A quality steering wheel is used with real paddle shifters to give a realistic feel and the steering wheels shaft has a very powerful and accurate force feedback motor to give an exacting approximation of steering feel for everything from street sedans to formula cars.
The seat has fast acting electro-hydraulic actuators to give a decent motion simulation. It can't give 100% accurate sensations of G forces but it can come pretty close.
Pulling out of the pits at Willow, I was surprised to feel that I was really at Willow. The track looked exactly like Big Willow and even the buildings in the background and all the small details were perfect.
The Audi felt surprisingly realistic too. The engine felt right with a wide, flat and low revving powerband just like you would expect a stock turbo 2 liter to feel. The acceleration felt about right and the sound system made the right noises for the engine and tires.
The handling balance was perfect for a moderately powered AWD car. It understeered unless trail braked or left foot braked and would rotate if these tricks were used. The steering also got light when understeering in the correct way you would expect. The car would exhibit tire and brake fade if the car was overdriven and it would recover in the same way a real car would.
The visual and motion cues were very realistic but not quite right which gave me vertigo as my inner ear was not exactly matching the feel the seat actuators gave. However, this was the most realistic stationary full motion simulator as I have ever felt.
My only real problem with the simulator was that the car exhibited a large amount of bump steer. Normally you feel this the most in turn 8, 9 and 1 on Big Willow and the simulator delivered, way too much! The bump steer felt right but it was way too strong. The bump steer was so severe it was hard to stay on line.
I spoke with one of the engineers and he knew what I was talking about right away. He said the issues were in the tire model and it would be corrected in an upcoming revision. The tire model is very sophisticated and includes parameters for carcass deflection, grip, grip stick, coulomb's force attraction, camber thrust, surface following, pressure change, rubber change with temperature and degradation.
This complaint was somewhat minor as the bumpsteer was on par with some of the worst race cars I have driven but certainly not what your typical late model car would have. It was like a lowered Civic EP3 for instance.
The proof of how good the sim would be was my lap time. I was running in the 1:41 to 1:42 range, about what I would expect that a car like this would do. I was able to do this after just a few laps getting used to the car, just like a real car! I also didn't spin and crash unless I tried to see how the car reacted to going beyond the limits.
I was super impressed with the CXC simulator. As a video game hater, the CXC left a big impression on me. I feel that this is quite realistic and good enough to be an actual training aid. Coming from me that's a lot! Once the tire model is tuned to reduce the bumpsteer and tramlining effects the feeling should be very realistic.
We can't wait to do a more thorough evaluation of the system at a later date.