Source: Fanatec CSL Elite Wheel P1
A few weeks back I reviewed the Fanatec CSL Elite base/wheel/pedals. While I gave overall generally high marks, the least impressive part had to have been the actual wheel itself. The CSL Wheel P1 was a rubber coated wheel that had some very good characteristics (lightweight, rigid) it also was lacking in some areas (comfort/grip, shifter feedback). Apparently these were not uncommon complaints about what was still a seriously affordable piece of kit from Fanatec.
Fanatec decided to add another option for the CSL Elite lineup that is still more affordable than many of their higher end wheel offerings that start at $200 and go up to $400 US. The CSL Elite Wheel P1 is a thoroughly upgraded redesign of the P1 wheel. It shares the overall weight of the wheel, but improves dramatically with the flexibility and ergonomics of the part.
The primary upgrade is of course the material used for the wheel. Fanatec finishes it out with an Alcantara covering that looks hand stitched with a striking red thread. Alcanatara is a fancy brand of "Ultrasuede" that is produced in Italy. It feels great, it soaks up sweat yet still breathes, and is a durable covering that should last for many years to come. It looks to be a much more pleasant surface to interact with as compared to the slightly tacky rubber-like texture of the original wheel. I know for myself that I have really enjoyed the Thrustmaster 599XX EVO Alcantara Edition wheel as an upgrade, and I look forward to checking the Fanatec version eventually.
Fanatec does not stop with just the covering. The shifters now feature a new activation switch that provides much more feedback and feel than the previous model. The older wheel had a pretty anemic response when the user activates the shifter, so the experience just didn't feel quite right without the corresponding "thud" of a robust activation switch.
Finally Fanatec allows users to swap in and out the buttons on the wheel for either Xbox One use or for more customized setups using a pretty impressive number of buttons. This is a functionality that I have yet to experience in other products from the major manufacturers.
The wheel still features the brushed aluminum front plate and spokes as well as the "not so quick" release feature. The LCD and center light display are again present, but they need to have application support to be useful in game.
Fanatec is offering this unit for a fairly reasonable $159. This is around the same price as the Thrustmaster add-on unit featuring the Alcantara covering. This does look to be a major step up for users, but it does not break the bank as compared to other wheels that will fit on the Fanatec bases.
Fanatec has certainly been far more active in the past two years with their product stack than they have in a long time. It is great to see PC and console racing becoming popular again and providing the impetus for manufacturers to release new and interesting products to fill the market.