Fancy yourself as a virtual racing driver? This leather-clad, brushed metal extravaganza will transform you from Mark Webber into Stirling Moss.
Five hundred big ones is lot of hard-earned dosh to spend on a steering wheel. How on earth could Logitech ever justify asking us to splash out that much?
The G25 gets off to a good start when you open up its not inconsiderably-sized box because your olfactory senses are hit with the distinctive odour of leather. Sure, similar levels of delight can be derived from unpacking Logitech's cheaper Momo-branded steering wheel, but that wheel doesn't come with the G25's exquisite brushed metal paddle shifters and pedals. Close your eyes and you could almost imagine that you're behind the wheel of a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Aston Martin. And then there's also the solid, weighty feel to three separate components of the G25: steering wheel, pedals and gearshift-cum-joypad controller.
All the G25's odds and sods are connected to the steering wheel's base, including the power pack and USB cable. The connectors for all these wires reside in a cavity on the steering wheel's base. This design allows the G25's wheel unit to keep a nice and clean profile -- one impromptu reviewer even went so far as to call it "car-like" and "aerodynamic". However, we imagine that most G25 set-ups will require owners to constantly pack and unpack the steering wheel between uses, and it's here that tucking the wires into their runners is quite a pain, especially on the first few occasions.
On paper the two metre USB cable seems sufficiently long, but when we were using the G25 away from a PC it usually came up just a little bit short; we either had to move things around to accommodate the wheel or use a USB cable extender.
Both the steering wheel and gearshift boxes have adjustable clamps so that they can be securely attached to a table. If you're using the G25 with a PS2 or PS3 in the living room, be prepared to do a little bit of room re-arrangement because, unlike the Logitech Driving Force Pro steering wheel, which was bundled with the PS2 and Gran Turismo 4, there's no attachment allowing you to use the G25 between your legs. Although if you have that older wheel's attachment, it works surprisingly well with the G25.
Joining the already mentioned brushed metal bits and liberal use of dead cow, the G25's other headline features are its clutch and six-speed gearbox. Like the steering wheel, the gear knob is swathed in leather and, as such, feels great in the hand. The gearbox operates in one of two modes, either as a sequential tap-up, tap-down shifter or a gated six-speed box. In six-speed mode, the gate is so poorly defined -- think of stirring a ladle through a vat of cold, day old porridge -- that selecting the wrong gear is an all too frequent occurrence.
Slip the box into sequential mode and the shifter becomes redundant; changing gears with the wheel mounted paddle shifts is not only quicker but far more pleasing too, with the paddles cool to the touch and emitting a particularly satisfying snick on engagement. Mid-corner shifts require the utmost attention, though, because with the paddles mounted to the wheel rather than the base, it's all too easy to shift down when you mean to shift up. Although none of the games that we had on hand supported the clutch, we suspect that it too, like the six-speed gate, falls into the realm of gimmickry. After all who wants to finish second because vital tenths-of-a-second were wasted clutching in and out.
Boasting 900-degrees of motion, or 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, the G25 makes a good start on its path to realism. Stepping up from other wheels, though, it takes a few races to get used to the extra steering effort required, especially in low-speed corners. Once acclimatised, the G25 rewards you with feedback that gets pretty close to the real thing -- ripple strips feel remarkably like, well, ripple strips not like an electro-mechanical gubbin that's trying to yank your arms free of their sockets.
When we mated the G25 with Gran Turismo HD Concept and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue on the PS3, we nearly fell off our seats, so giddy were we with delirium. Pick an Integra Type-R and you can feel the steering tighten up under acceleration, growing to a wink-wink-nudge-nudge hint of torque steer. Yet with a Lotus Elise, the wheel is lighter and talkative enough that you can feel when the car's rear is about to step out.
The pedals' heft allied with the carpet grabber (a studded flick-down tab) ensures that the pedals don't budge even under the hardest braking. However, a demerit point or two is earned by the whining noise made by the G25's motor. It's a trifle annoying but it's only apparent when the wheel is winding its way from lock to lock during calibration or self-centring.
So is it worth AU$500? Well, if you're a dedicated race fan and your backyard isn't conveniently situated over a large deposit of liquefied dead dinosaur then yes and no. Yes, because for many of us it will be the closest we'll get to fanging a Ferrari or GT-R around. And no, because a quick Internet search will yield a clutch of retailers selling the G25 for around AU$300. Keep in mind too that the G25 only works with PC and PlayStation (both 2 and 3) games -- a slightly out-of-date list of compatible games can be found here -- so Xbox racing fans will have to look elsewhere.