Ever since Fanatec entered the upper-class steering wheel market in 2008, the company has been selling officially Porsche-licensed wheels.
After focusing on road-car replica wheels for over three years, the company is now introducing a batch of new hardware that moves away from the confinement of the Porsche brand.
The first is the Forza Motorsport-endorsed CSR wheel that bundles Fanatec’s trademark cross-comptability with proven technology and an all-new wheel rim design.
Are Fanatec wheels worth the price even without the shiny Porsche badge? Read the review to find out![head3]Features[/head3]
While future Fanatec wheels will be using a newly-designed base, the Forza Motorsport CSR Wheel once again uses the proven internals that have already powered the company’s Porsche line of wheels.
The Force Feedback is provided by a strong Mabuchi RS 550 motor that is belt driven for smooth effects. The motor is backed up by two additional actuators that provide vibration to simulate feedback from the engine and ABS.
Like the Porsche Turbos S & GT2 wheels, the FM CSR’s standout feature is its cross compatibility as the wheel works both on the PC and the Playstation 3 as well as Microsoft’s Xbox 360, a console which is not supported by any other upper-market wheel currently available.
The impressive compatibility somewhat limits the choice of buttons available on the rim, the FM CSR comes with the typical console button layout consisting of eight buttons, an analog stick and the console-typical „Start“ & „Select“ Buttons“.
Furthermore, the wheel comes with built-in shifting paddles and an optional available set of stick shifters. I´ve tested the wheel with the CSR shifter set that includes both a sequential shifter and a 6+1 manual unit.
The wheel also features the built-in tuning options that are accessible via the small LCD display already known from their Porsche line of wheels.[head3]Design & Build Quality[/head3]
The FM CSR wheel features a newly-designed wheel rim that separates the wheel from the road car-oriented design of the Porsche wheels.
Without striving to be an exact replica of a particular race car wheel, the rim does look like something one would find in a competition car (save for the console-style buttons), featuring a neat-looking faceplate made of aluminum.
The wheel rim material of Fanatec’s Porsche line of wheel differed with the price tag, while the cheaper ones used plastic or rubber, the more expensive wheels made use of leather and even alcantara.
For the FM CSR, Fanatec has gone a new route, coming up with a grip solution that includes three different materials. While the majority of the rim is made of glossy plastic, the hand grips are made of rubber and high-quality alcantara with the lower part of the rim covered in rubber as well.
While this solution doesn’t give you the full sensation of Fanatec’s famous alcantara wheel rims, the hand grips provide the exact same sensation & feel (and smell!) of the full-blown alcantara wheel.
The new wheel rim also features brand-new aluminum-made shifting levers as Fanatec has finally learned their lesson in that regard. The first Porsche wheels had very wobbly levers, later models introduced screw-on plates that were still mounted on a plastic-base though.
Now, Fanatec has gone all-out, cutting the plastic out and finally providing some durable aluminum shifting levers that come with a nice click when used. While the wheel-rim is all new, the wheel’s base is known to everyone who ever owned a Fanatec wheel as the FM CSR isn’t just sharing the same internals as the Porsche wheel, it’s also using the same base design aside from the paint job.
Build-quality wise, the missing Porsche badge makes the FM CSR no less impressive than other Fanatec wheels as everything feels durable and well-made. The rubber-alcantara hand grips feel nice and provide excellent grip, the plastic parts of the rim are a bit of a letdown though, especially for people whose hands tend to move around on the rim, a matter made worse by the fact that you can feel a seam in the middle of the rim as well.
Aside from the plastic rim, the used materials even exceed the Porsche line as the aluminum wheel plate and the highly-durable shifting levers look and feel better than anything any Porsche wheel ever offered.
The improved build quality also continues with the new CSR Shifter set. While still using the same plastic casing of Fanatec’s old shifters, the new units feel more durable due to the sticks being bigger and fully made of metal now.[head3]Installation & Configuration[/head3]
Fanatec hasn’t just come a long way when it comes to the used materials, drivers & documentation have improved tremendously over the years as well. While their first wheels were somewhat rough around the edges in that regard, the FM CSR wheel comes with proper documentation and drivers for a smooth start.
First, we have to fix the wheel to the table though and here’s an area that hasn’t improved at all. Since the FM CSR uses the same base as the Porsche wheels, it also comes with the same clamping mechanism I have complained so often about in past reviews.
