Fanatec CSL DD and CSL Pedals 2 Review

Fanatec CSL Elite 2
Overall
8.6/10
8.6/10
  • Overall Impression - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value for Money - 9/10
    9/10
  • Precision - 9/10
    9/10
  • Robustness - 9/10
    9/10
  • Material (Metal vs Plastic) - 8/10
    8/10
Sending
User Review
2.97 (30 votes)

Summary

If I had to choose between the competition, including older Club Sports Pedals V2 + Club Sport Wheel Base V1, and Fanatec CSL Elite, I’d choose the latter. Especially with the load cell kit, this is a highly competitive setup, enabling you to compete for podiums in race. Clear winner!

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A few weeks ago, Fanatec sent us samples of their new Fanatec CSL lineup.

As always, I’d like to start this review with a quick recap for you busy racers.

Note that I updated this article in 2023 according to the newest CSL lineup, including comparison to current ClubSport and Podium and a writeup about the CSL DD wheel base.

Article Version History:
– 06. December 2016: Originally Published

– 24. July 2017: updated
– 09.+16. April 2019: updated
– 12. November 2023: updated to CSL Pedals 2
and CSL DD


Fanatec have released a PS4 and PlayStation 5 version of their wheel, too. Together with a Xbox One compatible steering wheel or Fanatec’s Universal Hub for Xbox One, you can also use that for Xbox One racing, thereby having the currently most compatible wheel base on market. Related reviews here:


Fanatec CSL Elite Review Summary

Is Fanatec’s new series worth the money? Short answer: Absolutely

Note if you are used to Load Cells or want to drive your braking performance to the next level, skip the CSL Elite without Load Cell Kit, and at least get ones with the kit – or step up to Club Sports (or even Podium).
Remember: Everybody can pinch down the throttle, but not everybody is good at braking and it can make all the difference.

Here’s how the CSL Elite compares to the competition.

In terms of pure, overall performance, Fanatec CSL Elite is, in my humble opinion as a simracer, better than:

It is worse than:

  • Fanatec Club Sport with Wheel Base V2, Pedals V3

The latter is considerably more expensive, though.

CSL Elite Pedals (Version 1): The CSL Elite pedals alone, together with the Load Cell Kit are better than Club Sport Pedals V2, but only without damping oil installed. However, with oil in the damper of the CSP V2, my feelings are that they are en par.

CSL Elite Pedals 2: Great stuff. Not much to add compared to the CSL Elite 1s. However, in contrast to the Load Cell Kit of CSL Elite 1, there is a major difference in the brake: The version 1 load cell brake pedal was stiff as heck, there was practically no “soft zone” before brake grip sets in. With the CSL Elite Pedals 2, you now have a soft zone, and a stiff zone where actual braking sets in. This makes it more realistic and everybody who operated a disc brake (be it in car, bicycle or motor bike) gonna confirm.

Compared to the more expensive ClubSport V3, the CSL Elite pedals + load cell are a downgrade for sure.

Compared to Club Sport Pedals V2, the CSL Elite + Load Cell Kit are not so much of an upgrade. In my opinion you do better at trying different silicone oils in your CSP2s instead. However: A reason you might still consider trying out the CSL pedals is that the pedal’s can be shifted left and right almost freely. If you regularly cramp because of the fixed pedal positions, this may be a valid justification to try CSL Elites.

Since this is a bit confusing, here is an overview of currently available Fanatec Pedals (as of November 12, 2023), from best to worst according to my own opinion:

  1. Fanatec Club Sport Pedals V3 (or Fanatec Club Sport Pedals V3 Inverted – this is just a matter of personal preference and budget)
  2. Fanatec CSL Elite Pedals V2
  3. Fanatec CSL Elite Pedals w/ Load Cell Kit
  4. Fanatec CSL Elite Pedals (w/out Load Cell Kit) <- Personally, I would not dare to race on pedals without Load Cell anymore, though

Regarding the CSL DD Wheel Base, let’s summarize it this way: Every single Direct Drive Wheel Base by Fanatec is an upgrade to any belt driven wheel base by Fanatec in the past. There is simply no comparison; if you ever thought there is no lag in your belt driven wheel base, after using any DD wheel base, you know there is. And it’s straight, tough, direct – no crumple zone, straight to your hands.

Overall, I see CSL vs. ClubSport as a budget decision. If you are willing and able to invest more money, hesitate not and go all ClubSport. Otherwise, there isn’t anything wrong with the CSLs; in my opinion, the offer the biggest bang in that budget range.

