GRAN TURISMO DD PRO Review | The best console steering wheel in its price range

GRAN TURISMO DD PRO Review | The best console steering wheel in its price range


 The belt drive was yesterday. The latest craze in steering wheels is called Direct Drive. A technology that works faster and more powerfully than standard steering wheels, giving you the tools to drive better. Normally direct drive wheels are incredibly expensive due to their industrial motor, but Fanatec has managed to put together an affordable offer. The complete bundle, consisting of the motor base, steering wheel, table clamp, and pedals, costs 699 euros, which is a hammer price given the technology supplied. We took a look at whether this inexpensive variant could keep up with the larger models.


It wasn't that long ago that we introduced you to the Gran Turismo DD pro's big brother. This refers to the rather expensive and massive 15 kilo F1 Podium Racing Wheel, which is compatible with the PlayStation, the PC, and with the appropriate upgrade also with the Xbox family. You pay a lot for it, but you also get unparalleled quality, which is why we voted it by far the best console wheel available.

Disklok - UK's Strongest Steeri...
Disklok - UK's Strongest Steering Lock


Quality is all well and good, but not everyone can just knock out 1800 euros for a video game steering wheel. Fanatec probably thought so too and designed a cheaper variant with the same technical approach, called the CSL DD. The only catch: It only works with PC and Xbox, but not with PlayStation consoles. It's taken a while, but finally, Sony gamers can get an affordable Direct Drive wheel.


Why did Sony friends have to wait so long for this? Well, Fanatec's cheap Direct Drive technology convinced Polyphony Digital so much that the Gran Turismo makers absolutely wanted to create their own steering wheel design for it. The result of this collaboration is called Gran Turismo DD pro and is considered the new official Gran Turismo steering wheel, which means that competitor Thrustmaster has to give up the license for this title.

The differences to other Fanatec steering wheels


In contrast to the CSL DD and the "big" Direct-Drive models, the Gran Turismo DD pro is only available as a bundle, so you can get started without further ado or additional upgrades. For 699 euros you get a total of four components that you would have to purchase individually for other Fanatec steering wheel models, plus all the necessary cables.

As mentioned at the beginning, the bundle includes the heart, i.e. the powerful motor, which weighs just five kilos and is surprisingly compact with cubic dimensions of around 15 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm (without handlebars). In addition, the manufacturer supplies a set of fairly simple but reliable pedals, a table clamp, and the steering wheel designed by Polyphony, which has some special features. More on that later.

Basically, the GT DD pro comes with all the usual Fanatec functions. So you can use it on multiple devices. By default only on the PlayStation and a PC. If you buy an Xbox-compatible steering wheel attachment, then also on the Xbox, because as usual, the Sony identification chip is in the engine block, while the Xbox ID chips are housed in Fanatec's steering wheels. This means that multi-console players have to pay a little more money, but they get a steering wheel that can be used on all systems without any stress.

Switching is then simply a longer press on the large power button on the front. The color of the LED shows you which system is currently being operated. Including a compatibility mode for games that are so old that they don't recognize the DD pro by themselves.

Connection options for additional peripherals are located on the rear. For example, for two-shift sticks operated in parallel, a handbrake, and, of course, for pedals. Only the data port of the big brothers, which feeds additional telemetry screens, is missing. The device has access to the console and PC through a USB3 slot with a deep, kink-proof port, or a robust corresponding cable that is included in the scope of delivery.

The only downside: The GT DD pro reduces the number of memory slots for special settings such as force feedback strength, rumble intensity, maximum steering wheel rotation, and so on. These are handy save slots because you don't have to constantly adjust values ​​if you regularly play several different racing games. After all, you want a different basic setting for a Formula 1 game than for a rally title.

The large DD models from Fanatec have five slots available, while the GT DD pro unfortunately only has two save slots. However, this is only a drawback to the console. When used on a PC, Fanatec's special software for Windows allows you to save any number of profiles.

What makes Direct Drive better?


We discussed the difference between Direct Drive steering wheels and the classic belt drive models from other manufacturers such as Thrustmaster and Logitech in detail in the F1 Podium Racing Wheel test. But for the sake of completeness, here is a brief summary:

Modern steering wheels simulate the countersteering of a car using so-called force feedback. Only then can the game show you how well the car's grip reacts and how its steering behavior contradicts your driving intuition. However, belt drives have some disadvantages. They have to transmit their power through two distinct components, which means the game's response is passed through to you with only a slight delay and also loses a lot of nuance along the way.