I feel like a broken record pointing it out, while the clamp is very easy to fix and loose again, it just doesn’t give the wheel a very tight grip to the table compared to screw-solutions used by other manufacturers. If you like your Force Feedback strong, chances are that the wheel base will start moving on the table after a longer drive.
People who own a cockpit or wheel stand are much better off as hard-mounting the wheel is always a better choice. Since the FM CSR wheel comes with the same screw-layout than the other Fanatec wheels, pretty much all stands & rigs currently on the market are compatible to the wheel.
Once the wheel is fixed, buyers of the CSR Shifter set also need to add the shifters which are connected to the wheel by two metal tubes that are fed into holes in the wheel base. The shifters can be attached either at the left or the right side of the wheel, they´re connected to the base using a PS2 cable.
With the wheel all set up, console players are already ready to go. Once the wheel is turned on, a certain button combination has to be pressed to send the wheel in PC, Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 mode.
The latter is the easiest to use as the wheel is wireless in Xbox 360 mode and ready to go with two touches of a button. The Playstation 3 requires a wired connection as does the PC mode that of course also requires a driver to be installed.
Fanatec recently released a new version driver that supports the FM CSR, the driver installation is quick and flawless. If you owned a Fanatec Porsche wheel before, make sure to update the driver installation as older-version drivers work with the wheel but only with Force Feedback disabled.[head3]Driving & Force Feedback[/head3]
Fanatec has set quite high standards in terms of the driving experience with their Porsche wheels and the Forza Motorsport CSR wheel lives up to the brand’s standards.
The wheel’s belt-driven Mabuchi motor delivers strong and detailed Force Feedback effects with the two vibration motors adding more detail for a more realistic experience.
Despite offering strong effects, the wheel is very smooth and quick to turn, the mechanical deadzone is minimal and nothing to complain about. While being strong and precise, the wheel is also rather silent, giving you the impression of using quality equipment.
Compared to the Fanatec Porsche 911 GT2, the company’s top-shelf Porsche product, the wheel feels a bit sharper in all regards, being a bit more quicker to turn, a bit stronger and a bit smoother despite using the same technical internals.
In terms of immersion, the FM CSR is a completely different beast than the Porsche wheels as the new wheel rim gives you the impression of actually using a race-car wheel instead of a road car replica.
This feeling is helped by the fact that the wheel just feels a bit quicker to respond, making it a better choice than the Porsche wheels, especially for driving race cars that require quick reaction time.
Since the wheel is very much aimed at console users, one of the most important features are the quick-tuning settings using the built-in display. While the ability to adjust things like deadzone, force feedback & sensitivity on the wheel is largely a matter of comfort with PC sims, it is essential for console games.
Most console titles don’t offer extensive steering wheel & force feedback settings, gamers are usually stuck with what the stock settings provide as other wheels don’t allow to tweak any settings independently from the software.
With the Fanatec tuning settings, console racers break free from this confinement, bringing some of the flexibility PC users are used to over to console games.[head3]Conclusion[/head3]
Sim racers don’t have to fear, just because the new Fanatec products have lost the Porsche badge doesn’t mean the company is losing their ways. Despite relying heavily on the proven base of the Porsche wheels, the Forza Motorsport CSR is a successful evolution in Fanatec’s line of wheels.
The build quality has been further improved, finally offering really durable paddle & stick shifters and the wheel comes with ever-improving drivers and documentation. Even though the wheel uses proven internals, Fanatec has managed to squeeze a little more out of the hardware as the wheel feels just a tad racier than its Porsche predecessors.
Of course, the FM CSR can’t quite compete with the T500 RS in terms of smoothness and force feedback strength, that’s hardly a surprise looking at the price the Thrustmaster wheel goes for though. The Forza Motorsport CSR sells for 249 Euros/Dollars and even when adding the load cell-equipped CSR Elite pedals (which VirtualR will review very soon!), the combo stays under 400 Euros/Dollars.
For users who primarily want to use their wheel at a gaming console, Fanatec’s wheel remains the top choice not just because of the unrivaled crosss-compatability but because of the wheel-tuning settings that allow Fanatec owners to have their individual needs met while others are stuck with the stock settings.
The Forza Motorsport CSR wheel is exclusively available on the Fanatec website.
- All new aluminum paddle shifters
- Strong Force Feedback, smooth & silent driving experience
- Quick tuning options allow tweaking independent from game software
- Unrivaled cross compatibility to all three major platforms
- Partly-plastic wheel rim, no full alcantara treatment
- Table clamp doesn’t allow tight fight, hard-mounting recommended
- No pedals included