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What Is Direct Drive?


An all-black Direct Drive wheel base with Fanatec branding in white across the side.
Credit: Fanatec

Whether you're in the market for a racing wheel or already own one, the term 'Direct Drive' might have piqued your curiosity. It's a phrase that frequently crops up in the world of sim racing, yet understanding its significance, mechanics, and the enhancement it can bring to your simulation experience might leave you with lingering questions.

Fear not, as we've put together this comprehensive guide to demystify Direct Drive for you in regards to some of the best racing wheels around. We'll delve into what it entails and explore how it can elevate your simulator setup to new heights.

So, if you're in the market for a top-tier wheel base, one of the best Direct Drive wheels, or simply want to know more about it, then read on to learn everything there is to know about Direct Drive.

What is Direct Drive?

Direct Drive technology involves mounting a racing wheel directly onto the motor using a quick-release hub. This is in contrast to Force Feedback devices, which utilise a belt or gear system in conjunction with the motor to provide a simulated driving experience.

With Direct Drive, users experience more direct and unfiltered feedback from the motor because there are fewer components between the user, the wheel, and the mechanical system.

A Formula-style racing wheel with red buttons on the console connected to a large wheel base in black.
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Credit: Fanatec

As seen above, the motors on Direct Drive wheels are generally much larger than those featured on Force Feedback devices like the Logitech G923, but often generate much more torque. For example, Fanatec's Podium Direct Drive 2 wheel base generates 25 Nm torque, which helps it accurately convey the subtle handling characteristics, intricate road and surface details, and the shift of inertia while cornering.

With higher torque generating more heat, most Direct Drive wheels are almost exclusively of metal, so it is strong and durable enough to deal with the added power.

How much is a Direct Drive racing wheel?

If you hadn't already guessed, Direct Drive wheels can be quite expensive, especially when compared to some of the best low, mid, and even high-end Force Feedback devices, such as the likes of the Thrustmaster TMX, a wheel we featured in our list of the best budget racing wheels around.

Thrustmaster TMX product image of a dark grey and black wheel next to a set of pedals.
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Credit: Thrustmaster
Thrustmaster

By comparison, a Direct Drive wheelbase from one of the top sim racing manufacturers around such as Fanatec will typically cost significantly more, which is one of the reasons why most sim racers opt for a Force Feedback bit of kit.

Should you buy a Direct Drive wheel?

Deciding whether to invest in a Direct Drive racing wheel is a complex choice due to its premium cost and the substantial size and weight of these devices, which require ample space and a proper setup.

Nevertheless, the primary advantage of opting for a Direct Drive wheel is the unparalleled level of immersion it provides in comparison to gear or belt-driven alternatives. This results in a highly accurate simulation of real-life racing experiences.

Moreover, a Direct Drive wheel can significantly enhance your consistency as it provides precise feedback on understeer, oversteer, and other handling characteristics. This feedback helps you anticipate and react to the car's behavior more effectively once you become accustomed to the wheel's response.

In conclusion, then, we recommend that only the most dedicated and serious simulation enthusiasts consider acquiring a Direct Drive racing wheel. It's advisable to have prior experience with a Force Feedback device to truly appreciate the benefits of upgrading to a Direct Drive wheel.

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