In a world exclusive RaceDepart are the first people on the planet to get access to the latest cockpit from Next Level Racing, the F-GT Elite. Here are our first impressions of this new Aluminium Profile Cockpit in the video above.
Disclaimer - Next Level racing have sent this unit for us to test on a long term loan but they have not asked us to say anything in particular about it and as always these views are our own.
This product was teased on RaceDepartment a few months ago in the form of the iRacing collaboration which was announced back March. At the time the reaction was a mixture of excitement and one of "Not another aluminium profile cockpit". But at the time we didn't have much to go on other than it was clearly a new 80/20 profile rig. Fast Forward to August and Next Level Racing announced the F-GT Elite and we saw instantly that this was perhaps a slightly more sophisticated rig than we first thought.
The first thing we need to address is the price. This thing isn’t cheap, it comes in at a hefty £999 here in the uk. Compared to cheaper Aluminium Profile cockpits and even similar products in its category it's on the high side. So in this first look of this new product we begin to try and answer the question of if it's worth the extra cost.
No expense has been spared by Next Level Racing on the packaging for this product. It comes in a fancy retail packaging but more importantly everything is packed in a polystyrene mould which does a great job of protecting the precious cargo. Another nice touch is that all the parts are placed in the order in which you need them through the assembly process.
I'm not very skilled at putting anything like this together so a decent set of instructions is essential and i'm glad to report that the instructions included with the F-GT elite are probably the best set of instructions I have ever seen from any sim racing product. The diagrams are clear and easy to follow and there is a QR code on each page linking to a video which shows the build process in some detail.
While putting the base frame together I noticed a couple of the T-Nuts were quite tight and I managed to scratch the matte finish profile. I must have been unlucky as the rest of the T-Nuts were absolutely fine and it was just the first two that I tried which caused a problem.
One thing that I absolutely loved about this build is the laser etched guides on the wheel mount columns and the pedal mounts. This enables you to precisely match your parts on both sides so they are symmetrical. A tape measure would work equally fine but the fact you don't need one means you can get racing even quicker.
As someone with a design background I can’t help but be blown away by the way this thing looks. Make no mistake, Next Level have done an absolutely incredible job with this. If this was a car we would be comparing it to something like a McLaren or Ferrari, it's that level of finish. From the exquisite matte treatment on the profile, the custom end caps and the stunning colour of the red anodised wheel mounting plates; this thing is gorgeous. If design and a good looking product is important to you then you will love this cockpit.
Another neat design feature of this product is the different seating positions. The F-GT Elite is called as such because the F stands for Formula and the GT stands for, well, GT. Both a Formula and GT seating position are possible with this cockpit. You can tilt the chair and position the pedals in any way that suits you. There is also a hybrid position which is a mix between the two. The hybrid mode is great for people who like to try different cars and sims.
As well as being able to move the seat and pedals you can also adjust the wheel into the precise position you wish. As the wheel bracket allows for a decent amount of tilt. Also the wheel mounting columns are pretty tall so it will likely be able to suit all manner of driving positions. As we have only had this rig for a short period of time we are yet to try all the different seating positions but we will try them all over the next few months and include our thoughts in our long-term review.
Quite simply, this thing is built like a tank, I have been putting it through it's paces in the short time i've had it and I haven't experienced any flex at all. I have really pushed it by testing it with 100% force feedback on the Simucube and the rig just doesn't move. You would expect this from an Aluminium profile rig but it's good to see that the F-GT Elite is extremely tough.
A quick note, if you haven't seen this yet, check this out this is a video of someone literally jumping up and down on the pedal plates. I didn't recreate this test but honestly I would expect a similar result?
I really like this product but there are a couple of things that I would like to have seen included. There is no monitor solution included in box, this is typical for products in this category but I think for the price it would have been nice to have something included. I bought a Next Level Racing single monitor stand and I assumed it would be fine but it didn't fit so I had to loosen the bolts to allow it to squeeze into place. The Elite Monitor Stands from Next Level Racing would work perfectly but at £349 it was out of my budget on this occasion. I have heard that there will be an integrated solution coming from NLR in the near future.
The seat, we haven’t really spoken about the seat much as it is technically a separate product, this is the ELITE ES1 SIM RACING SEAT from Next Level and it too comes in at £349. We’ll review this in more detail at racedepartment.com soon but the my thoughts on it are, it’s nice, but I don’t know if its the seat I would choose. Thats not to say it’s not right for you but I personally prefer a padded comfy gamer chair over this sort of solution. It seems to me that this type of seat is great for real world racing as it’s lightweight and compact but i’m not sure if those are really necessary criteria for sim racers. It sure looks cool but i’m not sure if its the most comfortable solution, especially for something like an endurance race. However, I have one big problem with it, and that is that i’m just too big for it. I’m 6 foot 3 and my head just reaches over the headrest cushion and rests on the edge, it’s not painful or even all that uncomfortable, but I notice it, and distractions like that in the heat of a battle are amplified. The jury is out on this seat for me, I will be sure to update you in the long term review soon.
So who is this product for? The price will rule out a huge chunk of the market that’s a given. But I don’t think Next Level are aiming for the masses here, this is for the sim racer who wants a beautifully designed, no compromise rig that screams quality; and arguably that chunk of the market is just as valuable as the larger mass market. One example of this is that all the parts you need to convert this to a motion rig are included in the box, this is who they are aiming at, people that can afford to turn this thing into a motion rig.
Next Level have also gone to some lengths to make sure this is as user friendly as possible from the moment you open the instructions and unwrapping all of the tools provided (including a little ratchet wrench thing which is just amazing) to completing the build, it’s super straight forward.
And that's it isn't it? That’s where the value is in this product. Yes it’s in the attention to detail and build quality but it’s also in the support that is offered with the detailed instructions, the included tools, the how to videos, and from what I understand some pretty decent after sales support. That stuff doesn’t come for free and that's why this product is priced the way it is.
Personally I love it, I think this is one of the best sim racing products I have ever used. Would I buy one? Yeah if I had the money. But realistically my budget wouldn’t stretch this far, no matter how much I truly love the design and ease of assembly. But if you are looking for a top end aluminium profile cockpit, and you do have the budget for it, I think your money would be very well spent here.
This is just our first impressions and we will re-review this product in the long term review in the next few months.
Let us know what you think of the Next Level Racing F-GT Elite in the comments below.