wheelbases |
Perhaps one of the biggest claims to fame with Fanatec as a company is their partnership with Formula 1, the pinnacle racing series on the world stage. They started making products for F1 teams to train their drivers in the off-season, and now they’ve made these awesome wheels available for general consumers! The latest addition to that collection is the Formula V2.
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It’s an improvement to the original wheel they designed for F1 Esports, and it enjoys a whole host of the newest innovations and the latest compatibility with all the big consoles available. The wheel front has been made with stunning carbon fiber, and the rest of it all is fully metal in its composition.
It’s officially licensed for the Xbox One and Microsoft Windows 10, but with the ability to be connected to PS4 for the ultimate array of compatibility. The lights found on the wheel front are more than pretty colors; they light up to display rev counters for the maximum competitive edge. And the buttons you can see all over the wheel? You can control and adjust 67 functions of any game you play utilizing only the buttons.
This wheel also allows its owner to upgrade to the Podium-level magnetic shifters if they wish for seamless, responsive gear shifting. And in true F1 style, you can decide whether to launch the car using the electronic start on the wheel, or using the gas pedal. Both options are exciting and responsive!
With so many cutting-edge options at your fingertips, this wheel is truly among the best of the best within the ClubSport range. What can be better than feeling as if you’re inside the cockpit of the best race cars of the modern era? Not much, I can tell you that!
ClubSport Porsche 918 RSR Steering Wheel
| Compatible Consoles: PS4, PC | Compatible Products: All ClubSport pedals, accessories & wheelbases, all Podium wheelbases and all CSL wheelbases |
Due to being one of the newer products that Fanatec have produced, the Porsche 918 replica steering wheel designed for PC and PS4 has an amazing range of compatibility with other products. Needless to say, for a wheel designed to the specifications one of the most powerful race cars in the world, its control and luxury are the best bar none!
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The base wheel is made with aluminum and carbon fiber, allowing for a durable, properly weighty yet not too heavy piece of equipment. The wheel rim is covered with the finest available automotive-grade leather for touches of both luxury and practicality, not to mention the amazing visual effect. Unlike other leathers, you will maintain good hand grip with this leather grade.
Another boon of this wheel being an exact replica of the Porsche 918 steering wheels is the fact that it boasts entirely realistic dimensions; enhancing the realism to new heights. It’s one of the largest wheels that Fanatec produces, with a wheel diameter of 32cm. You’ll truly feel as if you’re behind the wheel of the real thing.
It boasts adjustable and detachable shifter paddles, so you can personalize your shifting experience as you see fit. With how you can adjust the height and position of the shifters, however, different paddles really aren’t necessary.
At the top of the wheel rim, you have an advanced telemetry display at an easily-seen and perceived level. This can be adjusted to display rev counts, or to set up the wheel options and tuning ability. Unlike in other wheels, the telemetry display fits the rest of the wheel’s aesthetic very well, with the colors accenting the Porsche logo found in the wheel’s center panel.
Two different motors are integrated into the wheel rim, and these dictate the level of force feedback and rumble you’ll receive as the driver. The settings for this can be controlled using the tuning menu and a truly immersive, personalized drive no matter the game you’re playing! Not a lot of wheel rims come equipped with this technology.
Fanatec Podium Racing Wheels
It might be hard to believe that there’s a level above ClubSport, especially after looking at the two most competitive, elite wheels on offer within that product line. But, here we are, at the Podium level of performance! Yet another step up the excellence ladder with the finest materials and absolute cutting-edge technology, Podium products are utilized for the highest level of sim racing competition.
The selection of wheels is a little less than ClubSport, for which the most variation in racing wheels can be found, but that hasn’t made my choice any easier for picking the best products! The wheels I’ve chosen can easily be regarded as the two best products currently offered by Fanatec, and I’d even go as far as to say the best available on the market.
Without any further delay, here’s the pinnacle of Fanatec sim racing hardware:
Podium F1 Racing Wheel
| Compatible Consoles: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Compatible Products: All Fanatec pedals & shifters, all Fanatec steering wheels, most Fanatec wheelbases |
This beauty of a wheel comes in a bundle with the first-ever cross-platform direct drive wheelbase; in short, the absolute peak of force feedback technology. Fanatec’s official partnership with Sony has led to this product being licensed and endorsed by them, with special compatibility with all PS4 and PS4 Pro consoles.
