Newsflash! Pedals are kind of important when it comes to sim racing. But good, or even just competent pedals, can be a bit pricey. Enter the Fanatec CSL Elite Pedals LC, arriving this Fall with the not too low and not too high price tag of $199.95 (USD). But the question is, do these pedals that own a price point all to their own, punch well above their price? Lets find out.
Before we jump into the review lets go over a couple things. First, if you want to see us fondle these pedals and ramble on about specs, all from a sexy POV shot, go check out our First Look. We’ll quickly recap specs here, but we’re going to primarily focus on how they perform.
Secondly, this review will focus only on the CSL Elite Pedals LC and not the load cell-less, 2-pedal, CSL Elite Pedals since we have a pre-production version that doesn’t have the proper electronics to run in two pedal configuration. Be on the lookout for a review on the base CSL Elite’s later when Fanatec is able to send us a set in production configuration.
Now that that’s out of the way, lets talk about the CSL Elite Pedals LC design. It’s actually a very clever modular design, with the wide aluminum heelrest acting as the central docking station for the three individual pedal units, also made entirely out of aluminum. There’s also two metal rods with plastic spacers included in the LC to prevent any side-to-side movement of the pedals, although we’d be surprised if they moved consider the large bolts used to hold them in place on the heelrest.
And FYI, we did ask Fanatec if you could use the pedals without the support rods, and they said yes, but did strongly suggest that we didn’t. So naturally we ran them without and they seemed fine, but you may as well be safe over the long run and use them.
The entire pedal set comes in a not flat but not glossy black finish, with very little branding, which is a good thing in our opinion. The murdered out look comes across as much more of a sleeper than its more flashy – look I’m Darth Vader – big brother, the ClubSport Pedals V3.
And speaking of the V3’s, lets use them as a point of reference and how the CSL LC’s compare to them.
First off, even though the CSL is much wider than the V3 at 14.5 inches, it is much, much lighter. And while this doesn’t mean much to most of you who will mount them once and be done, this reviewer appreciated it after many mountings and dismountings.
Second, the placement and adjustability of the pedal faces are very different between the two. The V3’s are a more traditional fixed design, where the pedal upright positions are locked and the only adjustment is available by moving the flat pedal faces up and down or side-to-side, or using the Tilton style pedal faces that give you more height but no side to side movement.
Comparatively, due to the modular design, the CSL Elite pedals can be moved side-to-side much more than the V3’s, although no up-and-down adjustments are available. Also unlike the V3’s, the CSL pedal upright and Tilton style faces are one piece, so there’s no adjustment in the face themselves.
What does all this moving around translate into? It translates into us preferring the CSL’s pedal locations. While we certainly haven’t disliked the V3’s pedal locations, we prefer the huge side-to-side adjustability of the CSL’s and the height that Fanatec chose to set them at.
And lets talk about the height. We like that the CSL pedals are a bit taller than the V3’s. Yes, we could use the taller Tilton pedals for the V3’s, but we don’t like the groove they have in the middle of them, it hurts if we don’t wear shoes, and still feels funny when we do.
The CSL fixes this complaint. We get the taller, nicely shaped, Tilton pedals and no annoying groove under our foot.
Now, lets talk side-to-side movement. The CSL’s are the first pedals we’ve tested where we’ve been able to move the brake pedal exactly where we want it. I’ve talked about it ad nauseam, so apologies to the Inside Sim Racing faithful, but I like to get my left leg as straight as possible. On all other pedals, my left leg points inward towards my right leg. This isn’t a big deal on lower end pedals, but when you’re using a stiff – load cell – brake pedal, this can be tweaky on your left knee and cause pain.
I’ve tried to fight this by mounting my pedals as far left in my rig as possible and moving the pedal face as far to the left as possible, but it was never enough…until now.
I love that I can have both my legs straight in front of me when driving with the CSL Elite Pedals LC. Yes, I’m aware having pedals this far doesn’t work great for heel and toeing, but lets be real, most cars that I’m – and most of you guys are – driving on a regular basis don’t require heel-toeing, so this works out great. And of course if you wanted to adjust it back closer to do so, you can.
Speaking of adjustability, this is probably a good time to deliver a public service announcement. You need to be mindful when adjusting these pedals. First, those plastic spacers on the rods, they’re tongue-and-groove, so make sure they are the right direction and nesting neatly against one another.
Secondly, and this one is really important, when you’re moving the pedals, make sure the wire is running through the channel in the middle of the pedal.
The first time I moved the brake I was in a hurry and wasn’t paying attention, and for some reason, thought there was an opening between the bolt inserts. Well there isn’t, there’s an aluminum extrusion that acts like a guillotine, a guillotine that cut the wire in half.
Luckily, with a steady hand and a lot of patience, I was able to fix it, and amazingly, I haven’t encountered any issues.
So, don’t be dumb like me. Follow the instructions that I didn’t bother to look at, and use the proper channel when re-connecting your pedals.
