By – John Williamson

 

Fanatec Porsche 911 GT2 Review He

Fanatec is a brand at the higher echelons of the sim market offering a host of beautifully crafted racing products which employ German engineering prowess and an uncompromising approach when it comes to build quality. The Clubsport Wheel Base V2 is widely regarded as a marvel of modern technology and the best choice for motorsport enthusiasts. However, at $599.95, it is undoubtedly an expensive proposition and out of the reach of most consumers. Thankfully, Fanatec includes more affordable options in their product library such as the Porsche 911 GT2 wheel which retails at $249.95. This particular model is a faithful reproduction of the 911 GT2 and designed to work seamlessly with PC simulators.

Now it’s time to analyse the wheelbase and see how it compares to the competition. Fanatec have used a glossy grey coating on the base which coalesces with the infamous black GT2 logo. The end result is a majestic contrast of colours which looks stunning on your desk and a significant step up from the dreary, uninspired black finishes from other manufacturers. Initially, I was concerned that the glossy lacquer would attract fingerprints but I was pleasantly surprised by its cleanliness and resistance against smudges.

The wheelbase operates via a smooth, silent belt drive with minimized mechanical deadzones and provides intuitive, instant feedback due to the high-resolution sensor. This translates into a very satisfying turning circle and corners have a distinct feeling of progression as the belt rotates. I tried a number of racing sims including Assetto Corsa, Raceroom Racing Experience, Race 07 and more to judge the wheel’s performance. The GT2’s belt drive is sublime and surprisingly quick to become acquainted with. There was no latency, unbalanced turning motion or issues in any formula from NASCAR to F1. If I had to judge the mechanism compared to others, I would theorize that this is one of the best out there but is slightly eclipsed by the latest dual-belt, frictionless movement in Thrustmaster’s TX 458. The automatic calibration is a little concerning to newcomers as the belt finishes in a non-centred position. However, this doesn’t mean the wheel isn’t properly aligned, it’s just Fanatec’s signature setup method.

Fanatec’s mounting system is certainly unique but it seems quite flawed compared to the higher end Thrustmaster alternatives like the T500RS. The mounting process works by altering a dial which adjusts a white plastic strip. Tightening the dial brings this piece towards the base and adds pressure against an adjustable plastic mount. This mount contains grooves for various desk sizes and the objective is to push this upwards until it is flush. Once the mount is solid, turn the dial and lift two feet flaps to increase the support. In theory, this seems like an ingenious idea but it simply doesn’t work very well.

Fanatec Porsche 911 GT2 Review 3

The first issue I encountered was a grinding noise whilst tightening which made me quite apprehensive. Fortunately, applying a small amount of grease fixed this issue and reduced the irritating noise. The final fixture isn’t strong enough and there is a lot of lift near the rear section. To put it mildly, the base just feels loose and isn’t a patch on the Thrustmaster’s TX 458. While it is usable and doesn’t move around during games, I would strongly recommend attaching it to a Playseat or RennSport Wheel Stand instead.

The wheel rim is phenomenal and looks eerily similar to the 911 GT2 because of the authentic metal Porsche logo, Alcantara lining and 300mm diameter. This large size makes it feel natural as your hands automatically glide into the correct position. The downside to this is, it might be a little uncomfortable for those with smaller hands or consumers who mainly play open wheeled formats like Formula 1. I tested the wheel with F1 2013, and it worked beautifully but the increased turning weight can make the experience a little bit strange when tackling slow, tight hairpins. Out of all the possible disciplines, I found the GT2 was best suited to either Touring Cars or Rally events.

Aesthetically, this reproduction is the best I’ve seen from any manufacturer. The Alcantara coating on the rim is absolutely sublime and ridiculously comfortable as you feed the wheel through your hands. The padding material doesn’t make your hands sweat or slip and there were times I just sat there touching the Alcantara when a game was loading or I was configuring individual deadzones. This premium feel is heightened by the rubber centre and amazingly detailed Porsche logo.  My only other grievance is the paddle-shifts which feel overly mushy and don’t have a tactile, clicky response. While they are perfectly serviceable and use aluminum plates, I still found it hard to dismiss the lack of a click for gear changes. I am familiar with the audible feedback and thus the 911’s gear changes were unsatisfying. In time, you do adjust to this, but I would personally buy a manual stick as a viable replacement.

Fanatec Porsche 911 GT2 Wheel & Clubsport Pedals

Fanatec opted for a more spectacular style with the button arrangements and decided to use LEDS instead of traditional printing methods. The buttons are positioned in a well-thought out manner and have a short actuation point meaning they are easily pressed if you quickly want to change camera angle, DRS, KERS and other vital settings. I believe the illumination is a masterstroke as the vivid lighting is remarkably clear in the dark. Personally, this makes a lot of sense for night races as I prefer to turn off all the lights to add that extra level of immersion. Typically, buttons are fairly difficult to see and take a lot of time to learn, but Fanatec’s bold, vivid colour scheme encourages you to alter settings on the fly.

Customizability is at the heart of Fanatec’s ethos as shown in the 911 GT2’s LED readout display. This small screen allows you to tweak car setups including steering linearity from 270-900 degrees, adjust force feedback strength, ABS effect and even add artificial deadzone to aid stability on uneven surfaces..It’s possible to store up to 5 setups for 5 games and switch between profiles at your whim. At first, this feature can seem a little bit overwhelming but it is surprisingly intuitive and a massive selling point as you can configure settings without having to quit the game and go into menus or the Fanatec software program. Also, certain games lack sim-like customization and the wheel’s profiles will let you apply a specific driving style to locked-down titles. The LED post is a vivid red colour, and the two small buttons to save, switch and alter various attributes are all fairly easy to navigate through.

