With the recent release of Gran Turismo 5, there has been a surge of interest in racing wheels compatible with the PS3. Sure, you can use a DualShock 3 to drive around, but it hardly compares to the feeling of a force-feedback wheel. Unfortunately, there has been no middle ground regarding pricing: either you pony up some serious cash for quality hardware, or you buy a cheap wheel that’s not much better than using a controller. Fanatec’s new Porsche 911 Carrera wheel changes all this.
It’s pretty incredible how much value Fanatec has managed to cram into this wheel. For $160, you get a wheel, pedal set, and H-pattern shifter. Compare that to Logitech’s G27, which offers the same package while costing $300! Thanks to the 911 Carrera, sim-racing has never been more affordable. Even more impressive is the fact that Fanatec hasn’t skimped on quality—all the components have a very sturdy feel to them, and are unlikely to break unless treated poorly.
Made of an easy-to-grip rubber compound, the wheel is extremely realistic. Buttons are integrated directly into the unit, preserving its authentic look. Force feedback quality is unrivaled—while the Logitech wheels are rather light and twitchy, the 911 Carrera has a very heavy and solid feel, much like that of a real car. Fanatec has also incorporated some invaluable tuning options into the wheel, allowing you to customize it to your liking. These include settings like wheel rotation (in degrees of ten), force feedback strength, deadzone, drift mode, and more (I'll provide the settings I use in GT5 later on). All this is adjusted through the little LCD screen located at the top of the wheel.
The pedal set is equally impressive. The gas pedal mimics that of a real 911 Carrera and is easy to operate. The brake is nice and firm, allowing you to really fine-tune how much pressure you want to apply. However, it does have a rather small range of motion—this isn’t necessarily a problem, but does take some getting used to. A bigger issue is the built-in deadzone on the brake, which cannot be adjusted. This deadzone is small, but has thrown me off on occasion when trying to slightly dab the pedal. I had no issues with the clutch—it felt quite nice, managing to be firm but not difficult to depress.
The shifter is a joy to operate. There’s a satisfying “thunk” each time you switch gears, and I quickly got addicted to the sensation. The metal rods used to mount the shifter are surprisingly sturdy, and there is no noticeable wobble while playing. In standard configuration, the shifter is a 6 speed + reverse, but can also be used as a 7 speed when necessary. Be warned though, using a clutch and shifter for the first time is a difficult task—expect a lot of missed shifts and cursing! Downshifting is especially tricky, requiring the use of a real racing technique called heel-toe, in which you manipulate the gas, brakes, and clutch simultaneously (look it up on YouTube for proper instructions). Don’t worry though, if seems like too much trouble, you can always just use the paddle shifters on the wheel!