So I Got to Drive The FeelVR Direct Drive Wheel

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You guys have been asking me (relentlessly) about this, and now I’ve finally gotten the chance to test out the FeelVR Wheel! This wheel has been an incredibly hot topic in the Sim Racing Community, and I’m one of the first people in the United States to get my hands on this wheel! I got to spend a bit of time behind a prototype model of the wheel, and here are my thoughts on this highly anticipated wheel so far!

Before we begin, I want to put out a disclaimer. In my previous videos, I mentioned that the wheel would be the “Sub-$400 Direct Drive Wheel”, with the wheel base’s early bird price being $333, Pedals being $99, and Bundle being $388, which included the base, pedals, and two rims. However, a couple weeks ago, we got a notification that the prices have increased. The Wheel will now start at $399, Pedals will start at $149, and the Bundle will start at $549. Retail prices have also been raised, so now the full bundle for this package will now be $899 after the Kickstarter campaign ends. That means that now, we have to look at this bundle differently. Before, this was in the “CSL Elite” or Thrustmaster T300RS/TX price range. Now, we’re looking to compare this to the Clubsport Wheel V2.5 or Thrustmaster T-GT and TS series wheels. So, how does this bundle stack up?

I’d like to thank FeelVR for allowing me to take an EXCLUSIVE private first look at the wheel, and have a relatively free reign to test this puppy out! A couple weeks ago, I got a message from Denys Krutko, the founder of FeelVR. He told me that there would be a couple people from the company in California, and they wanted to give me an opportunity to test out the wheel and pedal set, which I decided to take up them up on that offer!

Before we begin, I wanted to share HOW we tested out the unit. We tested the wheel and pedals using iRacing on an Asus Republic of Gamers Laptop, and used an Oculus Rift CV1. The wheel and pedals were plugged directly into the laptop, while the Oculus Rift and Sensor were plugged into a USB 3.0 Hub.

The prototype I tested was an older version than the latest they had, due to a minor issue with their main unit. The “latest base” was causing a fuse in the Power Supply Unit to blow, so we reverted to a previous unit. They told me this was due to the fact that they needed to make some tweaks to the wheel to make it compatible with United States voltages, since US uses 110v, and other regions us 220v.

Now that I got to test out the wheel, I was able to get an idea on all that it entails. FeelVR allowed me to test both the FeelVR Wheel and Pedal Set, which also included the GT and Formula rims. The Wheel Base utilized a full-metal design, which honestly looks better in person than in the photos. The base is what I’d call medium sized, around the size of the Thrustmaster T-GT wheel. On the rear, you see a plug for the power supply, and on the bottom of the wheel, there is the USB cable.

The motor on the wheel is said to generate 12Nm of torque, and I’d say that feels accurate. When the wheel is off, there is no “stop” to the degrees of rotation, so you could spin the wheel in any direction and it won’t be stopped by any mechanical system. Once the wheel is powered on, there was a soft lock in place at 1080 degrees.

Another thing I want to mention is how the wheel and pedals mount. As tested, the wheel base utilizes the same 3-hole pattern as used on Fanatec wheels, such as the CSL Elite, Clubsport Wheel, and older Fanatec wheels, such as the Porsche Wheels. The Pedals utilize the same hole pattern as used on Logitech G series pedals. That’s a good thing, because that will mean you likely will not need to drill new holes in a cockpit to get it to mount! The wheel also had a table/desk mount on it, and it was relatively okay functionality wise, but I hope there will be a beefier solution for the final model. The pedals had a nifty feature where they actually had a slide out piece that you could put the chair on, to try to keep it from lifting up under braking if you don’t have them hard mounted. It was somewhat functional, but not the best.

FeelVR Formula RimLet’s talk a little bit about the rims. The GT Rim features that same inexpensive 320mm rim that I previously mentioned you can get from Ebay or Amazon for around $30. The Formula Rim looks to be a custom design, with a suede wrapped grip. The suede was alright, but you could tell that this was just a prototype version of the rim. The Suede felt a little rough at the seams where it was glued together. Another quick note is that the Formula Rim had a couple loose screws while I was driving, and that is why you can hear a “rattling” while I was using that rim. I’m hoping that when this gets closer to release and mass-production, the build quality on it will improve.

Both rims had button boxes that were 3D printed, with very tactile and responsive buttons. The Paddle Shifters were 3D printed as well, and featured a unique design that felt alright, but were a little too weak in my opinion. I felt the paddle shifters didn’t have enough resistance to suit my liking, but they are decent.

For the prototype, the base and rims used a Sparco Quick Release system, which looks an improvement over the slimline quick release I saw in the first photos. They told me that they will replace this in the future with an in-home designed quick release, but it appears that the wheel base will use a standard 70mm bolt pattern, so I’d be inclined to believe you could replace it with your own system if you’d like.

Last thing I want to mention before getting into my impressions is that there is an external box outside of the wheel base unit, similar to other Direct Drive Wheels. However, unlike other Direct Drive Wheels, that box does NOT house the electronics of the wheel, it is just the Power Supply, which I alluded to earlier. The electronics are housed inside the wheel base. There is a fan as well in the base unit, for cooling and ventilation. However, I want to mention that after driving, the base did feel relatively warm to the touch, warmer than other wheels I’ve tested. NOTE: Since I’ve put out this video, Denys messaged me, stating they are considering the possibility of moving the electronics of the wheel into an external unit.

