Ford Mustang VS Nissan 370Z
- V8 noise
- Better interior
- Adaptive dampers
- Four-cylinder noise
- Still a poor safety score
- Prices are up
- Dynamic balance
- Slick manual gearbox
- Classic exterior design
- Lacks latest safety tech
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Fake engine noise
The Ford Mustang 2018 model is more than just a facelift, this is a comprehensive rework of the brand’s iconic muscle car.
There are big changes outside and in, but the most important ones are to the way the 2018 Ford Mustang drives.
More than just brawn - although there’s plenty of that - this updated Pony Car has a bit more brain about it, too.
We drove the new models in Nice, France, ahead of the Australian launch of the updated Mustang this month.
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Road testing the Nissan 370Z in 2011, I noted it was getting on. Yes, the rear-wheel drive two-seater had been given a design freshen up and a bigger engine a couple of years prior, but the 350Z it was based on had hit the local market way back in 2003. And it wasn't unreasonable to expect replacement or retirement in the not-too-distant future.
Okay, so that was seven years ago, which means if you (like many) consider the 370Z to be an update of the 350Z (the transition happening in 2009), this car has been on sale for 15 years straight. Can you imagine Apple trying to sell any one product without entirely reinventing it for that long?
You might say that makes it a modern classic; so good it's only required an occasional touch up to keep it on the Sports Car Most Wanted list. And in recent years, a consistent average of 30 Aussies a month have slotted a shiny new 370Z in their driveway.
Is it enough to keep Nissan's eternal Z-car flame burning?
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The Ford Mustang 2018 update is a substantial one - it’s a marked improvement on a car that needed some attention here and there. It’s more fun, more adept and more muscular a muscle car as a result of the changes. If you’re already a Mustang owner and you’re wondering if the update is worth considering, the answer is ‘yes’.
If it were my money, I’d choose the V8 auto coupe because, when it comes to this sort of car, it’s the bodybuilder of the bunch.
Would you choose a V8 over a turbocharged four-cylinder? Let us know in the comments section below.
It's hard not to be ageist when it comes to the current Nissan Zed, because 15 years in market (nine if we're generous) is a lengthy stretch in anyone's book. But somehow the 370Z is more than the sum of its parts. It has fantastic front-engine/rear-drive balance, an increasingly rare atmo engine, and a beautiful manual 'box. The value equation is decent, and it's nicely put together. Just don't expect to be dazzled with the latest safety, driver-assist and multimedia technology.
Does the Nissan 370Z have what it takes to elevate your heart rate? Tell us in the comments below.
If I had to make a remark about the updated Mustang’s design, it would be that it doesn’t quite look as American any more. That could be good or bad, depending on where your loyalties lie.
The slimmer, broader-looking headlights and the revised front bumper, grille and bonnet all work together to give it a more substantial presence on the road if you’re looking at in your rearview mirror.
Obviously the roofline has remained the same, and the rear end has seen revised LED tail-lights, plus the V8 now has quad exhausts, the EcoBoost now has twin exhausts, and both now get a black diffuser rather than a colour-coded one. The GT model’s wheels remain the same as before - standard issue mesh multi spokes are fitted in 19-inch diameter across the line-up.
There is no doubting that this still looks muscly enough to be considered a muscle car, but the subtle styling changes outside are enough to push it more towards what we’ve come to expect of a modern-day sports car, too. It looks more European, and that’ll either float your boat, or it won’t.
Inside there are some design changes, too. The most important one being the 12.0-inch digital dashboard cluster in front of the driver, which is lovely to look at, offers excellent functionality, and really lifts the ambience of the cabin.
Some of the materials have been tweaked inside, and it feels more plush than it did before - anyone who drove the pre-update Mustang will know that the cabin was a bit low rent, and while this update sees a good stride towards it being better, it’s still not a penthouse apartment inside.
If you want to go all the way back, the 370Z clearly takes its design direction from Datsun's star of the '70s, the original 240Z.
Inspired by Ferrari, and (along with the Toyota 2000GT) a sports-car breakthrough for the Japanese industry, the first Zed's front-engine, long-nose proportions have remained largely intact in successive iterations over the decades.
With a broad, flat nose, distinctively jagged headlights, and steeply raked rear profile, there's no mistaking the 370's signature stance, with pumped-up guards sitting over fat, 19-inch alloy rims.
Sharp-eyed car-spotters will notice the update's new design RAYS forged wheels, smoked front and rear lights, and a similar smoked finish on the exterior door handles.