In-Depth Review of Fanatec CSL Elite Series

Part 1: CSL Elite Wheel Base

If you’re coming from Fanatec’s Club Sport Wheel Base V1, Thrustmaster T500RS or Logitech G27/G29/G920, or any of their predecessors, then the CSL Elite Wheel Base is a definite upgrade.

If you still operate a Club Sport V1 or V2, which are no longer sold: In terms of torque, it is located exactly between Club Sport Wheel Base V1 and V2:

Here is every currently available Fanatec Wheel Base in terms of peak torque:

In contrast, here are some more torque numbers for the competition:

So as you see, the CSL DD Wheel Base is good stuff, with only Club Sport DD and Podium DD beating it. The Bodnar SimSteering system is a bit out of competition, with a relatively luxurious price tag in excess of 3000 GBP (&gt; 3700 USD at the time of writing), and was only included for comparison.

So much for the torque. What about the quality of Force Feedback?

Upon first trying this wheel base, I loaded up iRacing and the drifty Lotus 49 for a practice session at Imola. What I instantly recognized was just how direct the feedback feels. If you come from a CSW V1, which feels more rugged, then you’ll first be skeptical. But without reason! Exiting the pit lane, I floored the gas pedal. After decelerating for the first chicane, I floored the gas again. This time, a tad too much and too early. I expected to spin the next moment.

But not so. The FFB fires up. Barely noticable, more of the sublimial kind. I take counter measurement earlier and just so enough as I have never done with my older wheel bases. Wow, this was the moment I knew that the CSL DD will replace my CSW V1.

I ran many more laps, for the joy of it, and to statistically validate my impression. Seriously, I don’t remember ever doing so many consecutive, incident free laps in the L49. Not with the Logitech G27, neither even with CSW V1, but with the DD range, I can do incident-free laps as never before.

I tried it with more of my favorite cars, including the MP4-30 (McLaren F1 car), Lotus 79 (F1 car of the infamous ground effect era in Formula 1) and the one always good for a nifty race, Formula Renault 2.0. In each and every car and lap, the CSL DD (as well as the other Wheel Bases) was better than any belt-driven wheel I tried.

The CSL DD is both, stronger, quicker and simply put, better than any other belt-driven wheel base I have ever owned.

Also, compared to belt-driven predecessors, it is more rugged and rough, which I love in racing. Belt-driven wheels are a little smoother – but smooth I only like when delivering cargo in Truck Simulator ๐Ÿ™‚

Part 2: CSL Elite Pedals

To be honest, there’s not so much to say about the pedals with regards to race performance. The package comes with a brake pedal, a gas pedal and a clutch pedal (except in the CSL Elite 1 without Load Cell). The brake and clutch pedal are linear and potentiometer based, as one knows from the Logitech and Thrustmaster competition.

Unlike most of the competition (including inhouse competition), Fanatec uses torsion springs instead of compression strings. Regarding your foot feeling, this does not make for any difference.

The pedal travel on this set is pretty long if you’re used to Club Sport Pedals. Actually, I had to remove the rubber grip s because of this. The longer travel required my feet to slide on the pedals a bit, and the rubber was clearly in way of that (on the Load Cell Kit, which eradicates almost all pedal travel, I still use the rubber pad).

The brake pedal comes with a little foam insert to make it feel more like a real brake. However, when comparing to Thrustmaster T500, Logitech G29 / Logitech G920 or a Logitech G27 with Nixim Mod installed, then Fanatec’s foam really comes last in the list of “brake feel hacks”. But don’t stop reading before you’ve checked the Load Cell Kit, which is a game changer.

The brake pedal has a little more resistance. Also, the brake later becomes the clutch pedal when you install the Load Cell Kit.

Part 3: CSL Elite Load Cell Kit & CSL Elite Pedals 2

This is the bread and butter of the pedal set. It makes it actually compete with ClubSport Pedals V2.

But wait, I even think that this Load Cell Kit makes the pedals even BETTER than Club Sport Pedals V2 (BUT NOT Club Sport Pedals V3!).

So why is that?

If you compare the CSL Elite brake pedal to CSPv2 brake pedal, than, apart from visual differences, there is one huge shrieking difference, and this is travel distance. A CSPv2 brake pedal simulates the travel distance from street and non-Formula 1 race cars; i.e., the travel distance is what Average Joe would deem “realistic”.

The brake pedal distance in the CSL Elite ones, however, is almost none. If you install the 95 kg (209 lbs) rubber kit, then travel is just about 1.5 – 3 cm (0.6 – 1.2 in), depending on your strength. And this is good, …, wait a moment; it’s NOT good. IT’S FREAKING AWESOME.

