2015 Ford Mustang GT vs. 2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO

Trans-Pacific Dogfight

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Seventy-odd years ago the United States and Japan were bitter enemies, embroiled in a titanic struggle that played out across vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean. Today, these great nations are on more-than-friendly terms, though there’s still a rivalry churning away beneath the surface. Instead of guns and incendiary bombs it involves pistons and suspension tuning.

High-Flying Dogfight: 2015 Ford Mustang GT vs. 2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO

The automotive industry is ground zero for this epic battle where Japanese brands tussle with the Detroit Three in nearly every segment of the market. To the benefit of us all it’s a much friendlier confrontation than Nakajima fighters squaring off against the latest products from Grumman or the USS Washington returning a salvo to the battle-cruiser Kirishima.

Nissan’s Z-Car and the Ford Mustang are sporty coupes and perfect rivals. They both feature powerful engines, offer manual gearboxes and are dressed to kill. Just like an air battle unfolding in the skies seven decades ago we’ve got a dogfight on our hands.

America’s National Park of Speed

Road America

And the best place to compare these thoroughbred machines is on a closed circuit where drivers are free from worrying about pedestrians or police. Road America is a premiere racing facility near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Its four-plus miles of asphalt are frighteningly quick thanks to a pair of runway-like straights. Plenty of tight corners and elevation change keeps things interesting and makes lapping it a challenge, even for expert drivers.

Red, White and Glue

2015 Ford Mustang GT Front 01Ford’s latest ponycar is all new for 2015, gaining additional features, more power and extra refinement. But the greatest engineering upgrade requires a jack and creeper to get a good look at. For the first time in Mustang’s five-decade history mainstream models have dispensed with a chariot-grade live-axle in favor of something from the 21st century. Yes, a proper independent rear suspension is finally here, its outdated predecessor has at last been sent off to the adhesives factory.

GT versions of this car are powered by a muscular and technologically advanced engine. Even after several years of availability the blue oval’s 5.0-liter V8 is still a masterpiece. Fill the tank with 93-octane gasoline and you’re rewarded with 435 storming horses and an even 400 lb-ft of torque. Mat the accelerator and she pulls like a jet, providing torrents of silky thrust and a reedy-sounding intake rumble that’s as addictive as a bucket of popcorn chicken. Keep some napkins in the glove box; you’re going to need them.

Rising-Sun Retort

2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO Front 03Nissan’s answer to cars like the Mustang is their 370Z, the latest offering in a line of performance machines that dates back more than 30 years. Ratcheting up the sport factor is their NISMO version, which gains unique – and functional – aerodynamic enchantments, more power, special wheels and exclusive Recaro seats that hug your torso like a flight suit.

In typical American fashion more is always better and the ‘Stang has a two-cylinder, 1.3-liter advantage over the Z. But Nissan engineers have managed to do more with less and this car’s 3.7-liter V6 is heroic enough to win a chest-full of medals. It puts out 350 horses, 18 more than a standard 370Z, along with 276 lb-ft of peak torque.

Ensuring it can run like the wind this car’s engine spins to 7,500 RPM and can be paired with either a six-speed manual or seven-gear automatic transmission. Whether you want to row your own or let the vehicle take care of business, with the Mustang it’s six across the board.

Blur Oval

Strapped into the Mustang’s pilot seat everything feels huge, like the car is just two inches narrower than your lane of travel. Visibility is also somewhat challenging thanks to an elevated hood and limited amounts of glass. Beyond all of this the optional Racaro seats ($1,595) don’t seem to adjust low enough, making the driving position slightly awkward, especially for lanky motorists.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior 03

Still, there’s plenty to like about the new Mustang. The car’s interior is stylish and built of mostly premium materials. Likewise, the manual transmission’s shifter is slick, gliding from gate to gate with the fluidity of water flowing down hill. And when you’re cleared for takeoff the clutch pedal is a joy to operate. It’s perfectly weighted with just enough heft and a broad engagement range. Factor in an engine that provides ample low-end torque you have a vehicle that’s extremely easy to drive smoothly.

Catching some Z’s

While the Mustang’s interior strikes a nice balance between retro and modern the Nissan’s cockpit is purely old-school, but not in a good way. The design looks outdated and some of its controls seem even more antiquated. In short, it’s noticeably cruder than the Ford.

2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO Interior 03

And this rough-hewn feel continues when the car is in motion. The clutch for instance is heavy and grabby, especially compared to the ‘Stang’s, which feels much lighter despite having to contend with an additional 124 lb-ft of torque. The Z’s shifter also requires ridiculously high amounts of effort to use and there’s even a hint of gear whine at low speed.