Direct drive steering wheels, on the other hand, rely on industrial motors with strong magnets. They turn the shaft of the steering wheel without mechanical intermediate stations, hence the name Direct Drive. You can feel the advantage immediately. Direct Drive steering wheels are as smooth as butter, react much faster than belt drives, and don't swallow any details. You can feel even the smallest influences of the asphalt on your hands and react immediately.

Another advantage lies in the strength of the force feedback. In order to be able to interpret all reactions of the vehicle without a doubt, the power of the force feedback must be so strong that you react intuitively. For example, when your car loses such traction that it threatens to skid. Most belt drives are far too weak for this. Standard direct-drive steering wheels range in torque between 12 and 25 Newton meters, depending on the model and manufacturer. Just 12 Newton meters is a lot of power and corresponds to the resistance that a real Formula 1 driver feels on his steering wheel. In a touring vehicle without power steering, there are even more.

By simulating these forces, you will react much faster and more appropriately to your virtual vehicle's grip. This doesn't automatically make you a better driver, but with a little practice, you can become a better pilot because you learn to intuitively absorb your car's skidding and continue driving without major dismounts. What's more: you can even feel that the grip is decreasing before you even start to skid and you can take your foot off the gas in good time. Precise drifting is also much easier with Direct Drive steering wheels.

power to retrofit


With this information in mind, just 5.5 Newton meters of torque that the Gran Turismo DD pro generates sounds a bit disappointing, after all, this roughly corresponds to the standard of slightly more expensive, advanced belt drives. However, three things should not be forgotten: On the one hand, Fanatec's DD-Pro still reacts faster than a belt-drive, on the other hand, 5.5 Newton meters can be quite demanding for beginners. You have to get used to this strength first, after all, entry-level steering wheels from Logitech and Thrustmaster only run at two to four Nm. And last but not least, you have the opportunity to give the steering wheel an extra portion of juice.

There is an upgrade option with the so-called Boost Kit 180. This is nothing more than a larger power supply with a maximum output of 180 watts, which you connect instead of the supplied power supply. This number is misleading because in practice you don't use more than 50 to 100 watts, and even then only in extreme situations. The rest is a buffer for voltage peaks.


The Boost Kit 180, which is not exactly cheap at 149 euros, increases the power of the steering wheel to eight Newton meters. Unfortunately, we didn't have this boost kit, but since we have a large DD1 steering wheel and can throttle it down to 8 nm, we know exactly in which performance segment the GT DD pro and boost kit are located.


Eight Newton meters is still a bit far from the 12 to 25 Nm of other, more expensive Direct Drive models, but you can work very well with that. If you are not used to this 8 Nm, you can get real strength training at home that strains your arms and chest muscles. Enough juice for playing console sims.


The special features of the steering wheel attachment


As already indicated, the steering wheel attachment designed by Polyphony Digital was equipped with special features. These features are especially useful in Gran Turismo, but not only in this game.


A particularly important point is the rumble motors in the steering wheel rim. They convey the jarring effect that is normally felt in Gran Turismo 7 through the haptic feedback of the Dual Sense Controller even more intensively. In any case, our test laps with GT 7 were very impressive and fun - and when it came to rumble, even more, intense than we were used to from the big F1 Podium DD. The most obvious thing to note on this topic is why Polyphony wanted to design the steering wheel themselves.


What is striking, however, is that the design looks quite similar to that of Thrustmaster's previous Gran Turismo steering wheel. This affects both the shape and the color scheme with its black and gray paint and the button arrangement. Including the four color-coded special joysticks that already found their place on the previous Thrustmaster counterpart. This allows you to adjust special values ​​such as braking tolerance, traction control, and cornering resistance (on rally cars). Also during a running race, they are easy to reach and intuitive in their haptics.


Otherwise, not much about this essay stand out. Compared to other Fanatec steering wheel attachments, the model designed by Polyphony feels quite delicate despite its 1,040-gram weight, which is probably the reason why you can only use it with a stronger DD wheel in legacy mode below the 9 Nm limit can use. Especially since there is no aluminum quick-release clamp. It is screwed on with a twist lock (the so-called Quick Release Light) made of sturdy plastic.


For the asking price, the construction is okay with its 28 cm diameter and the smooth, albeit non-slip rubber coating, even if the pressure points of the face buttons could generate a little more feedback. The permanently installed shift paddles look cheap, but convey a good feeling when shifting, including satisfying click feedback.


As is usual with Fanatec, a small LCD screen in the middle is used to convey telemetry data (e.g. the current speed in km/h) but also the stored parameters that you can determine for your steering wheel yourself.


