Fanatec McLaren GT3 V2 wheel review – how does it work with inappropriate games?
You don't buy this wheel to drift an Ariel Nomad, but it's important that I did
If you're the sort of person that puts chocolate into a spaghetti bolognese:
A) You're my kind of person
B) You realise there's joy in using things for jobs they weren't designed to do.
With that in mind, what follows is a review of a seriously sim-centric new steering wheel from Fanatec. Designed using actual CAD data from McLaren's 720S GT3 car, it's a millimetre-accurate scale recreation of a modern racing wheel, but designed for use with your PC, Xbox or PlayStation.
Other far more serious sim-racers will be reviewing this wheel all over the internet, but I was keen to share my experiences using it as a reasonably keen console gamer who has a PlaySeat tucked under the stairs for moments of escaping this awful reality.
Warning to serious sim-heads: I'll play some really unsuitable games with it.
What is it?
PlayStation and PC versions are also available
Before we get into using it for inappropriate games, you should know the new Fanatec McLaren GT3 V2 wheel is a re-release of one of Fanatec's most popular wheels. It now sports snappier magnet-controlled shift paddles (hewn from orange aluminium), and it's the first wheel to feature Fanatec's new tool-less quick release mechanism. Yup, you still need to purchase a Fanatec wheelbase to use this. This is Fanatec's most affordable bolt-on rim though, at €199.95.
Snug as a bug in a rug
The McLaren GT3 V2 comes in a satisfyingly weighty box, which contains the wheel, manuals and a sheet of replacement face buttons to let you customise the wheel if you plan to use it on your PC. The wheel in this review was the Xbox version, so came laid out with the standard array of colourful Xbox buttons.
What's it like with Assetto Corsa Competizione?
Fine, let's get the 'sensible' game out of the way first. The Fanatec McLaren wheel is not your usual multi-purpose round wheel, and it's clearly designed to give you that GT3 feel and sense of precision. The most appropriate game for it on Xbox One/Series consoles is Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC).
Because the McLaren GT3 V2 has on-wheel clutch paddles, you'll need to twiddle the central rotary controller on the wheel until the little OLED screen says "clutch". This rotary controller changes the function of the clutch paddles – you can also use it activate the handbrake, for example.
The middle rotary controller (the blue one) changes the functions of the clutch paddles
Firing up my ACC career in my 911 RSR, I sit in the pitlane at Spa. I thumb the ignition and then the starter (I bind these to Y and B on the wheel), pull the clutch in and snap into gear using the very-orange paddles. The paddles operate with an incredibly satisfying snap, but are also loud enough to be heard over headphones and any nearby nuclear conflicts.
I ease the clutch out with a bootful of revs and I'm off. As my tyres warm up and I put some practice laps in, it's immediately apparent that it's easier to be consistent in corners with the McLaren wheel than regular round CSL Elite wheel I've been using for the past year. There's something about the way the wheel locks your hands in place that helps cut out slack – obviously this is mostly in my head – but it's interesting how much a different wheel shape changes your approach to racing, and I found my laptimes much more consistent with the McLaren wheel. Interesting.
Nothing beats lapping Spa as the sun slowly rises – the new McLaren GT3 V2 wheel suits Assetto Corsa Competizione down to the ground
From a comfort point of view, this wheel give me more space between my thighs under the wheel and a better view of my TV over it. The rubber grips stay grippy over the course of two 20 minute races, and I find myself more immersed in the cockpit view than ever.
Interlude: A few disappointments
It's also about now that I got my first disappointment with the wheel – due to limitations with how many input channels the Xbox gives wheel makers to play with, you can't use the nifty rotary dials to do anything at all. Likewise, the P and N buttons are bound to the Start/Select buttons on the Xbox controller and can't be used for their intended racecar purposes of activating the pitlane limiter or slipping into neutral.
This isn't Fanatec's fault – Microsoft simply doesn't allow accessory manufacturers to have more buttons to play with. If you have a PC, you won't have this problem.
What's it like with Forza Motorsport 7?
