Posted on , by Rob

Next Level Racing GTUltimate V2 Review

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An integral part of making any sim racing or driving experience complete is a good cockpit.  We’ve likely all done the bolt-on jobs where we’ve screwed our wheels to our desks and sat on our office chairs and while it’s fun, it just doesn’t feel real.  The chair moves, the gear stick is in an awkward position, and it’s hard to feel like you’re in a real racing car when every time you stomp on the brakes your ‘car’ seat slides back.

Enter Pagnian Imports and their Next Level Racing GT Ultimate V2 cockpit.  I’ve been using this cockpit for nearly 12 months now and the wheel stand component for about nearly three years.  In that time I think I’ve come to understand the setup pretty well.

The GT Ultimate V2 in its complete form, as I have it, is comprised of a number of components: Wheel Stand, Monitor Stand (supporting single large screen up to 55” or triple 27”), desktop, keyboard stand, and finally the seat (and 4 point harness).

My rig originally had a G27 on it, which over time evolved into a complete Fanatec clubsport set with Derek Speares button boxes and a custom dash.  Out of the box, the GT Ultimate supports Logitech G27 and Thrustmaster wheels and pedals (and probably lower spec Logitech wheels too), and also the Fanatec Clubsport Wheel Base, which is great for the majority of users.  The weighs in at near 50KG and takes a while to put together, so if you’re assembling one yourself, invite a few mates over and offer some of their favourite beverage. 

Once assembled, the GT Ultimate is an impressive package, about 1300mm long and 1500mm wide with triple 27” monitors installed.  With keyboard stand installed, the GT Ultimate even simulates getting inside a real cockpit; some flexibility is required, even with the seat slid fully back. But it’s not too bad, you just can’t “flop” into the seat and get going, it’s more of a step.  Once sat down, drivers can reach down to their left and pull up on the slide lever, as in many older cars (I think newer cars that don’t have electric seats have a full bar across) and slide the seat forward into their preferred distance.  The seat also has a recline function, like real car seats, and you can tilt forward or back to your preferred angle.

Assembling the unit, one thing that I found strange was that the seat frame comes with a number of bolt holes to allow the builder to set the desired distance from the wheel.  I’m 5’10.5” (178cm) tall and I had to connect the very front bolts.  I also slide the seat as far forward as possible.  I’d hate to be shorter and be compromised in my preferred driving position.  As mentioned earlier, the rig can accommodate a Fanatec Clubsport Wheelbase, but I found I had to bolt mine on by only the two ear connections in order to move the wheel forward a bit more and get the desired distance from my torso to the wheel.  I do drive with my arms bent though (as the racing books instruct).

The seat itself is an impressive piece of kit, a proper replica racing seat with fibreglass backing.  Pagnian have included thee foam inserts of varying thickness, all of which are used to provide customised lumbar support.  Personally I had to go and purchase more memory foam from my local craft store and provide extra lumbar support and move me yet close to the wheel and pedals.  I tried without the lumbar support but I felt instantly uncomfortable and within 15 minutes I had had enough of driving and trying to make it work.  That was in January and in August Pagnian released a new lumbar cushion to help with this problem. 

The gaming desktop is great addition too.  With that installed I can rest my buttkicker controller, headphones, mouse recharger and other occasional items (my mobile phone and snacks).  Well worth the addition.

I can’t say the same about the initial version of the keyboard stand.  The initial version bolted on to the side of the seat and swing around.  It was also affixed on top of the harness on one end, which meant the other end was lower.  It made for simple entry to the seat but I found it was always swinging back of its own accord and it was never flat.  Because it wasn’t flat it wasn’t viable to use long term, like if you want to type a review, or play your favourite 3rd person shooter in the event your simrig is your only PC at home.  The keyboard tray kept swinging out and extending the arm and over time the weight acting on a lever (the arm) applied a torque to the small piece of metal that was screwed in and it twisted right off.  Fortunately Pagnian released a new keyboard arm which bolts into the front of the seat and in secured horizontally in two place reducing the axis and amount of torque that can be applied.  It also meant the keyboard tray is perfectly flat and you get the added bonus of climbing into the rig. 

This cockpit ticks every box except motion. Unless you're going for a $20,000+ build, the GTUltimate V2 is the ultimate cockpit.

Speaking of previous versions of components; I have version 1 of the wheel stand, purchased in late 2011.  A few months ago my seven year old daughter was in my rig (bad I know, but I like to encourage her driving every now and then) and she pulled down on top of my wheel to get up.  I heard a loud pop and the horizontal bar to connecting either side of the wheel stand and on which the wheel is bolted had come off.  On investigation I saw the connector, which was fastened by two tiny spot welds had come off.  The spot welds had popped off the frame.  Once I received my new crossbar I noticed two things: The connected was much more solid, and the spot welds were now continuous welds all the way around. 

The previous things might sound bad for Pagnian and the Next Level Stand but I have had the wheel stand for nearly 3 years and this was the first defect I had encountered.  The other, more important thing to note, Pagnian have listen to feedback made to them and improved an already good product significantly.  While I’m no engineer (actually, I am an engineer – a software engineer – but I digress) it seems the design and manufacturing of the improved components will ensure a solid and robust product for years to come.

Still on the setting up: I did have a problem installing my Fanatec Clubsport pedals.  There are no bolt holes for this pedal set (V2 is the same – I now run with those pedals) and I had to get creative with my power drill.  The solution was to drill another hole and affix only one side.  In the 18 months I’ve been running with this solution I’ve never had the pedals move on me, so I think it’s an easy fix and the rig cannot be expected to accommodate every single piece of equipment on the market.  Oh yes, if you own the Fanatec Clubsport shifter (SQ or normal) you’ll need to also purchase the desk-clamp or you won’t be able to mount your shifter without using more handyman skills than I possess.

Finally, with all that mentioned, once the rig is setup it’s one sturdy piece of equipment.  The pedals can be slid further or close from you, the seat can be slid further or close from the wheel and tilted to the desired angle, with everything other than an adjustable steering column found in modern cars it’s easy to find the a comfortable driving position for those long sessions.  I’ve done a few 2.4 hour races in this rig and I can attest that while I was exhausted when the races were done, the driving position itself didn’t contribute to that.  That’s impressive coming from someone as picky as me.   I mentioned I’m 178cm. I’m also 100kg and rather wide across the shoulders.

I mentioned the rig is solid didn’t I? The monitors do not shake or move when my CSW is going mental during.  Things may shake off the desktop (like spare gear knobs…) but the monitors don’t move.  Oh I forgot about one other thing that broke.  After about 4 months of buttkicking action, the pole the buttkicker is mounted to under the seat clean snapped off from where it was bolted to the rig.  I do like my vibrations.  I did get another pole though and I have seen most setups like mine have multiple buttkickers and they’re mounted to the frame itself rather than a small pole.  If possible go that route.  I will be, soon.

Finally, the four point harness; it sounds a little geeky (it is) but I love racing with it on. I like being pulled firmly into the seat as my rig rumbles and shakes beneath me.  If you don’t have it, get it.

Overall it may sound like I am disappointed with my rig but that’s not the case.  It would be fair to say it gets a workout every day, and a strenuous one at that.  Given the improvements that have been made I see this rig lasting a long time in the future without problem.  If there are problems (or even improvements) I have complete faith in Pagnian Imports to resolve them in quickly and in a positive manner.  I don’t see myself getting another rig at any time, except unless I want a full motion solution and there’s no Next Level Racing add on for that!

Gallery

  • Shifter Clamp

    Clubsport SQ shifter attachment method works but it's ugly.

  • Right Monitor Angle

    Right monitor arm made the monitor angle slightly down. Not a problem though.

  • Lower Left Monitor

    The left monitor is lower but not by enough to annoy in game.

  • Right Monitor Gap

    There is a small gap at the top of the right monitor, as if the right arm hangs down a bit.  I've spent a lot of time trying to fix this.  

  • Shifter Attachment

    The seat also comes with an attachment but I prefer the position offered when attaching to the wheel stand

  • Keyboard Tray

  • Next Level Triple Monitor Arms

    I had to increase the size of the hole for the bolt in the bottom right of this photo so the holes on the arms and bracket would align and I could insert the bolt.

  • Twisted Keyboard Tray Arm

    As described in the article, V1 of the keyboard tray didn't last long and was no good for long sessions with the keyboard and mouse.

  • Keyboard connection

    The T-Bar connection with dual bolts is vastly surperior to the first version.

  • Seat Addition

    Despite the new Next Level lumbar support padding, I still find making my own far more comfortable.  The official lumbar support is still uncomfortable.

  • Keyboard Tray with Keyboard and Mouse

    Works great!

  • Custom Office Chair Lock

    I built this to lock my office chair to my wheel stand

  • Stand with Custom lock

    This illustrates how my office chair was kept in place

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