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In spite of this, the wheel and its wheelbase are still capable to be used with the Xbox One and will reach maximum performance with a PC base. Unlike with the PS4 which is a plug-and-play functionality, set-up with the other systems will be a longer process and will require a lot of patience. However, the direct drive really is worth the time if you don’t have a PS4! It’s the closest possible replication of being in a real race car.
It’s officially licensed by Formula 1, and its drivers use this set-up as the gold standard of race simulations for training during the off seasons. The latest developments in compatibility for new games will ensure that this wheel and its wheelbase will remain operable with every new sim racing game that comes to the market on PS4, making it an investment that’ll last.
All data from the wheel is transferred through the wheelbase, which utilizes brand-new wireless and data transfer systems. No more USB wires or wayward cables! All motors used within the Podium wheelbase itself are built from scratch for sim racing specifically; not a re-engineered normal motor. Because of this, you’ll receive the best results in sim racing without compromise.
You’ll receive the advanced paddle module as standard on this wheel, which includes magnetic tech to generate solid, positive shifting for every gear shift. And to add to the overall quality, you’ll find that the paddles are all made from carbon fiber. Special controls for DRS can be found within these shifting paddles, making it the ultimate wheel to be used with F1 racing sims.
R300 Podium Steering Wheel
| Compatible Consoles: PS4, PC | Compatible Products: All Podium pedals, accessories & wheelbases, ClubSport Wheelbase V2.5, most CSL Elite wheelbases |
In the words of Fanatec themselves, the R300 is an ideal multi-purpose wheel. It comes as a bundle purchase which combines the wheel rim, Podium Hub, advanced paddle module and the ClubSport button cluster pack. The shape is resminiscent and near-identical to real GT race cars, but its performance doesn’t just stick to one type of driving!
The wheel itself is made of brushed, adonized aluminum and covered with automotive-grade, premium leather; topped off with luxurious gold stitching. The visuals are pretty stunning, between the black and gold color scheme and realistic 30cm wheel diameter. Unlike the F1 wheels, this unique type of wheel rim makes it suitable for driving all kinds of cars in many racing sims.
In order to operate Fanatec wheels, you require a Hub to which the wheelbase connects. The Podium variety offers fantastic customization options, with the ability to utilize the advanced paddle module, universal button clusters and a dataport connector for attaching future devices (such as stick shifters).
The button clusters themselves are fully adjustable and you can move them along the front rails of the Hub to suit your preferences, and the buttons that appear on these clusters are just as customizable. If you have a rig for your PC, Fanatec’s hub and wheelbases will support any wheel rims that have 6x70mm or 3x50mm bolt patterns, which means that you can even use third-party products if you want!
It’s a strong, long-lasting wheel that allows for excellence in every sim racing game, using any car you wish. Without a doubt, it’s the best wheel money can buy for its sheer flexibility, and it’s far more accessible than the F1 products that Fanatec offer.
Final Verdict: Which Wheel Should You Buy?
Now that I’ve covered all of the different product lines that are available through Fanatec, and covered the best wheels within each category, here comes the tough question: which wheel should you buy?
This all depends on what kind of sim racer you are, among many other things that you might be looking for. Lovers of Formula 1 among you would do well to buy the ClubSport Formula V2 or the Podium F1. And for fans of general racing, with a huge breadth of driving variety, would probably prefer to own the CSL P1 Elite or the Podium R300.
Personally, I don’t think anything can beat the direct drive technology of the Podium F1. It’s so immersive and realistic that I often couldn’t tell that I was driving in a racing sim! You’ll be getting the utmost quality with features to enhance your driving experience, and your competitiveness in sim racing overall.
On the other hand, there’s something about the CSL Elite McLaren GT3 that feels as if it’s worth pre-ordering. In spite of being in the ‘budget’ line of products offered by Fanatec, it’s packed full of technology and innovation that would be better suited to ClubSport and even Podium ranges! There’s little else more alluring than a direct replica of such an iconic, fast race car.
In the end, it’s a tie for me between the Podium F1 and the CSL Elite McLaren GT3. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of the wheels I talked about should be disregarded! There’s so much innovation packed into every wheel that they’d all make amazing purchases, and doing so will absolutely elevate your racing game to new heights.