A new colour, 'Cherry Red' also replaces 'Bordeaux Black' in an eight-shade colour palette. Our test example was finished in 'Gun Metallic'.
Inside, echoes of Zeds past abound, with a trio of hooded gauges (clock, voltmeter, oil temp) sitting in the centre of the dash top, and the tachometer in the middle of a cowled, three-instrument main cluster shaded by an exaggerated tube.
And aside from consciously retro design touches, some elements have been present inside the car for so long they're just... ancient.
For example, old-school orange graphics for the odometer, gear position and trip computer are dated, and the small (7.0-inch touchscreen) multimedia display has the feel of an early noughties edition of Tekken 6.
Forget a digital speedo or head-up display. A CD slot still sits proudly in the centre stack, and matt silver highlights scattered around the cabin are as on-trend as double denim.
And the steering wheel (joined with the instrument binnacle) adjusts for height, but annoyingly, not reach.
That said, friends and family who rode in the car during the week I had the keys all commented on the swoopy exterior and cozy cockpit feel of the interior. So, what do I know?
Even so, there is reasonably good usability on offer… at least for those in the front seats. The front features decent door-pocket storage, a pair of cupholders, a covered centre console bin, and a reasonable glovebox - but there’s not much loose-item storage for easy access to phones, wallets and the like.
There are elements to the cabin that just don’t make sense, like the monodirectional toggles for the drive mode and steering mode controls - why can’t you flick them up and down? It’s a silly and frustrating, oversight.
It’s simpler if you don’t think of the Mustang as a four-seater. Technically that’s what it is, but even toddlers or young children would be cramped back there, with limited head, knee and toe room, and no storage to speak of whatsoever. There are ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and top-tether points as well, if you want to try driving your kids around in one (perhaps you don't like them).
At the very least, those back seats fold down if you want to make it a two-seater with a massive boot space. Even without them folded, the boot capacity is good: it has 408 litres of luggage volume.
Two seats means practicality is a relative term when applied to the 370Z. For example, getting in and out is an athletic exercise requiring gymnastic levels of flexibility and poise. As with most low-lying coupes, I found the outer hand on the A-pillar technique helps with swinging down into the car, or lurching up out of it.
Once ensconced behind the wheel, you're confronted with a relatively modest amount of storage space, running to a medium-size glove box, a lidded bin at the rear of the dividing console, a single cupholder, and door pockets incorporating recesses for small bottles only.
There are two lined recesses for soft bags or coats behind each seat, including a fold-out map pocket, but they're not exactly convenient for retrieving things when you're on the move. What's missing is a tray where you can easily stow things likes keys, coins or a phone.
There are also two 12-volt power outlets, a USB port and an aux-in audio connection.
Rear load space is limited to 195 litres, mainly due to the boot's shallow floor (an alloy space-saver spare sits underneath). It does incorporate a cargo blind and four tie-down hooks, but we only managed to squeeze in the largest (105-litre) suitcase from our three-piece hard set, or a combination of the two smaller ones (35 and 68 litres).
We also had a crack at stuffing in the CarsGuide pram (there is a top-tether hook provided for child seat fitment) and managed it with only a couple of beads of perspiration expended.
Forget the nappy-bag paraphernalia, though. The soft bags with all the baby stuff would have to go in the storage bays in the cabin behind the seats.
Price and features
The 2018 Ford Mustang range sees a bump in pricing across all models in the range. Here’s a rundown on the price list for the model line-up.
The EcoBoost four-cylinder coupe with the six-speed manual still starts below $50k - just. The list price is $49,990 plus on-road costs. The 10-speed automatic version of the coupe lists at $52,990. That price is up $4000 on its predecessor.
The four-cylinder convertible models bring a fairly sizeable premium, with the 10-speed automatic version listed at $59,490. There’s no manual soft-top available. That price represents at $4500 jump on the pre-facelift model.
The V8-powered GT coupe with a six-speed manual transmission lists at $62,990, while the 10-speed automatic version comes in at $66,259. Those prices represent $5500 and $6639 jumps, respectively.
The Mustang GT convertible 10-speed auto is listed at $74,709 - a huge $8793 lift over the existing model.
Across the board, Ford is justifying the increases with big additions to the standard equipment list.
The biggest update is the addition of a fully digital instrument cluster - a 12.0-inch screen with configurable layouts and displays, which is a standard-fit item across the board. Still offered is Ford’s 8.0-inch Sync 3 media screen with sat nav, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology, and there’s now a 12-speaker Shaker audio system, too - the pre-facelift model had a nine-speaker stereo.