Fortunately for Nissan fans it’s not all bad news. The 370Z is easier to see out of and has a better driving position, which helps build confidence. Additionally it has SyncroRev Match, a mind-blowing feature that automatically blips the throttle on down-shifts for PERFECT gear-changes every time.

Head to Head

But how do these similar-yet-different machines compare out on the track? Driving them back to back on Road America provided some interesting contrasts.

For starters the Nissan feels about half the size of the Ford, though in truth it’s only about 300 pounds lighter. The Z’s steering is more lively and chassis more playful; once again, it’s confidence inspiring.

2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO Engine 02

Despite “only” having a V6 the Nissan is seriously fast. Its hopped-up VQ engine pulls brilliantly at high RPM and makes appealing sounds; the thrust it provides is real and addictive. However, accompanying all of that goodness is vibration, and lots of it. When driven in anger the powerplant shakes like a rock crusher, the shifter responding with a chorus of tingles. This lack of refinement is disappointing and a little annoying.

In comparison, the Mustang seems somewhat ponderous, even when equipped with the optional GT Performance Package ($2,495), which adds things like special chassis tuning, Brembo brakes, a Torsen rear end and more goodies. Still, the car is broad shouldered and seems a little heavy in lateral transitions; it’s not as eager to play as the 370Z, though it does start to feel smaller the more you drive it.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Engine 02

However, Ford’s reborn five-point-oh-my-God trounces Nissan’s powerplant in many ways, generating extra torque, more horses and better noise all without vibrating like a wand massager. It’s silky smooth yet still revs explosively, pulling extremely hard from about 6,000 RPM to redline, which is a grand beyond. Fuel consumption is even comparable, with the Mustang averaging 19 miles per gallon (15 city, 25 highway) and the 370Z, 21 (18 city, 26 highway).

Compare Specs

2015 Ford Mustang GT
vs
2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO
Vehicle 2015 Ford Mustang GT Advantage 2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO
Engine 5.0-liter V8 - 3.7-liter V6
Horsepower 435 Mustang 350
Torque 400 lb-ft Mustang 276 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 15 MPG city, 25 MPG highway 370Z 18 MPG city, 26 MPG highway
As-Tested Price $45,885 Mustang $46,425

The Verdict

2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO Rear 01Wrapping things up with a pretty little bow, these two machines are probably more similar than different. They’re both rear-wheel drive, offer manual transmissions and have sporty styling. Even their as-tested prices were within spitting distance. The Mustang cost $45,885 out the door including $825 in deliver fees; the Z stickered for $46,425, a figure that also included $810 in destination charges.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Rear 01

But in spite of their on-paper similarities these two cars do have a number of differences. The Ford is larger, more refined and somewhat isolated. Nissan’s offering is lighter and more playful but cruder feeling. While well endowed, the 370Z’s engine is coarser than a bucket of spent shell casings. In comparison the Mustang’s brawny V8 is silky and sonorous.

Choosing a winner is like picking your favorite child; there’s plenty to love about both of these cars. The Mustang is a better all-around vehicle but if you’re a track junkie the 370Z definitely has an edge. In the end we’re inclined to give the nod to Ford because that 5.0-liter engine is just so damn addictive, but this win is by the narrowest of margins.

Discuss this story on either our Nissan Forum or Ford Mustang Forum.

2015 Ford Mustang GT

2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO

  • Rickers

    The Z is old and tired.

  • JGreen

    What were their track speeds!!!

  • Droiddest

    The next Z needs to be a huge update…

  • ZX-10R

    Spot on. The Z needs some help but it is not that far behind if it does…A friend had a Z and she drove very fast but it was always grounded. The Mustang is just nice for the price…We will see what happens when the Mustang goes up against the new Camaro…Great review unlike the others that have been done.

  • Greg Tordjman

    Not really a fair comparison, the 370Z came out in 2009. That means you’re comparing a car with technology which was introduced over 6 years ago to a car that just hit the market this year. Based on the write-up the comparison was close and hard to choose so the next gen Z will most likely blow this mustang out of the water unless they mess up somehow. I know everything is subjective but both interiors look out of date to me….I still prefer the Z.

  • Ray Hidalgo

    OK what the f is up with this article? It was like watching a boxing match, but instead of watching the boxers fight, we get all the fighters stats, and skipped straight to announcing the winner. What were the track times?