Now, let’s get into what you guys are waiting for, how it felt driving the wheel. I’ll put it this way… It felt… like what I’d expect an entry level Direct Drive wheel to feel! The wheel had the smoothness, the strength, and the speed of a direct drive wheel, and I felt like it was easy to adapt to it from my Open Sim Wheel.

I will mention that when I was first testing it, the steering felt quite a bit heavier than I would have anticipated. I looked into the settings, and they had the damping in iRacing up to 10%, which is, in my opinion, fairly high for a Direct Drive Wheel. I did some more testing, and was able to turn the damping down to 4%, before the oscillations in the wheel simply became too much to handle. 4% made the wheel much more quicker and lighter in the steering, which I liked. As a comparison, I normally set damping on my Open Sim Wheel to OFF, which was the same level I used when testing out a SimSteering 2.

I talked with the FeelVR guys about this, and they said that the prototype is still just using Windows’ default “Force Feedback Wheel” Driver. They said that they are currently in the process of developing the driver for the wheel, and that will hopefully solve issues such as the oscillation that I was experiencing. They said the driver would be around “2 months away”, so I’d anticipate that it would be out in time for the wheel’s release.

However, I will say that this wheel still felt very solid and was by far smoother, stronger, and faster than any wheel from Thrustmaster or Fanatec, which will be some of the main competitors in the price range. The Fanatec CSW V2.5 is my favorite non-direct drive wheel, but in terms of raw performance, the FeelVR simply outperforms it.

The FeelVR does feel a step or two below Open Sim Wheels or the Simsteering 2, but that’s to be expected when the unit is less than half the price of other Direct Drive wheels. The thing is, I think some of the gripes I had with the feeling of the wheel could be tuned out, like I could tune out weird feelings with my Open Sim Wheel via the Simucube software. Maybe when the a dedicated driver is created for the wheel, that could lead to it feeling a lot better, and closer to the higher end Direct Drive Wheels. At the very least, I can state it feels closer to the Simsteering/OSW than the Fanatec or Thrustmaster wheels.

I brought my Trak Racer Wheelstand to try to mount the wheel and pedals via the consumer mounted holes. Unfortunately the wheel died before I really go the chance to test it on the wheelstand.

One thing that did feel “High End” off the bat though? The pedals! I was very impressed with the FeelVR Pedals, which seem to be a great value, even though the logo is plastered on it more than a cyclist’s jersey. The Prototype pedals I used featured a 50kg Load Cell in the brake, and what appeared to be a hydraulic damper on it. It had a very satisfying feel, that worked well under threshold braking. The gas and clutch are both potentiometer based, and felt solid as well. The clutch features a digression system, similar to the Fanatec Clubsport Pedals or the Heusinkveld Engineering Pedals, but the digression on this pedal set felt a little more subtle. All three pedals were also high resolution and quite sensitive, but I could imagine calibrating them in a utility like DIView could change them to fit your liking and avoid spiking on the low end. Note that I had to calibrate them a bit on the conservative side, due to the nature of the the pedals not being hard mounted.

Wrapping up my early thoughts on this wheel and pedal combo, I’m still maintaining my “Cautiously Optimistic” tone towards this wheel. It’s easy to get excited about the “High End” being more and more accessible, but it’s worth mentioning that the FeelVR is in EARLY DEVELOPMENT, and there are still things that need to be ironed out. What I was driving was an early prototype, and it did have some gremlins in it. In fact, at the end of the day, there was a major issue with the wheel that ended our day early. As in the “Wheel erupted in a cloud of smoke” variety (which kept me from testing out the Trak Racer stand that I had brought with me). Keep in mind, this IS an Early Prototype, so things like this are to be expected, and it helps in the development process. Better an early prototype than a final release model!

Looking at this early iteration of the FeelVR Wheel, there are some things that I really hope they take a focus on. One of the primary things I think needs to happen is having a solid driver, that is compatible with multiple games and allows you to adjust different settings. Driving with the Open Sim Wheel has taught me that support for different titles can be a finicky thing, so hopefully the software capabilities will be expanded on and will allow you to harness the wheel on all the different titles.

Secondly, and what will be critical, is the hardware reliability of the unit. Direct Drive Wheels tend to carry a reputation of being VERY reliable. However, FeelVR is admittedly taking some risks, housing the electronics and the motor in the base unit. As mentioned, there was a failure of one of the prototypes. Will the gremlins be sorted out in time for the mass market release?

Also, if something does go wrong with the wheel, how will the warranty handle it? The website states that there is a 1-year warranty on the wheel. How will warranty claims be handled? I would hopefully like to see an extension on the warranty, especially since there was a recent price increase on the wheel and pedal set. I think that increasing the warranty to two or three years would help instill a sense of comfort with that situation. 

Speaking of Mass Market, will production and supply meet the demands? Assuming this upcoming Kickstarter goes well, will we see supply meet the demand for this wheel? Will we see delays or back orders? Hopefully not, but with this being a newer company, time will tell.

There is a lot of reason to be excited about the FeelVR wheel, and there’s also reason to be cautious.  There are still quite a few questions that need to be answered. Hopefully we get more answers as time goes on, but I’ll say this: If FeelVR pulls this off, we have a LOT to be excited about!