The 911 GT2’s force feedback system is powered by a highly advanced Mabuchi RS 550 motor which has been used to recreate vibration effects in RC cars. Additionally, there are 2 force feedback actuators to emulate bumps from marbles on the track to steady wheel movements on rumble strips. On the whole, the force feedback is brilliant and manages to relay small vibrations due to a lack of grip and humongous impacts for high-speed incidents on track. I was almost mesmerized by the sheer weight of the feedback and blown away by its realistic nature. Various sims like Assetto Corsa thrive on this powerful force feedback motor and enhances the wheel-to-wheel action to feel more dynamic. Obviously, there are lots of force feedback systems but the Fanatec 911 GT2 is possibly the strongest in terms of impact force which is portrayed in an intelligence and progressive way.

Fanatec’s default 911 GT2 package only comes with the wheel/base and requires you to purchase additional pedals providing you don’t currently own the Logitech G27. At the top-tier, you can opt for the Clubsport Pedals which cost a hefty $249.99. While this might seem a high asking price, I would suggest you give them a serious consideration given the unrivalled quality on offer. Even those who are fairly content and aren’t looking for a wheel should look at these pedals as they are possibly the greatest example of engineering I’ve seen in the sim market.

Fanatec Porsche 911 GT2 Review 1

In a similar vein to the 911 wheel, the Clubsport Pedals come in an organized box with lots of room and padding to protect the unit. Unfortunately, the outer design is quite mundane and doesn’t fairly reflect the beauty of this product. As such, I would recommend that Fanatec try a new macro photo or perhaps emboss the image on a racing-themed background. Where things dramatically improve is the inclusion of a protective, nylon string bag which features a subtle but classy looking Fanatec logo. The gorgeous velvet touch of this bag is exquisite and most importantly ensures the aluminum doesn’t get scratched by rubbing against the box.

So what makes these pedals so special? Firstly, they are constructed entirely out of aluminum and weigh 7.20Kg. This substantial weight keeps the pedals in place and are virtually impossible to slide around. The raised floor section is 12 inches in length and 4.3 inches wide resulting in a large, solid footprint to rest your heels. Aesthetically, the unit employs a mixture of chrome and black anodized aluminum with a striking silver Fanatec logo which looks unbelievable. Honestly, the visual design is perfect and pictures don’t do it justice at all. Even if the standard look isn’t to your tastes, there are various colour upgrades including red, blue and even orange. I also love the open planned back and you can see how the hydraulic brake and vibration motor works when pressure is applied.

Fanatec have destroyed the competition when we start to look at the pedal movements. The clutch features a digressive mechanism which feels remarkably similar to a real vehicle. As your feet touches the clutch, the weighted resistance will spring back when you release it. I cannot overemphasize how much of an improvement this is because the clutch instantly responds as you hit the end point. This weighted resistance makes other pedal sets look like a throwaway accessory. If you find the resistance is too high, then it is possible to quickly reduce the weight until you find a suitable level for a lighter touch.

Fanatec Porsche 911 GT2 Review 1

The brake is pressure sensitive and uses a hydraulic motor with a load-cell sensor and oil damper so you can adjust the force needed to hit 100% braking strength. I instantly fell in love with the stiff, springy motion and felt like the hydraulics gave me a massive boost when aiming to nail braking points and use braking over throttle. When you depress the brake, there is a wonderful, realistic dampening feel brought on by the superb amount of tension.

On the rear, there is a motor which simulates ABS but it doesn’t really work in an accurate manner. However, it’s still a neat, albeit strange feature, which comes with this set. In terms of adjustability, you can alter the brake sensitivity, brake travel and spring strength by changing the viscosity of the silicone oil in the oil damper, and by modifying the spring tension on the damper. Furthermore, there is a small dial from 0-10 which acts a linearity scale for the load-cell. Setting it to a larger figure requires an increased actuation force.

Finally, the accelerator is beautifully balanced and has a lovely, light feel. Of course, you can increase the tension just like the brake and clutch to find a comfortable amount of resistance. Personally, my left foot braking style and small feet required a soft touch on the accelerator and average load of tension on the brake. It is fantastic how you can alter almost every single aspect of the pedals. Amazingly, it’s even possible to rearrange the pedal plates if you wanted to have the brake on the left and clutch in the middle. Furthermore, one invaluable customization is the modifiable angle meaning you can tilt the pedals for heel and toe users.

Fanatec Porsche 911 GT2 Review 1

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

The Fanatec Porsche 911 GT2 wheel is an exemplary sim-racing product which sets a new benchmark for build quality and how to recreate gaming peripherals under an official license. It’s not without a few issues though like the poor mounting system and lacklustre gears but the majority of its construction is extremely impressive. The Clubsport Pedals do add a significant chunk to the overall price, but I believe the pedals are a work of art and it would be a shame to use the 911 GT2 wheel with anything else. Furthermore, I would recommend the Clubsport Pedals to any sim racer and given the quality would even pay more than the asking price. In basic terms, the Clubsport pedals are virtually flawless and without any design mishaps or technical shortcomings.

Fanatec GT2 and Clubsport Pedals Summary:

  • Time Used – 31 Days
  • System Specs – i7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 970 SLI
  • Games Played – Assetto Corsa, Raceroom, Race 07, F1 2013, WRC 4, Dirt 3
  • Acquisition Method – Review Unit
  • Availability – Official Site

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