  • John Van Buskirk

    How do you compare two cars AT A TRACK and not post lap times?

  • Mark Dellacqua

    Because the Mustang destroyed the Z at either track and if they posted the times they couldn’t get away with their BS remark “But the win is by the narrowest of margins.” Meaning the Mustang barely won and if you posted the times you would realize they know very little about cars. In some ways you can’t even compare the Z350 with a 5.0 Mustang.

  • Mark Dellacqua

    The 370Z goes back to the 240Z of the 1970’s and the reason why they didn’t post any times is because the Mustang destroyed the Z. It’s OK to prefer the Z if it’s with the understanding that you will always be chasing the Mustang. 140lbs more torque? Call a cab this fight is over!

  • Mark Dellacqua

    The Mustang has been beating any form of Camaro since 2011- check the books. The same thing will happen to the Camaro as did the ZL1 when it came out- it got trounced by the 662hp GT 500. The GT 350-R will have the honor.

  • timothyhood

    It’s completely fair when this is all that Nissan has to offer. It would be one thing if there was a new Z and AutoGuide was comparing the outgoing model. But this is a buyer’s world, and if you are considering either car, what they compared are the choices you get. The only thing that’s unfair is that Nissan hasn’t bothered to update this car. It’s beyond it’s expiration date.

  • SSXT

    The ‘…margins’ comment appears to be directed towards the overall comparison -not the track times, No?

  • JSmath

    Every bit of help applied to the Z can be applied to the Mustang GT, and almost always makes the Mustang that much faster.

    All the same, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the 370Z, except maybe being a few grand more than it should (was really sad when the ’11-’12 Performance Pack V6 Mustang was beating it around the track for $10k less).

  • Jason McQuinn

    The worst part of this comparison is the price… The Z… well you can only get this version the way you see it here. The Mustang can be had with the same performance package minus the leather for approx. $33k. And where the heck are the lap times??

  • JSmath

    Greg, there is no point whatsoever in stating that. The ’14 Mustang was using the same underbody and architecture from ’05, the ’11 facelift was cosmetic differences, and most of the noted changes over time were modest variations in tuning.

    The 370Z is stagnant only because Nissan has let it stagnate. In ’11, the V6 Mustang was beating the 370Z on a number of tracks, and it cost $20-25k instead of $30-35k. Nissan has at least since stepped up its performance ever slightly since, but the Z series needs another serious bump or a pricecut.

  • Ronin

    The mustang’s interior looks outdated to me, while the Z strikes a nice balance. The SyncRev is a toy, if you need it, why did you buy this car.

    Ford brings brute force to the table. The Z brings refinement and looks.

    But like everyone else… lap times?

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  • Camilo Poblete

    Its ok. The next Z will have a 3.0 Liter twin turbo V6. The same one that will appear in the Infiniti Q60. Expect 450HP out of the box.

    In 2017, the Mustang and Camaro will have all new competition to be scared of.

  • jjuhring1 .

    100% agree with Ray. Where are the performance numbers? How can the author mention testing these cars on a track with no quantifiable data?
    As others have pointed out, for me this “comparison” was essentially meaningless.

  • Popeye D. Saylorman

    370 interior looks like lots of molded plastic.

  • Popeye D. Saylorman

    A 350 Hp V6 with gas mileage a tad better than the V8….what the point,? just get the V8.

  • Popeye D. Saylorman

    There were no track times because the writers simply went to dealers and drove both cars around the block and took notes.

  • Popeye D. Saylorman

    The 70s 240 and 260Z’s were terrible riding cars. Drive one and see how rattled and shook and bottomed out. The were raggedy.

  • Popeye D. Saylorman

    The ZL1 Camaro is a closed track racer. It layed waste to the GT500 Mustang on a closed track. In fact Mustang had nothing for i on a closed track. The GT 500 only beat it in the strip. Tha Camaro was a better driving car though.

  • jjuhring1 .

    One would certainly hope not… but when they take the time to mention driving on the Road America circuit, and then provide no details of how either car behaved in braking, cornering or acceleration… you may be correct, Popeye.

  • Bert

    Autoguide? I should start my own car review Website. Seems any dipsht can do this now…

  • Mark G

    weight and balance

  • DieselCrow

    power curve

  • DieselCrow

    actually the Z has a 29k base price. This one here is way over-inflated as well

  • DieselCrow

    I test drove the Z last weekend. It was awesome. Super fast. He is right about the clutch though. It was chunky to shift. WTF? I have never seen that in a manual. It has always been smooth.