Fanatec CSL DD


  • Direct drive fidelity at an unprecedented price
  • Compact, flexible form factor with passive cooling
  • Reduced cogging compared to other entry level DDs
  • Excellent detail and nuance with the Boost Kit 180
  • Highly customizable steering wheels with great value


  • Cheaper materials than higher priced competitors
  • Quick release exhibits some flex
  • Software has room for improvement
  • Documentation lacking for some features

Fanatec CSL DD Wheelbase In-Depth Review

The Fanatec CSL DD wheelbase has been shaking up the sim racing world since its release, bringing direct drive performance to a much more affordable price bracket. I’ve been testing out the CSL DD along with the Boost Kit 180 and some of Fanatec’s popular rim options to see if the hype is justified. After extensive use across a wide variety of sims, here’s my in-depth take on Fanatec’s revolutionary new direct drive base.


As a long time sim racing enthusiast, I’ve been eager to step up my equipment. The mid-range belt driven bases from Logitech, Thrustmaster and Fanatec’s own CSL Elite line have treated me well over the years. But I’ve been craving that next level of detail and immersion that only direct drive can provide.

The problem was always the massive jump in price to get quality direct drive performance. So when Fanatec announced the CSL DD for just $350 USD, it immediately caught my attention. Could this affordable new base really compete with the big boys? Let’s dig in and find out!

Unboxing and First Impressions

The CSL DD arrived in Fanatec’s usual stylish packaging, with some glossy graphics showing off the base itself along with the torque figures for each power supply option. Inside, the base is well protected by firm foam inserts.

My first thought upon taking it out of the box was surprise at just how compact it is. Fanatec slimmed this thing down, achieving a footprint not much larger than my previous CSL Elite. Yet hidden inside is a very capable direct drive motor.

Also included in the box is the standard 90W 12V power supply, mains power cable, USB-C cable, and accessories like alternate button caps and stickers for the wheels. The quick release needs to be installed separately on the wheel rims.

Speaking of wheels, I chose the Boost Kit 180 combo that came with Fanatec’s McLaren GT3 V2. This wheel has been renowned for years as one of the best values in sim racing. And first impressions don’t disappoint – the materials feel solid despite the reasonable price, and the sheer amount of buttons, rotaries and switches is hugely impressive.

Specs and Features

Under the hood, the CSL DD comes loaded with some slick features:

  • 160mm x 160mm x 145mm dimensions, extending to 240mm in length with the QR installed
  • High torque servo motor with contactless position sensor
  • Patented flux barrier technology to reduce torque ripple
  • 5Nm peak torque standard, upgradable to 8Nm with the Boost Kit 180
  • Compatible with PC, Xbox, and PlayStation versions available
  • Quick release system with optical data transmission
  • Interchangeable button caps and sticker sets for customization

The other main item for this review is the McLaren GT3 V2 wheel. Highlights include:

  • 300mm diameter round rim with multiple materials and grips
  • Dual paddle shifters and clutch paddles
  • Rotary dials, funky switches, and a wide array of buttons
  • LED display showing current gear and speed
  • Removable quick release (QR1)


Getting the CSL DD up and running only took about 30 minutes total. Mounting it is easy thanks to the two t-slots on the bottom. I like this flexibility to adjust fore/aft position. Some cockpit plates might line up perfectly with the default mounting holes on other bases. So the slots are a nice touch.

The quick release slides into the motor shaft and clicks securely into place. Installation on the wheel itself is simple but fiddly. Pay close attention to the orientation when inserting the QR plate.

For software, you need to install both the Fanatec Driver as well as Fanalab. This is a bit confusing – I initially thought I only needed one or the other. The software looks slick but takes some getting used to. I ran into issues renaming and managing setup profiles between different games.

One tip – update firmware before doing anything else! I cockily skipped this step and ran into major problems. Luckily the rescue mode got me back on track quickly.

Design and Build Quality

Fanatec made some smart design choices to achieve the CSL DD’s compact footprint and affordable pricing. The German-engineered motor eschews the typical bulky exterior and relies on internal heat sink fins to passively cool it. This means no annoying fan noise!

The unique exoskeleton frame allows flexible mounting while protecting the internals. And I really like the integration with wireless quick release. No more snaking cables through rotary joints.

That said, there are some compromises. The lighter plastic shaping and cheaper feel becomes apparent when handling the wheel rims. My gripes are minor though – some creaking when squeezing the grips but nothing noticeable when actually driving.

The quick release exhibits some play, allowing the wheel to rock back and forth slightly at the pivot point. I didn’t feel any ill effects while driving, even when really sawing at the wheel. But it fails the grab and shake test compared to my friend’s much pricier Simucube.

Fanatec promises the upcoming QR2 will be a significant upgrade in rigidity. But for now the flex isn’t a dealbreaker, especially at this price. Just don’t crank the torque sky high.

Force Feedback Performance

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Let’s talk about the force feedback!

With the standard 90W power supply, you’re limited to 5Nm of torque. I found this sufficient to appreciate the enhanced fluidity and resolution compared to previous gear driven bases. The details really come through thanks to the perfectly silent motor.

But to really unlock the CSL DD’s potential, you’ll want the Boost Kit 180. This beefier power supply doubles the output to 8Nm. And that extra grunt makes a big difference in creating a lively, dynamic feel.

The motor responds instantly to every subtle nuance of weight transfer, slip angles, curbs – you name it. But equally important is what you don’t feel: no clunking, grinding or notchiness. The CSL DD delivers a smooth, organic driving experience belying its affordable price.

I did have to crank the settings fairly high to feel some of the smaller details. And the extra torque can overpower some more flexible rigs. So make sure your frame is rigid enough before upgrading power supplies willy nilly!

Steering Wheel Options

One of Fanatec’s biggest strengths lies in the extensive steering wheel lineup. There are countless rims to suit different preferences, driving styles and budgets. I’ll focus on the two I tested.

First up is the WRC wheel bundled with the base. Despite the plasticky feel, it punches above its weight. The suede grips provide good traction, and the carbon fiber-style accents look slick. Buttons are plentiful, and the wheel includes a pleasant RGB rev indicator.

Shifting to the McLaren GT3 V2 reveals a premium experience hiding in an affordable package. The materials feel more durable, and the smooth contours fit nicely in my hands. The sheer number of inputs boggles the mind considering the reasonable $200 price.

The molded grips strike a good balance of comfort and control for lengthy stints. My only critique – they’re a tad thin for my large hands. Chunkier grips might suit some drivers better.


The included Fanalab software unlocks extensive customization and tuning options for both the wheel base and specific steering wheels. There are easy settings presets by vehicle type as well as manual adjustments for advanced users.

I sometimes struggled navigating between option menus and actually lost some settings at times. It all looks very sleek but isn’t always intuitive.

Managing multiple setups and profiles could also be streamlined. And the documentation leaves something to be desired. But updates continue improving the experience.

Reliability Concerns?

With mass market products, quality control issues are always a concern. I’m happy to report the CSL DD has been rock solid throughout my testing. No hiccups whatsoever so far.

Fanatec’s reputation has improved over the years as manufacturing matured. I encountered no squeaks, rattles, grinding or other unwelcome sounds despite heavy use across six different racing sims.

Shipping times and return policies remain a sticking point. Smaller items like adapters incur hefty delivery fees. So factor this into any accessory purchases. RMA handling could be smoother based on other community experiences, but I can’t directly comment.

Fanatec CSL DD