Regular readers of our site will recall that a while back we reviewed the GTXtreme V2 racing cockpit from Next Level Racing. We were hugely impressed by it's build quality and value, but it was the immersion factor it brought to our racing experience that really won us over (you can read all about it here). For many the GTXtreme would be more then enough simrig to meet the demands of their virtual racing needs, but what happens when you have a few extra bucks to spend and want to get something just that little bit fancier?
Next Level Racing are well known for their off the shelf sim hardware products. Their comprehensive range of wheel stands, cockpits and accessories cater to a wide range of users and budgets, culminating with the GTUltimate as their premium sim racing cockpit offering.
We've always said here at ASR that dedicated cockpits add a dimension to sim racing that simply cannot be achieved with a wheel and pedal set alone. It's one thing to have that fancy Fantec or Thrustmaster wheel but if at the end of the day your dragging your office chair up to it then it's easy to feel like your missing that final piece of the sim racing puzzle. So the question is, does the GTUltimate live up to it's name? Is it indeed the ultiamte offering for sim racers?
The GTUltimate is crated to your door in a single massive double re-inforced box that weighs in at an impressive 55KG (word of warning, couriers will not transport it into your house due to OH&S so be mindful that you'll probably want to bribe a friend to assist in moving it). Alot of the focus on the GTUltimate is centred on the replica bucket racing seat. While the GTXtreme used a leather seat that was modelled on more of a car type arrangement, the Ultimate goes one step farther offering the full body hugging bucket racing seat experience. The contoured back lining gives the illusion of a moulded carbon fibre seat while a full racing harness is also included just to add to the realism factor (potentially perfect if you plan on adding the motion platform option). They have obviously made some concessions to allow for greater comfort with the seat base being fully padded and an additional lumbar support cushion included. Overall the seat certainly looks the part and strikes a very imposing presence.
Moving onto the rig itself, the key to its configuration flexibility is it's simplicity. The whole frame works off a simple 'A' type pivot system that allows the pedal deck to be adjusted, or if your purchasing just the wheel stand without the seat, potentially folding the entire rig away for easy storage. The GTUltimate has a fully adjustable pedal deck allowing it to be positioned on the fly and raked at different angles (useful for when friends come around who differ from your height). Originally I had concerns that wheel mounting system might introduce some wheel wobble but those where not realised and as a whole the base is extremely solid and works well considering it's simplicity. As you'd expect popular wheels from Logitech, Fanatec and Thrustmaster have pre drilled mounting to allow for quick installation. The pedal deck also fully supports the Thrustmaster TSR500 pedals in both the GT and F1 style arrangements. Lastly those who utilise gateshift accessories are also covered with an adjustable bracket that can be mounted on either side, or even from the wheel base itself.
Just like the GTXtreme, the GTUltimate has a number of accessories and add-ons to complete your rig. The carpet mat protects your floor from any lateral movement while the keyboard and mouse stand helps to keep your peripherals within easy reach. One must have accessory is the monitor stand which functions as both a TV stand, or a triple monitor stand depending on your preferred setup. Finally for those with deeper pockets (or more understanding partners) the motion platform accessory adds actuators to your seat for the ultimate feedback system. We'll be bringing a full review of the motion platform in the near future so stay tuned on that front.
Assembly is relatively straight forward, however the instruction set is severely lacking in detail and clarity. While I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that understand what an 'M8 x 15 screw' is, others would appreciate those items to be clearly labelled for easier identification. I certainly on more than one occasion had to remove bolts I'd just put in because I realised they were incorrect. One other point of contention for me was that while the pedal base is pre-drilled for Logitech G25/G27 and Thrustmaster T500RS pedal sets it is not for Fanatec ones like my Clubsport V2s. An included pedal stopper plate solves this, but we found that it impedes the V2's clutch mechanism. You could potentially resolve this by modifying the plate but this in my opinion is a curious oversight. I ended up resorting to drilling my own mounting holes to solve the problem which is not really ideal considering this is hardly a DIY product.
Sitting in the GTUltimate is without a doubt a wonderful place to be. From the body hugging seats, the racing harness and comfortable driving position all these elements combined give a realistic immerse experience. It's adjustment options edge it out over the GTXtreme which had limited options in this area (something we pointed out at the time of review) and there is no doubt that this is indeed one of the premier sim racing products.
The GTUltimate is a serious piece of kit and at $849 AUD it also comes with a serious price tag. If you already own a GTXtreme (or maybe similar type rig) and had no intention of moving to the motion platform, then I'd argue that the upgrade is marginal. If however your making the big step from desk to rig then I'd strongly recommend going straight to the GTUltimate. Yes it is more, but the additional configuration and adjustment options alone make it worthwhile, the bucket seat is an improvement over the previous one and once you get over some of the nuances and irritants of your initial setup and installation, you'll quickly forget them as you get on with the job of driving. With the motion platform available (all be it at an eye watering $2,995) it certainly gives you options for the future should you decide to take the ultimate plunge.
- Sturdy and adjustable pedal base.
- The best seat we've come across so far.
- No wheel wobble at all.
- Broad range of accessories and customisation options.
- Average instructions.
- Required some DIY work to install our Fanatec pedals.
Where can I buy?
Pagnian Imports are the sole supplier who are also located in Australia which helps with warranty and support. They sell a wide range of sim racing equipment so check them out at: http://www.pagnianimports.com.au