Review: Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5

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Reviewing the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5

Fun Fact: I wanted to get this review out two months ago, for the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2, but the day I took my wheel to the (old) studio, I get an email from Fanatec, announcing that they were discontinuing the CSW V2, and announcing a new wheel, the Clubsport Wheel V2.5! There wasn’t much sense in reviewing a product that was discontinued, so I was able to get my hands on the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5 and, two months later, here’s the review!

Appearance

I could write a long thought out blurb about how the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5 has changed visually over the V2, but there are only so many ways you can say “Barely anything has changed”. The only visual indication that this is a different model is that there is a Fanatec logo engraved into the front of the wheel base. Apart from that, this is visually identical. Even looking into the plexiglass window, you will see a similar story with the internals.

Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5 Internals
The CSW V2.5 even uses the same belts in its drive system as the V2

It’s What’s Not Seen That Makes the Difference

While on the outside, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference, under driving conditions, the difference becomes clear. Fanatec has made a series of minor upgrades to how the wheel works, and with the minor tweaking, has made a great product into an incredible one!

The information I received from Fanatec has indicated that there are 3 primary improvements that has been made to the wheel, improved electronics, a faster refresh rate, and a new motor. The question is, does that make it a better wheel than the CSW V2?

To take a look at that, here are my four main criteria I look at when reviewing a wheel, which I like to call the “Four S’s”:

  • Smoothness
  • Speed
  • Strength
  • Software

Smoothness – The Smoothest Belt Drive Wheel I’ve EVER Tested

I’m not exactly sure why this wheel feels so much smoother, but I’m glad it does! This is the smoothest Belt Drive wheel I have EVER tested. Granted I haven’t tested out the TS-PC Racer yet, but out of the wheels I’ve tested (around ten different belt-driven models), this is by far the smoothest.

Fanatec mentioned they tightened up the belts in the system, so that would lead to reduced drag and slippage, so that would increase smoothness. Also, if they improved the ball bearing system, I’d likely assume that could factor in.

Speed and Strength – Minor Improvements, but Very Noticeable

I decided to lump speed and strength together in this review, because they go pretty well hand-in-hand. When I did my “First Drive” video, a few people mentioned that they didn’t think the CSW V2.5 featured a new motor, but I can definitely say that this is no placebo. There is definitely a newly improved motor in the wheel.

While you’re likely not going to take full advantage of the motor’s strength, the speed is a significant improvement. I found myself actually catching slides much faster, compared to the CSW V2. Because of the added speed, this wheel felt far more intuitive in my driving, so the learning curve for this wheel was minimal (I’d say if you were moving from a Logitech or Thrustmaster to the Fanatec, there’d be a steeper curve, but I’d say it is a quicker curve, due to the speed of the wheel).

Software – Early teething pains cause some issues

Now, it’s worth mentioning that this wheel is only two months old, so this category is likely going to change in the near future. The great thing with software is it’s the easiest category to change out of the 4 S’s, due to Software and Firmware updates.

However, as of right now, I did have a few issues with the CSW V2.5’s software. When I first plugged in the CSW V2 (after making sure I had uninstalled the CSW V2’s driver, and installed the proper stable driver), I had issues with entering the driver utility. I also couldn’t even install the latest firmware to the wheel! I then communicated with Fanatec, and they told me they had a Beta driver, which fixed my issue with accessing the Driver Utility and allowed me to update the firmware.

However, there are still some issues that I had occurred. One of the newest features for the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5 is their “Negative Drift Mode”. For those who aren’t too versed with Drift Mode, it is a function that can speed up the wheel while turning, which is largely good for, as mentioned in the mode, drifting.

However, there are the drivers that really enjoy the natural dampening of a wheel, myself included. So Fanatec put out their “Negative Drift Mode”, which allows for people to adjust the natural dampening of the wheel, between -5 and 0 (with 0 having no dampening, and -5 having the most dampening).

However, I was unable to test that functionality, due to it weirdly not working with my wheel. For some reason, I was only getting Drift Mode on the scale from 0-5 (no Negative mode). I tested with the driver/firmware that was pre-installed, and also tested with the recommended Beta driver. Still no Drift Mode. However, Shaun Cole of the Simpit was able to access Negative Drift Mode with no issues, so you can check out his review if you want more info on that. However, because I wasn’t able to test it, I can’t really vouch for how it works.

Another minor (but easily fixable) gripe with the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5 is that the LED display doesn’t work on all titles. While it worked fine in rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa, it did not work natively on RaceRoom Racing Experience or on iRacing. However, the fix is pretty easy: Fanaleds has released a new driver which is compatible with the Clubsport Wheel V2.5! Once I installed that, the wheel’s LEDs worked just fine in RaceRoom Racing Experience and iRacing. I also recommend Fanaleds due to the added compatibility, adding support for over 30 titles, and also the added customization options.

Let’s Talk Rims

So, it goes without saying that I believe the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5 is a very solid offering, but one thing to mention is that it is sold as a stand-alone wheel base. That means you are also going to have to get a wheel rim to complement the base. For testing, I was sent the Formula Carbon Rim, as well as the Xbox One Universal Hub, with the Forza Motorsport Rim.

Formula Carbon Rim – Great tech, some minor gripes.

