In a surprising turn of events this year, the folks over at Polyphony Digital partnered with Fanatec for its next Gran Turismo product, following the likes of the Thrustmaster T-GT II. Enter the Gran Turismo DD Pro from Fanatec.
In essence, this is the existing Fanatec CSL DD but for PlayStation – except it’s technically not, apparently.
PlayStation’s first direct drive
If you’re not entirely sure what ‘direct drive’ is and wondering what all the fuss is about, to put it as simply as possible: rather than having the means of delivering force to your wheel off to one side and transferred using a belt or a gear, direct drive does it right on the column you are turning, which results in the most immediate and clean feedback there is. There’s nothing quite like it.
Okay, on with the review!
A bundle deal
The first thing about this that sets the DD Pro apart is the fact it comes, by default, as a bundle. You get the GT DD Pro wheelbase itself, the Gran Turismo wheel, a CSL Pedals set without the clutch, and the DD desk mount. So unlike picking up the CSL DD or other Fanatec wheel bases, you don’t have to shop around to find compatible products. You get the whole thing in one go from the get-go.
As said, this isn’t the CSL DD – a direct drive wheel base built primarily with PC players in mind – in a PlayStation form. This is apparently an entirely new system built by Fanatec which was developed in tandem with the CSL DD, but visually it looks very similar, and the specs aren’t too different either.
With the included power supply, you’re getting 5Nm of torque, whereas the separately available Boost Kit will increase that to 8Nm. Sound familiar? It has the same mounting means as the CSL DD using T-nuts (but thankfully doesn’t have that weird notch for the power button like the CSL DD has), features RJ12 connectors for pedals, shifters, handbrakes etc, and has an almost three-meter-long USB C cable.
If you’ve seen our CSL DD review or used one yourself, you’ll know your way around this. But it does have a tasteful blue ring on the back now. Got to put across that this is a PlayStation product, after all.
The pedals are, as said, just the CSL Pedals first released alongside the CSL DD – which I covered in more depth in our original review. I won’t bore you with all the details here, but they’re well-made, feel great to use, and honestly just do the job. The load cell kit for these is coming in the new year, so if the brake pedal feels a bit too meagre as-is, you won’t have to wait long to improve it.
The value proposition
Moving onto the main attraction, the aptly-named ‘Steering Wheel for Gran Turismo DD Pro’ was designed with the Polyphony Digital team – the studio behind the Gran Turismo series in case you didn’t know.
It does have some familiar design beats to the T-GT wheels or Logitech devices from days of yore. Four directional sticks replace the dials on the Thrustmaster iterations, each corresponding to individual adjustments you can perform on track, such as for your traction control or brake balance. You also have larger, paddle-like buttons for the L2, R2, L3, and R3 inputs, your usual D-pad thumbstick plus cross, square, circle and triangle face buttons.
Fanatec’s tried-and-tested OLED display is here in white, and the usual array of rev LEDs has been reduced to three diffused sections in yellow, red, and blue. We’ll get to why later on.
The wheel itself is made entirely of hard plastic, including all of the buttons, the paddle shifters on the back and the silver trim at the bottom – but it has been reinforced with fibreglass, so it feels more robust than you might expect. The rim has quite a substantial rubber grip and a blue centre marker, but it doesn’t feel all that nice to the initial touch. Once you’re using it, you’ll probably not think much of it. It might be worth using gloves if you’re having an extended session.
This is very much your introductory setup to direct drive and this price point definitely keeps that in mind. You’re looking at €699.95 for this base version of the Gran Turismo DD Pro box, and for what you get, that’s pretty reasonable. If you bought the CSL DD and CSL Pedals by themselves, plus a desk clamp, plus say €200 for a steering wheel with at least shifters and buttons built onto it, you’ll be looking at about €650 overall, and that setup wouldn’t even be compatible with PlayStation.
But having these products come in at this price point has led to some corners being cut to keep things affordable. The pedals are, as said, the CSL Pedals as we know and love them, cheap but good.