All in all typical Fanatec standard, with the exception of the installed Rev lights above the small LCD screen. Instead of a whole bar of LEDs, which usually indicate the number of revolutions of the current gear, there are only three here. Tia, what can you say about that. Three is certainly enough, but did you really have to save so much that it wasn't even enough for a few additional LEDs? Not a point to get hung up on, but it shouldn't go unmentioned, especially since other Fanatec steering wheels don't address the full number of REV LEDs when connected to the GT DD pro, as our test with a Podium Button Module showed. It would be nice if that were fixed with a firmware update.


The rest of the bundle


All other parts of the bundle consist of standard components from Fanatec. See, for example, the typical CSL pedals, which consist of an accelerator and a brake pedal and are worth around 80 euros. If you want to attach a clutch, simply order another pedal for around thirty euros. A load cell kit for direct resistance when braking can also be retrofitted.


As a beginner's model, the CSL pedal kit is certainly not the pinnacle of sim racing equipment, but it is very welcome in this bundle so that beginners don't have to buy anything else. Pressure point and handling are okay, and if you develop higher demands over time, you can buy more expensive pedals.


Also welcome is the included table clamp, which is very easy to attach. Nevertheless, we recommend (not only for direct-drive steering wheels) the use of a race stand that allows a fixed installation and is better able to withstand the counter-pressure of your steering movements than the (pressboard) wood of your desk. All the necessary elements are included in the bundle. This also includes a set of flexible T-nuts that you can easily slide into the lower rails of the engine block. We recently tested a very attractive model of a race stand that is ideal for the GT DD pro.


CONCLUSION

The only steering wheel you'll ever need

I love to ride my outrageously expensive Podium F1 DD wheel, but it also cost me a painful chunk of money. For those who don't want to offer their kidneys on the black market, the Gran Turismo DD pro is undoubtedly the best alternative, as it is the best steering wheel in its price range. For this price, what Fanatec delivers is even a real hammer!


Sure, 5.5 Newton meters of torque sounds rather frugal in the Direct Drive segment, but even the standard version is still strong enough for beginners and advanced users. Anyone who licks blood learns to interpret the sharper force feedback effects, and eventually needs more, pays a little more money for the boost kit so that a tight 8 Newton meters can be achieved. For all those who do not practice racing games as e-sports or who worship this genre as sacred, 8 Newton meters of torque are always sufficient for a very immersive and intuitively controllable driving experience.


In terms of responsiveness and a gentle steering angle, all of the competition's steering wheels are at a disadvantage anyway, which is due to the built-in technology. Direct Drive is simply a step forward in this segment that belt drives cannot follow. The fact that Fanatec managed to squeeze this otherwise expensive technology into a reasonable price frame and to design the device itself super cute and compact should be highly credited.


I'm not that enthusiastic about the included steering wheel attachment, but I don't want to sound too grumpy given the bundle price. The rumble effects created by Gran Turismo 7 (and future games based on it) are terrific. In general, the functionality is fine. I'm just of the opinion that there are nicer steering wheel rims, especially since the saving measure with the three REV LEDs comes across as unnecessarily stingy. The supplied pedals are also okay for beginners but should arouse desires in the long run. Luckily, some things can be retrofitted (quite cheaply).


Overall, the price-performance ratio of the bundle hardly allows any serious criticism. There is no cheaper direct drive wheel anywhere, and this purchase is flexible enough to survive any system change and any upgrade request. Therefore, the bundle is very interesting for Sony customers and multi-console players. If, on the other hand, you are only on the Xbox and/or the PC, then you would be better served with the (roughly identical and also very cheap) CSL DD, because you do not buy an Xbox-incompatible steering wheel attachment with it. Don't hesitate, buy!


Pros

  • state-of-the-art Direct Drive technology at a reasonable price
  • compatible with PS5 and PC ...
  • ...and the Xbox family when you purchase an additional Xbox-compatible steering wheel attachment
  • compact and chic engine design
  • super smooth driving experience
  • snappy force feedback without delays
  • Force feedback can be upgraded to 8 Nm torque with a boost kit
  • complete bundle with pedals and table clamp
  • Compatible with the vast majority of Fanatec products
  • awesome rumble effects in Gran Turismo 7
  • two memory slots for special settings

Cons

  • innately only 5.5 Nm torque
  • The supplied steering wheel attachment is not the prettiest
  • Shift paddles are good but a bit small
  • only 3 REV LEDs
  • Pressure points of the menu buttons are a bit wobbly
  • The motor base is currently not available separately
  • Boost kit quite expensive

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