The gas pedal works and there isn’t much more to say about it. It’s 12-bits of resolution (whether plugged into the PC via USB or into the Fanatec wheel base via RJ12 cable), with anything above 10 is plenty, and it offers a bit of resistance via the non-upgradable internal spring, but nothing that is going to blow your socks off. We’d say it’s about 50-60% of the V3 throttle’s resistance.
With that said, we never found ourselves having trouble rolling onto the throttle, something that is more difficult with a pedal that has very little resistance, so we think its just fine for the price point.
Like the gas, the clutch – aka the brake on the non-load cell 2-pedal CSL Elites – is also fine. Its internal spring is a little larger, so it snaps back a little quicker. It probably kicks back at about 50% the force of the CSW V3 clutch. But again, its 12-bits of resolution get the job done and we don’t have any complaints.
Now we get to the good stuff, the highly customizable load cell brake.
Considering that the load cell brake alone jacks the price of the CSL Elite Pedals from $79.95, all the way to $199.95, you’d expect this brake pedal to not only make you faster but give you a deep tissue massage.
Aka, it better be damn good.
Thankfully, it is. Arriving with four different sets of elastomer springs with hardness ratings of 45 (9.75 kg of pressure), 65 (18.66 kg), 85 (40 kg), 95 (90 kg), you can customize the brake feel from the equivalent to stepping on a sponge, to you better have your big boy boots on, to everything in-between.
And that in-between is where it gets cool, because you can mix and match the elastomer springs to your heart’s desire. You can even remove the polyurethane (PU) foam that Fanatec has in the 3rd position, and replace it with another elastomer spring for a more immediate feedback at tip-in.
And what makes the experimenting a breeze is the tool-less design, making swapping out elastomer springs while mounted to your rig super easy.
Performance wise, we actually enjoy the CSL brake a little more than the CSW V3 brake. While overall we like the V3 brake – with damper kit and Eladur mod that still hasn’t become available to the public – it doesn’t allow for much travel with the amount of brake pressure we like to run. On the other hand, we feel like we can get a little more travel with the CSL load cell brake, while maintaining a stiff brake.
It also feels a little more progressive, with a nice building of resistance as the elastomer springs compress against one another.
And, naturally, like the gas and clutch, the brake’s resolution is way way overkill at 16-bits.
So yes, the single pedal that costs nearly twice as much as two other pedals and a heel rest, really is worth it.
Before we get to final thoughts, lets wrap up a few other odds and ends.
First, while the single piece heel design is slick, it does make mounting the pedals a real pain-in-the-ass with tiny compartments to access the front bolts that had us learning about other religions just so we could use their God’s name in vain as well.
Equally as annoying is the tucked away I/O panel if you forgot to connect your cable before mounting the pedals. We mounted the pedals multiple times only to have to take them back off again and plug either the USB cable in or the RJ12 cable that runs to a Fanatec wheel base.
While the rubber cover over the pedal bolts doesn’t look great in photos, it’s much less noticeable visually in person and we never felt our heels resting on it.
Fanatec decided to make a software update after our First Look, where we fired up the PC so we could visually see the changes we were making to the brake force via the Fanatec Control Panel, even though we were only racing on the Xbox One. Now when you adjust the brake force on a Fanatec wheel base, such as the Fanatec CSL Elite Wheel Base that we’ll also be reviewing soon, you can press on the brake and visually see via the shift lights how much pressure is needed to ensure you’re registering 100% brake travel.
This is a nice little feature and should come in handy for those who primarily race on the Xbox One.
The bump stops for the gas and clutch pedals can be rotated to give you two different travel options, but we didn’t really notice a difference
Going with the options theme, having three different pedal face materials is nice. Our favorite is the bare aluminum, but if we didn’t have shoes we’d certainly use the rubber covers for comfort and grip.
Even though we had our reservations in the First Look, we did try out the anti-skid stick-ons. At first, they held up pretty well. Then we started to heel-and-toe and our shoes quickly removed the texture in just three laps around Watkins Glen.
They might be okay if you don’t slide your feet around on the pedals, but if you do, probably better off going with the bare aluminum anyway.
We really like the Fanatec CSL Elite Pedals LC. Take away the modular design and we would still probably say these are a good buy at $199.95, but with the modular design, we think these are a really good buy.
In fact, we wonder if they’re too good. While the CSW V3’s are more flashy looking, have a nicer finish, and have better throttle and clutch pedals, we think the CSL Elite Pedals LC are a stronger design choice. Having a super wide heel rest that allows you to move the pedals to exactly, or close to exactly, where you want them is awesome. And while we know there’s no height adjustment, or swappable pedal faces, we think the fixed height and design they went with is spot on.
We also feel like the load cell brake design is spot on. Being tool-less makes testing for the right combo so much easier. The physical loading of the rubber stops feel really natural and and we really like that we get some travel back into our brake.
This all equates to a pedal set that in some cases is better than the CSW V3 at 2/3rds the price, and that price gap grows if you include the V3 damper kit.
Major complaints? None really. Mounting is a pain and you have to be mindful when moving the pedals around, but how often are you really going to be doing either of those? Probably not that often.
So that leaves us with saying well done to Fanatec for creating a solid set of sim racing pedals for a reasonable price.