It comes with the plastic, twist-locking quick-release mechanism out the box, though you can upgrade this yourself to their metal quick release system if you’ve got €100 going spare. As I mentioned before, the rim’s grip material is bearable, and the rev LEDs have been whittled down to just three to save on components. In your peripheral vision, they still very much do the job. The paddle shifters are dependable. Not too heavy with a satisfying click action.
How the GT rim stacks up
But it’s the Gran Turismo wheel rim is where the fat has really been trimmed. While, for example, the Clubsport Formula wheel has some lush buttons, these on the Gran Turismo rim definitely feel on the cheaper end. The coloured directional thumbsticks are reasonable with their concave shape, but the default directional thumbsticks honestly feel a little cumbersome.
They are a unique pointy style, setting them apart from the more familiar design of the coloured sticks, probably so you can discern one from the others when you’re on track. But I personally would rather it had the same shape as the adjustment sticks.
Finally, there’s no rubber in sight like you’d expect from a thumbstick on a normal gaming controller which means the actuation clicks are amplified to an unflattering degree.
After all, this is a value-based kit, where driving feedback is the priority and a larger range of Fanatec rims are also available, but perhaps some of the buttons could feel a little more premium. The new CSL Steering Wheel BMW could be a great option, for example, and is reasonably priced at €139.99.
Out on track
Once you’ve got everything put together, wired up, and plugged into your PlayStation, the most important element is the feedback.
Thankfully, it’s pretty damn good. In the same way we were blown away by how the CSL DD felt at its price point, somewhat unsurprisingly the Gran Turismo DD Pro feels pretty much the same. It delivers smooth and refined force feedback, driving over kerbs felt about as crispy as it gets, and if the wheel needs to throw you around a bit, it can do.
You receive oodles of feedback when things aren’t going to go your way and are going to spin, so saving yourself from getting frisky with a wall feels more feasible than with a belt or gear-driven force feedback system.
In Gran Turismo Sport specifically, I cranked all of the force feedback settings up to 10 and it was way too heavy to play comfortably with, so even with the base 5Nm kit, you should have more than enough headroom to make things work for how you like it. But if 5Nm simply isn’t enough for you though, this base is compatible with the aforementioned Boost Kit 180, which will increase that maximum torque up to 8Nm and is available as a bundle or separately.
Since this base uses the same driveshaft connectivity as Fanatec’s other products, you can quite happily fall down the ecosystem rabbit hole with this, as if you picked up say Assetto Corsa Competizione for the PS5 next year or wanted to play F1 2021 with a relevant wheel, you can use the likes of the McLaren GT3 wheel or ClubSport Formula rim and use them with this base. Obviously make sure the wheel says it’s PlayStation compatible on the Fanatec site before you pick it up. but if so, they simply work with zero hassle.
But if that’s not your speed, the Gran Turismo rim will keep you happy with anything you’re playing be it on PlayStation or PC. Yes, the Gran Turismo DD Pro is compatible with PC, and if you put an Xbox-centric wheel on there like the McLaren GT3 V2, it’ll actually work on Xbox as well.
It’s great that it didn’t take Fanatec all that long to get this excellent bit of direct drive kit into the hands of PlayStation players, though if you didn’t land a Black Friday pre-order for express shipping before Christmas, you will be waiting until 14th March 2022 to get your hands on it. Still, that’s not too long after Gran Turismo 7’s release on the 4th.
An essential purchase
Similar to our CSL DD review, the sim racing experience you get at this price point is simply unmatched, and it opens up basically the entire Fanatec ecosystem. Plus, if you do have an Xbox and want this to go alongside your PC and PlayStation setup, the option is there.
If you’re racing at your desk, the included desk mount will do the job with no problem. If you’ve got a rig or something similar, you’re totally fine too.
Getting the whole kit in one box is super-handy, and all for €699.95, I really cannot knock the price. So if you’re a PlayStation racer, excited for GT7, and want to step things up, genuinely look no further than the Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro.