Review: Next Level Racing GT Ultimate v2 racing simulator

Since I was a teenager, I had always wanted a driving rig, and more than 15 years later I have it. The GT Ultimate v2 simulator from Next Level...

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Since I was a teenager, I had always wanted a driving rig, and more than 15 years later I have it. The GT Ultimate v2 simulator from Next Level Racing is a driving sim ready for almost any steering wheel and pedals you can throw at it. With so many driving games around right now, it seemed the perfect time to move on from the controller and sit behind the wheel.

Recently this month we got F1 2015, before that was the long anticipated Project CARS and soon we’ll get Forza Motorsport 6. It’s a great time to be a racing fan.

After spending some time with the GT Ultimate v2, its time to give you a run down of what works and what doesn’t. Keep in mind this review may be updated over time as more titles come out as well as how it suits additional steering wheels and pedals.

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Setup

Because of it’s size and weight, receiving this online purchase is something that needs to be planned. Getting a delivery ticket and picking it up from the post office or depot isn’t going to work for this, especially not with a sedan. Fortunately I was home when it was delivered and shortly later I was slicing through tape and cardboard faster than a knife through butter.

Shortly after opening the box I knew it wasn’t going to be a quick job to setup. There’s multiple components, plenty of bolts, screws, washers and 3 sets of instructions if you choose to follow them.

Bolting everything together really starts with the seat, everything bolts on to that and you progressively build forward. Stopping only to take some happy snaps along the way, the assembly took around an hour to setup and probably the first few races to really get things squared away in terms of angles and positions.

If you’ve ever tackled Ikea furniture, or any flatpack for that matter, this will be a breeze by comparison and is certainly able to be completed by one person.

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Quality

The first thing I unboxed was the seat and with a hard glossy black finish that transitioned to a cushion fabric front, it has all the right looks. When it comes to the rest of the hardware, Next Level Racing weren’t mucking around when they built this thing, the steel is bloody huge. I’m pretty sure you could actually have a crash in this thing and survive.

The bolt together design kept getting stronger the more pieces of the rig that came together. You don’t have to, but I chose to bolt the front wheel and pedal mount to the rig. This section features a massive checkerplate section, you know the kind you’d find in the back of a tradies ute, built for serious work.

The strength and build quality of this rig is high and needs to be, as there’ll likely be a line of your mates cued up to try it.

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Flexibility

Thanks to more than general seat size, even your heftiest mates will be able to enjoy the racing action. In terms of the vertically challenged, height doesn’t seem to be an issue either, with the seat capable of moving back and the pedals forward to allow drivers of all sizes. At 6 foot 3 inches (193cm), I’m on the taller end and I feel there’s plenty of room to extend if my 6”5’ brother wants a turn.

A real strength of the GT Ultimate V2 is the completely configurable front section. When you’re racing for long periods of time, it’s like highway driving, you want to be comfortable. You don’t want to feel like you’re reaching for the wheel or stretching for the pedals, the right distances everywhere are critical.

Some simulators are dedicated to one driving position, making them great for F1, but unrealistic for the driving position of a rally car. By just adjusting the seat recline and pedal angle, in seconds I can transition between race types, big ticks here.

One area I did miss adjustment was the angle of the seat base, however given the base of the seat mounts to the brackets that run to the floor, this would be hard to achieve, it’s very different to an office chair, but does exist in your passenger car.

There’s bolt holes in the wheel mount and the pedal mount that fits a seriously long list of steering wheel and pedals. The one I have is the Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Spider. The pedals bolt, but the wheel doesn’t sadly. The consequence of this is the clamp style mount means there’s a decent amount of vertical play when using the wheel. If you don’t pay attention, you may end up hanging off the wheel a little. This more of an issue with the wheel, rather than the rig. It works and works well, just could feel more stable.

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Size

Unless you’ve got an ultimate man cave, you’ll need to find a place in the house to fit this rig. All setup you’ll need around 155cm in length and around 26cm wide, that’s not including the width of your display. Of course you’ll need more than that to allow room to get in and out of the rig, not the easiest thing to do by the way.

After using it for a while I found having the seat extended further than I need to drive, but sliding forward using the in-build sliding mechanism, allowed for comfortable racing and an easier entry and exit.

Depending on your configuration, you’ll also need to consider cord lengths and placement of consoles and/or PCs. Thanks to the height necessary under the seat to get your driving position right, that also doubles as a great cavity to place devices and can save plenty of space.

While it’s bigger than holding a steering wheel on your lap, this sim is efficient in the size it takes up. Personally I knew I wanted a proper, more permanent setup for racing and found the space along one wall of the home office. If you don’t mind screwing around, you can choose to fold the front section away when not in use, but seriously the space you’ll save is minimal. The only time I could conceive moving this rig is to put it in front of the largest TV in the house for a weekend. If that ever happened, there’d be no folding, just a two-person pit crew to move the rig as it stands.

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Comfort

One of the biggest questions you’ll have is the comfort during the longest races. I think any racing simulator would be fine for a race or two, let’s face it, we’ve all raced Daytona at the arcade and never thought twice about the seat.

After racing around Bathurst in Forza 5 and Project CARS, as well as racing multiple GPs including the HungarianGP in F1 2015, I’ve now got around 20 hours on the Next Level Racing GT Ultimate v2 racing sim.

The good news is the seat is comfortable. The bad news is, you have to work hard to make it that way. At least harder than I was expecting. I get the challenge is a difficult one, with so many different sized and shaped bodies to support, but this is the same struggle car makers face.

This version now ships with a lumbar support cushion, at first I thought it was too big and cumbersome, so raced without it. It wasn’t too long before I understood why this was included, from customer feedback. It straps to one of the three velcro removable sections in the seat. Being taller, I strapped it to the middle one, but this will absolutely be personal preference.

With this in place, my driving sessions got longer and I stopped thinking about the seat and just kept reminding myself to breath. It sounds stupid, but when you’re racing wheel to wheel with a full grid of F1 cars, or chasing hundredths of a second in a lap time, it’s easy to forget.

I know why the seat is as wide as it is, to accommodate the growing profile of Australian’s, but after experiencing Evo 8 Recaro’s in my road car, I’ve been spoilt with seat hugs.

In terms of the monitor height, the steering wheel distance, I had it all wrong on first configuration. While it took a couple of days to dial it in, I feel like the rig is now working for me and a reduction in lap times is backing that up.

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Accessories

When I purchased the GT Ultimate V2, the checkout posed some interesting questions, do I want a keyboard tray, do I want a controller and remote shelf, a monitor stand that can support up to 55” or triple displays. I appreciate that every racer is the same and having the bare minimum included in the rig and level the rest to optional extras, allows users to buy just what they need.

Personally I did go for the monitor mount, but it’s currently out of stock, so will have more on that when it arrives. It mounts to the front of the rig so the ugly setup you see in the photos is just temporary until the proper solution arrives. With many common VESA mount options supported, it’ll support future monitors from the 27” I have up to 55” at some time in the future.

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Price

What’s the damage on a racing simulator like this? Australian importer Pagnian has the Next Level Racing GT Ultimate V2 for A$849.00 which includes delivery. The optional monitor mount is A$179.00 which I think most people will go for, so the overall price just tips of the thousand dollar mark.

There are certainly racing setups that you can buy that are half that price, but I kind of have a mentality on big purchases.. do it once and do it properly. I’d hate myself if I cheaped out on a rig that I’ll have for years and probably across console generations.

If you’re really not constrained by budget, then there’s some seriously bonkers accessories you can throw at this. You can turn it into a flight sim for an additional $525.00 or add a Buttkicker vibration kit for between $649 and $949.

Hands down the most insane mod is a $2,995.00 motion platform option. This connects to games and physically rotates both horizontally and vertically to give you the feeling or really feeling what it’s like to mash the loud pedal in a V8 Supercar.

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Overall

After pulling the trigger on steering wheels and pedals earlier in the year, my temptation to go to the next level with my racing addiction, finally took over. The capacity to be so precise as to run your front-left tyre over the white line before turning hard right is exactly what I was after. Only with that level of accuracy could I really do what all racing simulators should do, trick your brain to thinking you are actually driving.

I think there’s still some room for improvement in terms of seat comfort, but the adjustability and flexibility in it’s adjustments are second to none. The GT Ultimate V2 is a big success and from researching V1, it’s a strong evolution forward on the platform.

If you’re into racing, do yourself a favour, seriously consider getting into a simulator and if you do, consider this one. With a killer lineup of driving titles around in the middle of 2015, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better time.

I played many, many hours driving with a controller in games like Forza 3, Forza 4, Forza Horizon, Horizon 2. Now I find myself going back to games I haven’t played in months, like Forza 5, but I know the game I’m enjoying the most right now is F1 2015.

This weekend was the Hungarian Grand Prix and it was kind of fantastic to race the track, post my diminishing lap time on twitter and have friends compete to beat it. It was great to be able to compare my lap times to the actual drivers and the stunning qualifying time Hamilton achieved. This is the first time the official F1 game has shipped mid season and what a fantastic experience it is. At times over the weekend, I was racing as Aussie’s own Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, with Foxtel Play snapped to the side of the Xbox streaming live Practice. That was a killer experience.

There’s no doubt in my mind that if you pony up the cash, when you step out of this racing simulator, you’ll have a stupid amount of fun and a big, stupid smile on your face.

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