Of these few centimeters/inches of travel, the yellow sponge you see in the pictures takes up the most actually. The softness of this sponge basically simulates the movement of the brake shoes towards the brake discs. I am thinking about removing the sponge and testing the results. Maybe it’s even better then.

I don’t know the exact physical reasoning on a scientific level. But my humble guess is the following:

Everyone who sports a brake based on load cells and who has experience with linear, potentiometer based pedals (like was the case with a factory Logitech G27 and most (if not all) pedals cheaper than that, knows the following. Human muscle memory is magnitudes better at memorizing Strength than memorizing Travel. How many times have you overworked your tires upon braking with a linear brake? For my part: Absolutely routinely. When driving at the edge, a lap without blocking tires was more the exception than the rule (of course I also know racers who have no problem with this).

However, when switching to load cell based, i.e. strength based, input, your braking failure rate suddenly starts to drop. For me: Blocking tires because of braking has become an absolute exception. It is no longer a problem to me. Neither in Mazda MX-5 or Lotus 49 nor MP4-30.

That’s how good strength based input is. Now, with CSL Elite, Fanatec have almost eradicated Travel altogether.  What remains is a brake pedal with almost only Strength Based Input.

My guess for why this is even better than what CSPv2 comes up with is that Travel somehow irritates and confuses muscle memory. The fact that Travel has been shut down to an obligatory minimum might mean that there’s less irritation and confusion left for your humble legs, thereby generating more focus onto what counts: Strength of Input.

By the way: With regards to Club Sport Pedals V3, Fanatec are just releasing a Brake Performance Kit which replicates exactly that: Eradication of Travel. But that’s the stuff of another review.

On a side-note: This is kinda rocket science. The F16 Falcon fighting jet is said to feature a stick that has no travel either, and all it recognizes is strength of input. Awesome?

So, in just a few words, my opinion is that the CSL Elite pedals, together with the CSL Elite Load Cell Kit, beat Club Sport Pedals V2 and the Thrustmaster and Logitech Competition in terms of pure performance. Of course, the full setup, including the load cell kit, is more expensive, but what you get is quality (*).

(*) And I have a gut feeling that you also get a foretaste of what might become a standard in the next generations of high performance pedals in that pricing magnitude (i.e. the eradication of travel in favor of a purely strength based brake pedal).

Summary

Regarding wheels available in the Mass Market, I always prefer Fanatec. Their hardware is rough, stylish, stable and usually mostly composed of metal and not damned plastic. Whether CSL Elite, Club Sport or Podium, this is purely a price decision for me. They are all great under their price tag.

Furthermore, when it comes to endured racing sessions, there is just minimal fading, if at all. I still remember how my Logitech G27’s Force Feedback was near to useless after a 2 hour race. Not so with either of the Fanatec wheel bases.

Make sure you at least get a Load Cell pedal set, and the remainder is just a choice of budget. Can and want to spend on Fanatec Podium? Do that. Can and want to spend on Club Sport? Do that. Smaller Budget? CSL Elite.

It’s all very good hardware. And with bigger budget, it simply goes from very good to great to awesome.

I would not want to replace any of the Fanatec hardware with any of the Mass Market competition.

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Fanatec CSL Elite 2
Overall
8.6/10
8.6/10
  • Overall Impression - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value for Money - 9/10
    9/10
  • Precision - 9/10
    9/10
  • Robustness - 9/10
    9/10
  • Material (Metal vs Plastic) - 8/10
    8/10
Sending
User Review
2.97 (30 votes)

Summary

If I had to choose between the competition, including older Club Sports Pedals V2 + Club Sport Wheel Base V1, and Fanatec CSL Elite, I’d choose the latter. Especially with the load cell kit, this is a highly competitive setup, enabling you to compete for podiums in race. Clear winner!

15 Comments

  1. Alex 29. December 2016
    • Sebastian 29. December 2016
  2. Alex 29. December 2016
  3. Alex 29. December 2016
    • Sebastian 29. December 2016
  4. E M 16. January 2017
  5. Lewis 2. October 2017
    • Sebastian Mach 3. October 2017
      • Lewis 4. October 2017
        • Sebastian Mach 5. October 2017
  6. Richard B. 27. March 2018
    • Sebastian Mach 30. March 2018
  7. ENDOTHERMIC1 16. April 2018
    • Sebastian Mach 19. April 2018

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