Behind the wheel of Logitech’s G29 Driving Force controller

Engadget - Philip Palermo - Logitech G29

While gamers are still waiting for any official word on a PlayStation 4 entry in the venerable Gran Turismo series, there’s still plenty of racing to be done on Sony’s current-gen console. The recent release of Project Cars and the steady maturation of Driveclub (following its botched launch) are just two examples of the PS4’s racing options. Into this growing genre comes Logitech with its $400 G29 Driving Force Racing Wheel — the latest in its long-running G series of steering wheel controllers. While owners of the older (and non-PS4-compatible) G27 wheel may be disappointed that the company has opted to replace it, Logitech’s latest entry (released alongside an Xbox One-focused sibling called the G920) could be worth the sizable asking price.Slideshow-308879

The G29’s exterior doesn’t stray far from the line’s previous designs; the wheel’s housing still resembles the front end of a fifth-gen Ford Mustang, just like the G27 and G25 before it. The biggest visual differences (aside from the blue highlights here and there) are PlayStation-specific controls arranged around the steering column on sharp-angled surfaces — as though Logitech clamped a Batarang onto a G27. As the name suggests, the layout strongly resembles the company’s Driving Force line — a popular option that’s been closely associated with the Gran Turismo series of racing games in the past.

Plastic dominates the casing for both the wheel and three-pedal base, but Logitech went with higher-end materials for where your hands and feet will most often touch the G29. The leather-wrapped steering wheel surrounds aluminum spokes, while stainless steel paddle shifters are within easy reach of your fingers. Down below, stainless steel covers the similarly shaped clutch and brake pedals, as well as the skinnier, taller accelerator. All three have a satisfying range of motion, with the brake offering the stiffest resistance. There’s a wide plastic platform to rest your left foot — or just your heels, if you race with both feet handling the controls. I could do with a little more spacing between the clutch and the brake, but it’s not a dealbreaker by any stretch.

Engadget - Philip Palermo Logitech G29 IRL

Installation is a breeze thanks to the G29’s integrated table clamp. As shipped, the two nylon claws have a "C" shape to them — handy for attaching to tables or desks with a bit of a lip. For thicker surfaces, though, you can snap off a pair of nubs to change the clamps from a "C" to an "L" shape. In that latter configuration, you get about 2.25 inches of clearance, which was enough for me to easily attach the G29 to my computer desk. Meanwhile, the pedal base has a handy gripper strip: a retractable ribbon of spiky plastic that digs into your carpet to help keep the unit stable while you furiously stomp on it. With the strip in place, the pedals stayed put through the vast majority of my playtime, but keeping a foot or your heels planted on the base definitely provides additional stabilization.

The G29 also plays nice with Fanatec’s Wheel Stand and I was able to clamp the wheel and attach the pedal base in just a few minutes with a single Allen key. As with most racing wheels, all the connections are routed to the wheel housing and a built-in cable spool helps you manage the tangle of wires coming from the pedals, power brick and the hardwired USB cord. While it’s not included in the base setup, there is a spot on the underside to connect an optional six-speed gated shifter. It’s interesting that, despite retailing for $100 more than the G27 (which included a similar attachment in the box), the leather-wrapped shifter here is a $60 extra. For what it’s worth, Logitech says older versions of the shifter module will work on the G29 — so your G27 setup may not be completely obsolete.

Engadget - Philip Palermo Logitech G29 IRL

In-game, the G29 offers a significant upgrade over the standard DualShock 4 controller. The wheel’s small-ish diameter might not match the dimensions of some real-life performance vehicles, but it has a satisfying thickness and is comfortable to grip from any angle. The feedback and vibration are stout without venturing into break-your-wrist territory. In Project Cars, for example, I was able to feel when I’d driven up on a curb, although I occasionally didn’t feel any feedback when grazing on some flat rumble strips. Crashing into walls was a suitably violent experience.

On both PC and PS4, navigating in-game menus from the wheel itself was a breeze, although you should be prepared for a bit more initial button configuration on the PC side — at least, that was my experience when trying older games such as Grid. I enjoyed controlling PS4 games like Project Cars and Driveclub using the wheel, but the lack of analog joysticks could present problems if you wanted to, say, adjust the camera angle in photo mode. And while the wheel’s LED strip gives you a solid visual indicator of when it’s time to shift gears, I wish it were located at the top of the wheel rim instead of the center column — where it’s harder to see using just my peripheral vision.

Overall, Logitech’s G29 Driving Force successfully blends the robust PlayStation-focused controls of the company’s Driving Force line with the tried-and-true design of its G series. At $400, it may be $100 more than the last-gen G27 — all while ditching the (now-optional) six-speed shifter — but the improved controls are a welcome upgrade. You may have a harder time justifying the price if you own the older model and you were hoping for signs of compatibility with the PS4, but the G29 is a solid replacement and a great, if a bit pricey, choice for racing game fans.

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Tags: Driveclub, engadgetirl, G27, G29, G29 Driving Force, IRL, Logitech, PlayStation, Project Cars, PS4, Racing

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