Yes, I know Forza's hardly a sim and it's definitely not full of wheel-appropriate cars for the McLaren GT3 V2. But it's what my friends gather to play once a week once our kids are in bed, so it only seemed right to test it out. Initial impressions? Weirdly, I find it far easier to hold big, lurid drifts with the McLaren wheel than my round one.
Drifting with a rectangular wheel sounds dreadful, but I actually found it easier than with a round one…
It's fair to say FM7's driving model isn't the most realistic, and it's easy to provoke almost any car into a drift.
Being about to hook a thumb in one of the grips and one-hand-slide an Ariel Atom around the Prague circuit feels far easier than trying the same thing with a circular wheel. Perhaps because the McLaren wheel is easier to keep track of in my peripheral vision due to its rectangular shape? Who knows. But put it this way – I enjoyed the McLaren wheel enough to leave it on my wheelbase even when I knew I'd be drifting cars. It felt very much like I was using the wrong tool for the job, but trust me – drifting with this wheel really works, and it's not at all jarring driving regular road cars with a race wheel.
Speaking of slides…
What's it like with WRC 9?
What if, say, you were to take a scale replica of a slick-shod McLaren GT3 car and take it rallying? I fired up WRC 9 (check it out… I'm sort of preferring it to Dirt Rally 2.0 these days) and headed out into the wilds of Kenya.
This is more down to my talent than the wheel…
If you've not played WRC 9 with a force feedback wheel, you're missing out. Fanatec is the game's official wheel partner, and it shows.
The feedback feels more detailed than in any other console game I've played, and boy is it furious. Relentless. From the moment you transition from grippy Tarmac to loose gravel, your hands take a serious pounding. The McLaren wheel copes well on the grippier stages, and – again – I find it easy to hold slides with it. There's a caveat here though – you really need to keep a hand on it at all times. On one occasion I let the wheel spin between my hands, at which point it's essentially a spinning club. And it clubbed me in the palm hard enough to hurt.
As you hit gravelly terrain the constant stream of feedback is (on default settings, at least), noisy and furious enough for my other half to poke her head around the door asking what the gunfire's all about.
On the upside, it's easier to reach the handbrake button (B) on the McLaren wheel than my circular CSL Elite, so tackling the hairpins of Monte Carlo rally was actually a bit easier than expected. I still want to try a proper handbrake for this game, so watch this space.
Should I get one?
If you want a rectangular wheel for virtual endurance racing activities then the Fanatec CSL Elite McLaren GT3 V2 (what a name) does the job. The only real downside is that many of the fancy rotary buttons and two-way selectors do nothing on an Xbox. But the important quality of life bits do work – namely the super-solid gearshift paddles and the clutch paddles.
The build quality is deeply impressive for an 'entry level' wheel, and it feels over-engineered to the extent some of the buttons take a serious effort to press. Personally, I actually prefer using it to a circular wheel, and it'll be staying on my wheelbase for the foreseeable future.
Your questions answered
When the wheel dropped onto my doorstep I asked you guys what you want to know about it. Here are some answers.
• Tejas Kochka asked: "Has it got a place in the heart of Tim Rodie? Will you use this for playing all racing games?"
In short, yeah, I'll use it for playing all racing games. If my CSL Elite wheel had the quick-release attachment I'd be more likely to switch between them. But for now the McLaren wheel works surprisingly brilliantly with all my racing games.
• Rahil Hashmi asked: "Is it worth the cash?"
There's no doubt that €200 is a huge wedge of money, but the wheel's construction is so solid and has a beautiful sense that it's as well made as the wheel in any real-life car. So yeah, it is. Obviously Fanatec kit isn't cheap and you'll have laid out at least €400 for a compatible wheelbase already…
• Yahia E asked: "What are the main differences between this and a high end starter wheel like a Logitech G29/G920?"
The main difference is that this is simply the bit of the wheel you hold on to – you need to buy a compatible Fanatec wheelbase first (I'm using the Clubsport V2.5). This and the Fanatec CSL Elite wheelbases are belt-driven wheelbases – you can see how I felt after upgrading from my Logitech G920 here.