Fanatec Porsche 911 GT3 RS Wheel – Review
Ever since the first announcement of Fanatec’s Porsche 911 GT3 RS wheel and the matching Clubsport pedal set, the whole community is discussing whether or not this will be a new benchmark product in terms of steering wheels.
After a few delays, the wheel and the pedals are finally here – Can the product keep up with what the impressive feature list promises? Read the review to find out!
Fanatec’s Porsche 911 Turbo wheel was already a first step in Fanatec’s approach to gain market share in the Logitech-controlled field of racing wheels. The GT3 RS wheel and the Clubsport pedals are a different kind of beast though as there’s no shortage of impressive specs.
Starting with genuine Alcantara-leather (the same Porsche uses for their real steering wheels) to strong belt-driven Force Feedback, two additional vibration motors and a built-in display, the GT3 RS wheel offers lots of tempting features. The wheel comes with the clubsport pedal shifters, the wheel can of course be paired up with the separately available shifter set that includes both a sequential and h-pattern shifter.
The Clubsport pedals are no less impressive, being made from solid aluminum and offering a bunch of never-seen-before features. The pedals are first consumer pedal set to offer brake vibration feedback to indicate locking-up tires. The vibration motor isn’t the only thing to make the Clubsport pedal brake special as it uses a pressure sensitive load cell sensor that allows the brake force to be controlled via pressure instead of pedal movement.
Unlike most pedal sets available with regular wheels, the Clubsport pedals can be fully adjusted in terms of height & distance to match foot sizes and allow the heel-toe technique.
Design & Build Quality
The first indication that this wheel is rather different will overcome you once you open the box for the very first time. Instead of the distinct smell of plastic & electronics that most wheels will welcome you with, this one smells like a new car!
After unpacking, the Alancatara wheel rim will be the first thing you´ll discover as it looks, feels and, as mentioned before, smells simply fantastic. When gripping the wheel for the very first time, it gives you the sense of holding a real steering wheel instead of just a toy.
Despite the Alacantara leather, the wheel shares the same base design than most Fanatec wheels, including the big & shiny Porsche badge, 16 buttons and a d-pad on the wheel. The wheel’s base has an orange finish to go with the Porsche GT3 RS theme, the built-in clamping mechanism, the connectors for pedals and shifters as well as the connectors for the steel tubes that hold the additional shifters follow the same design than other Fanatec wheels.
The wheel rim, 30 centimeter in diameter, has ergonomic molds for the perfect grip. Sadly, the sequential shifters spoil the wheel’s haptics as they´re simply way to close to the wheel, making it almost impossible to have a firm grip on it while keeping one finger on the shifting lever.
Unpacking the Clubsport pedals, the first thing you´ll notice is the weight of the whole unit. These pedals don’t just look durable, they are, thanks to the use of Aluminum. The pedal unit has a very professional and minimalistic look to it, with racing-look pedals and a neat aluminum finish. Thankfully, the wheel has very effective rubber stops, preventing sliding around on all kinds of floors.
Being Fanatec’s top-shelf product, you would expect nothing less than incredible buildbui quality and you won’t be disappointed. The stitched leather looks flawless and the whole wheel unit feels very durable and well-made. Once again, the shifting levers spoil the otherwise perfect impression though. Even though they´re made of metal, the levers are just screwed onto the plastic base of the shifting button, being quite wobbly and having no real pressure point either.
The massive pedal set looks and feels like it can take quite a beating with only top notch materials used. Due to the minimalistic metal look, the underside of the wheel has a few little cables hanging around and some of the electronic parts can be seen. This is no real issue with build quality but more of a result of the pedals’ race car look which provides no real room to hide any of the electronics. This is limited to the underside of the set though, none of the cables will get in the way of your feet at any point.
Once you´re done admiring the wheel, you will want to use it too. Installation of the wheel is rather easy, even though I´m no big fan of Fanatec’s clamping mechanism. The built-in screw and the quick release clamps work pretty well, the system simply doesn’t provide the same amount of hold as other wheels do though. After a while of racing, the clamping might need readjustment as the wheel tends to get loose sometimes.
The next step is driver installation and this is where the tricky part begins. The manual points users to download the drivers from the Fanatec homepage, the latest drivers can only be found in the company’s blog though.
It’s even worse with the Clubsport pedals as the set comes with a simple note that tells user to download the manual & drivers from the homepage. The support section of the Clubsport pedals is still empty though and only experienced sim racers will be digging the blog to find the latest drivers.
Drivers are available both for 32bit & 64bit Windows operating systems, the installation is as easy as running the setup routine and plug in the wheel afterwards. The Clubsport pedals can be connected either directly via USB or to the wheel, the USB method is preferred as the resolution is higher and the pedals will be having their own preferences menu.
While the wheel’s USB cable is long enough, the included cable to connect the pedals is pretty short. Once the drivers are installed and the components are plugged in, the wheel can be calibrated and configured. While some things can be tweaked in the driver menu, other settings such as force feedback & vibration strength are changed using the wheel’s built-in display. The display lets you save five preset-configurations which can be chosen while driving.
