After six months’ worth of teasing the sim racing community with their latest creation, which was then followed by a four-month delay after the original pre-order date was opened, Fanatec finally released the much anticipated Club Sport Lite (CSL) Elite McLaren GT3 Steering Wheel.
What is it?
For those not in the know, Fanatec manufactures sim racing equipment. Items such as racing wheel bases with detachable rims, racing pedals, racing cockpits, hand brakes and shifters (h-pattern and sequential). In a nutshell, everything anybody would ever need to get into simulated racing. The CSL Elite wheel base is the newest product Fanatec has brought to the market, and it was designed to occupy the mid-range price point for sim racing equipment. The CSL Elite series is the little, but still mighty, brother to their main Club Sport line up.
The CSL Elite McLaren GT3 steering wheel is a fully licensed product from McLaren Automotive Limited. That means that this wheel is nearly 100% accurate to the in-real-life wheel that is used in the McLaren GT3 race cars today.
The CSL Elite McLaren GT3 has nine static buttons, two miscellaneous toggle and plunge buttons at the top of the wheel’s face, two switches with 12-points of selection that can be programmed, one master function switch with an OLED screen for menus selection and wheel settings adjustments. It also sports an F1 style dual clutch system for precise standing start launch control, an orange aluminum swifter paddle and two plastic paddles that can be used for either launch control of on-wheel handbrake. These paddles feature a diamond etched design on the tips for extra grip. Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Fanatec wheel without Fanatec’s patented five-way “Funky Switch.”
The body of the wheel is sturdy plastic with a faux carbon fiber design, and the wheel’s hand grips are rubber which is authentic to the original GT3 wheel. This wheel is 12 inches in diameter (30cm) and weighs in at 2.30 lbs (1 kg) making it one of the lightest wheels that Fanatec has to offer.
While this wheel is a fully licensed wheel for the Xbox One, it is still compatible with PC (of course!) and the PS4 version of the CSL Elite wheel base.
You would think that this wheel was an exclusive wheel to the CSL Elite base, but then you’d be wrong. Fanatec wanted to make sure that this wheel option was available to all of its customers, so it did also give this rim the ability to be equipped to their CSW bases via an optional CSW quick release. The CSW quick release is, of course, extra and will run you an additional USD 99.95. Note for CSW owners, be sure that your drivers are updated to at least v310 otherwise you will not be able to use this rim on your wheel base. If you need to update your drivers, then visit the download section of Fanatec’s website.
The CSL Elite McLaren GT3 is a beautiful racing rim. I have never been a fan of faux carbon fiber, but Fanatec has pulled it off masterfully. The level of detail in the rim is on-par with what the community has come to expect from this company. In your hands, the wheel feels like you would hope: it’s sturdy with no signs of wheel flex while you’re racing. If you have the Fanatec F1 rim, then you’ll notice that the CSL Elite McLaren GT3 rim is noticeably wider than the F1 rim.
Most all of the buttons are easy to access while you’re driving and the 12-point adjustable switches make mapping items like traction control a breeze! The shifter paddle is unique since its one long piece of aluminum that runs the length of the wheel. The shifter paddle is more firm of a paddle than the other paddles that Fanatec offers on their other rims. I’m indifferent to the firmness of shifter paddles, but I can say that the CSL Elite McLaren GT3 shifter paddles are significantly more firm than my F1 and BMW rim’s shifter paddles.
Upon the first touch, the wheel feels cheap. As I previously mentioned the entire body is made of plastic, and a lot of hardcore sim racers – myself included – will be disappointed by the wheel at first because of this. Thankfully, as mentioned above, there were not any signs of wheel flex while I was racing with this wheel. I do find myself curious to know how resistant this wheel’s body will be after hundreds of hours of racing, and how well it will stand up if mounted onto a direct drive wheel base.
The hand grips are thin, and the rubber grips feel equally as cheap as the body. While Fanatec notes that the choice to use rubber for the hand grips was based upon the real-life wheel, the use of rubber detracts from the overall quality of the wheel. If Fanatec would have made an artistic choice to use Alcantara (as they use on the vast majority of their wheels) over rubber, then this would not have been a problem. Lastly, the plastic paddles that can be used for launch control or an on-wheel handbrake – among other things since they are bindable paddles—really should have been made of metal since those items are going to be ones that will receive the most stress, especially if they are being used as a handbrake.
Because this rim is a licensed product for the Xbox One, the buttons are labeled with Xbox centric labels, and there is an “Xbox button” on the lower right-hand corner of the wheel. While this isn’t a problem per say, the problem comes in the substitute buttons that Fanatec supplies with the wheel. They provided button caps with ordinary everyday car iconography on them. Such as turn signals, headlight, seat up and back, windshield wipers, etc. It would have been much better if they simply supplied a pack of different colored button caps or perhaps black caps with simple white numbers on each cap. The lack of a “race car” replacement caps does take away from the immersion when you look down at your wheel, and you see the color-coded X, Y, B, A button layout of an Xbox controller on your racing wheel.
This wheel is a victim of superficiality. When I first put the wheel on my CSW base, I had pre-determined that I wouldn’t like it due to the items that I have previously mentioned. To me, the wheel hadn’t met the Fanatec materials standards that I was expecting from it. Thankfully, throughout the week this wheel proved me wrong. It’s a remarkable wheel at a very generous price point.
Do I still feel that Fanatec should have built a metal body and put on Alcantara grips? Yes! But I do understand that this wheel wasn’t created for the hardcore sim racing market. Otherwise, this wheel would be exactly as I described and cost $500. This wheel was created for console racers as a point of entry to the rest of the Fanatec family of equipment. The CSL Elite McLaren GT3 wheel is a bargain wheel regarding price but not in terms of poor quality, and I would recommend buying it.
The CSL Elite McLaren GT3 rim retails for USD 169.95, and the CSW quick release adaptor retails for USD 99.95.