The Formula Carbon rim is a great option for people who enjoy open-wheel racing. The wheel feels like a genuine open wheel race car’s steering wheel, which can be seen as both a good and bad thing. One thing to mention is that the steering wheel rim is pretty darn small, at 260mm (or about 10.24″). To compare, that’s about the same size as the Logitech G29’s wheel, or about a 3/4″ smaller than Thrustmaster’s smallest wheel offered, the Ferrari 458 GTE wheel rim/T300RS stock Rim. That is a great thing in terms of getting a solid feel through the wheel.

However, one thing to consider is it’s not exactly the most ergonomic rim, especially for consumer cockpits. Due to the small wheel rim and the ergonomics being catered more towards a “Formula Style” seating position, using it with my GT Omega Cockpit (which uses a GT style sitting position) was rather uncomfortable at times.

Universal Hub + Forza Motorsport Rim – Pricey, but good feeling

The Universal Hub + Rim is easily the most expensive rim offering from Fanatec, retailing for $399. To put in comparison, that is only $100 less than the base itself! However, for that, you get the full compatibility with the Xbox One, as well as the ability to mount any wheel rim you desire onto the hub (for $100 less, you can get the hub without the wheel rim, and mount a real-world wheel).

The beauty of the hub is the customizability, which utilizes a pod based structure. The base comes with 4 “pods” with 3 buttons each, which brings the total to 12 buttons. Another pod includes the “FunkySwitch”, which works as a D-Pad, rotary encoder and a button. You can remove any, or all of the pods, to have a lighter wheel if you so choose. However, you do not lose the Xbox One compatibility, due to all the Xbox buttons being on the top of the hub as well.

You have two options of Paddle Shifters with the wheel hub: Small (like the Formula rims) or Large (similar to the Porsche 918 RSR wheel’s paddles). You can also remove them if you’re planning on using a wheel like the Oval wheel. Because I used the Forza Motorsport wheel rim, which has a larger diameter, I chose to use the Large Paddle shifters, and they met my needs well.

As configured, the wheel worked great for GT cars and for basically anything apart from modern open-wheel cars. Due to the larger wheel diameter of 330mm (13 inches), the force of the wheel is dispersed over a larger area, so the wheel will feel a lot smoother, but a lot less precise (on par with the real life cars this wheel would replicate).

The minor gripes I have with this wheel rim are that the feel of it isn’t on par with the Formula Carbon rim, as the buttons are less haptic, less responsive, and not as satisfying. Also, the hub sacrifices functionality, such as the rev lights and the extra joystick, which could function as a mouse on rims such as the Formula Carbon, CSL Steering Wheel P1, and Porsche 918 rim. I feel that the Universal hub is more utilitarian than anything, and I would have loved to see Fanatec bring more modular components in the future.

The big question is, do you NEED the Xbox One compatibility? If the question is yes, here’s a follow-up: Do you want the customizability, and is it worth $300-$400 for you? If the answer to the first question is Yes, and the second question is No, you may want to consider the CSL Steering Wheel P1, which has seen its price cut to $90, which is actually a decent deal at that price. When I reviewed it, it was around $130, and I wouldn’t have recommended it at that price, but for sub-$100, it’s a great price.

Pros and Cons

Now, lets get to the pros and cons. While I did go into detail about the wheel rims above, for the Pros and Cons, I’m going to specifically adress the wheel base, as this is what the review is ultimately about!

Pros

  • Incredibly Strong, Smooth, and Fast Wheel
  • Compatible with All Clubsport/CSL Accessories and Rims
  • Similar Aesthetics and Design to the CSW V2 (and V1) mean easy mounting to cockpits

Cons

  • Early issues with Drivers and Firmware
  • Can get pricey, depending on what wheels you use, and if you need pedals or not. Wheel and Rim Cost is approaching Direct Drive category.
  • Is this enough of an “Upgrade”?
  • No PS4 Compatibility

Final Thoughts

The big question: Should you buy this wheel?

If you already own the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2, I’d say take a pass. Despite this wheel being an improvement in almost every way, I’d say it’s not enough to justify another $500 purchase. Maybe if you sell your base and use that to buy the V2.5, I’d say it could be a decent value, but I would say you are just fine with the V2, and there isn’t a burning need for the latest and greatest. If you’re on a Clubsport V1 or older Fanatec wheel, this a solid upgrade.

If you’re using a Thrustmaster or Logitech wheel though, this would be a significant upgrade, and I highly recommend it. This is the BEST Belt-Driven Force Feedback wheel I have ever tested. It’s so smooth, so fast, and so quick, I’d say that, if I was blindfolded, this could be mistaken for direct drive (I would also crash a lot too).

I am going to score this package separately though, and the scores are:

Fanatec Clubsport Wheel V2.5 (Base) – 9.0/10
Fanatec Universal Hub + Forza Motorsport Rim – 8.6/10
Fanatec Formula Carbon Rim – 8.7/10

So, this is now my highest rated wheel, overthrowing the Fanatec CSL Elite Wheel Base! The question is, how long is it going to stay up there? There are some plans in the works to potentially review a Direct Drive wheel in the near future, so that will be an exciting development! Stay tuned to SRP for that coming hopefully later this summer!

What are your thoughts on the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel Base V2.5? Let us know!