Fanatec labels the current drivers as beta and sometimes it shows that they indeed are in beta state. The vibration-test of the Clubsport pedals caused my system to lock up and the compatibility of some features is still limited.
As of now, only rFactor supports the brake vibration-feedback feature and the use of the display for telemetry purposes. It’s only fair to mention that Fanatec is very quick to release new drivers as several new versions have been released during the past days. If someone reads this review in a few months time, these little issues will be gone and simulation compatibility will have been extended for sure.
Driving & Force Feedback
I´ve tested the wheel and the pedals with various simulations, including rFactor, iRacing & GTR Evolution. Both the wheel and the pedals worked like a charm in all of them, even though it required a little bit of tweaking to make most of the force feedback
In order to get the best possible force feedback experience, forces need to be reversed. Also, the damping strength value in the driver menu plays a key part in getting the effects right. The standard setting is 100% and from my personal experience, a lower value like 25% resulted in much better effects. Furthermore, I found it helpful to create a new player profile in rFactor to have the wheel work correctly.
Once it did, I was really blown away as this wheel is a magnificent piece of engineering. The force feedback is both strong and incredibly smooth. You won’t feel any mechanical play or a center dead zone. Those who love their FFB very strong will also be pleased as the wheel is a handful with 100% strength, especially in iRacing. The great & detailed force feedback effects are backed by the vibration motors which can be enabled to kick in during gear changes or to simulate the engine revs.
Even though the effects are both strong and smooth, the wheel is remarkably silent. With no sound on, you´ll barely hear the wheel despite the vibration motors at work. The first series of wheels has a little glitch with the cooling fans though as the wheel tends to produce a high-pitched noise after longer usage, caused by the cooling fans.
Fanatec has already located the problem, it will be solved starting with the next shipment of wheels. Existing customers can send in their wheel to get a firmware update that solves the issue. The whole problem is not quite as bad as it sound as the noise can not be heard with the simulation sound effects at normal volume.
The cooling fans are needed for sure as the wheel tends to get rather hot after a long session, proving that the cooling vents on top of the base aren’t there just to show off.
While the wheel is certainly great and very enjoyable, using the Clubsport pedals is nothing short of revolutionary. These pedals will change the way you sim race and especially the way you brake.
Since I´ve never used or owned any professional-grade pedal set like those offered by Frex or CST, using the Clubsport pedals was quite a revelation. The pressure-sensitive brake pedal needs a while to get used to but once you get comfortable with it you´ll start loving it too.
Unlike other pedals that come with most mainstream wheels, the brake pedal is extremely stiff and requires quite some pressure to be pushed all the way through. You won’t be locking your wheels by accident anymore as the brake can be dosed very carefully.
The strength required to push the pedal through can be adjusted by a rotary switch on the potentiometer, settings range from rather soft to incredibly stiff as the hardest setting requires a lot of force to brake.
I found the set to have immediate effect on my driving as braking is much better once you´re used to how the pedal works. The Riley in iRacing always gave me quite a headache as the wheels tend to lock very easily under braking, requiring a careful dosage. I got much better results with the new pedals instantly as you get a much better feeling for the brakes and how they work.
This is extended by the vibration feature, even though it is limited to rFactor as of now. The vibration effect is really helpful but not very strong. If you´re wearing shoes while racing, you won’t feel much of it and there’s no way to adjust the force yet.
Following Fanatec’s initial announcement, many sim racers were wondering if the GT3 RS wheel would prove to be the new benchmark in terms of consumer wheels. Professional-grade products for several thousand dollars aside, it’s safe to say that Fanatec has succeeded in bringing us the best force feedback wheel & pedal set to be currently available.
The GT3 RS is an impressive wheel with build quality you can’t find anywhere else, paired up with plenty of features and strong, incredibly smooth & silent force feedback. No other wheel on the market looks, feels and smells better than this one. The wobbly and wrong-positioned shifting levers aside, this is an almost perfect product.
While the wheel has some competition on the market, the Clubsport pedals are really something else as no other pedal set can provide the same features, quality and durability for an affordable price. Even if you already have a wheel you´re happy with, the Clubsport pedals will enrich any sim racing setup and are something no serious sim racer should miss out on.
Both products still have their flaws, especially in terms of documentation and driver support. However, all of the mentioned issues will be solved quickly, keep in mind that the current batch of wheels was the very first one to be shipped. Once Fanatec provides finished drivers and documentation, both products can be very much recommended without any doubt.
The Clubsport Edition that combines both wheel and pedals sells for €299 which is a very reasonable price considering you get almost professional-grade equipment. Wheel and pedals are also sold separately for €169 and €199 respectively.
Currently, both products need to be pre-ordered as there is quite a demand that won’t ease up anytime soon. It’s safe to say though that both the Fanatec Porsche 911 GT3 RS wheel as well as the Clubsport Pedals are very well worth their price and the waiting time!