All models sold in Australia will also be offered as standard with a new adjustable sports exhaust system, which includes a quiet-start function so you don’t annoy the neighbours (and who doesn't think of Mustang buyers as kind, considerate types?). The loudness is adjustable depending on which drive mode you select - Normal, Sport+, Track, Drag Race, Snow/Wet and My Mode, the latter of which is a customisable setting, also new to Mustang. The steering can still be configured in Comfort, Normal and Sport settings.
Visually separating the two models are different wheel designs, but all Mustang models come with auto headlights, auto wipers, keyless entry and push-button start, new LED headlights, heated seats and a heated steering wheel (which is new to the Mustang - the heated seats aren’t). Recaro seats are optional on the GT only ($3000).
There’s an array of active safety kit added across the range, too - read about that in the safety section below.
There are some key optional extras that buyers can choose from. A set of OTT (yes, it stands for ‘Over The Top’) stripes can be had in black on any model ($650), or white on the Fastback only ($650) There’s also a rear spoiler for the Fastback ($750), and Recaro leather seats ($3000).
The EcoBoost model can be had with 19-inch Lustre Nickel alloy wheels ($500), while GT buyers have the option of 19-inch forged alloys ($2500).
All models can be equipped with the MagneRide adaptive suspension system at a cost of $2750.
As for colours, there are a few to choose from, including the new hero colour, Orange Fury, plus Kona Blue, Lightning Blue, Magnetic grey, Race Red, Royal Crimson (dark red), Triple Yellow and plainer options like white and black.
The arrival of the tricked-up 370Z NISMO in August last year, offered Nissan Australia an opportunity to reposition the regular model, dropping the MSRP for the manual version from $56,930 to $49,990.
Aside from adjusting the car's value-for-money proposition (and pissing off those who'd bought one in July), that close to seven grand haircut delivered more pricing headroom up to the Roadster (starting at $60,990), and NISMO (from $61,490) versions.
For that money the standard equipment list includes, keyless entry and start, cruise control, climate control air, go-fast alloy finish pedals, 'HDD' (Hard Disc Drive) sat nav with 3D mapping, a 7.0-inch colour multimedia touchscreen, and Bose eight-speaker audio with 9.3GB 'Music Box' hard drive.
You'll also pick up sports seats with lots of features. First, they're 'leather accented', which is code for genuine hide in all the places you regularly contact, and a faux equivalent everywhere else. Not uncommon, and not necessarily unpleasant. Then they're heated and four-way power-adjustable, (with manual lumbar and height adjustment for the driver).
The steering wheel and gear knob also cop the 'leather accented' treatment, plus you can expect LED DRLs and tail-lights as well as auto headlights. It's worth noting that the headlights are garden-variety xenons, and things you might expect in a $50k coupe, like, rain-sensing wipers, dual zone climate, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity or tyre-pressure monitoring are 100 per cent absent.
Lining up direct competitors for the 370Z isn't easy, because there aren't any. But the closest is arguably a 2.3-litre EcoBoost version of Ford's Mustang at $45,990 for the manual. A further stretch of the imagination could haul in the Mazda MX-5 RF ($43,890) or the 86 GTS+ ($39,440) and Subaru BRZ tS ($39,894).
Engine & trans
There have been power and torque increases across both the four-cylinder turbo and V8 naturally aspirated engines.
The 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo EcoBoost engine now produces 224kW of power (down from 233kW - apparently due to a new way of calculating the peak power output!) at 5400rpm, but torque is bumped to 441Nm at 3000rpm (it was 432Nm). It is rear-wheel drive, as you’d expect, and it has the option of a six-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
The 5.0-litre V8 engine has seen power and torque bumps, too. It now produces 336kW of power at 7000rpm (up from 306kW), and torque is rated at 556Nm at 4600rpm (previously 530Nm).
The extra power is good, no doubt about it. But the extra noise of the V8 is what was most enticing about it. More on that below.
The 370Z is powered by an all-alloy, 3.7-litre (VQ37VHR), naturally aspirated, quad-cam V6, producing 245kW at 7000rpm and 363Nm at 5200rpm.
It features the 'Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System' (CVTCS) with 'Variable Valve Event and Lift' (VVEL) on the intake side. And while all that may sound new and ultra-high tech, it was actually introduced in 2007.
Transmission choice is between a seven-speed auto (with manual mode and paddles) or six-speed manual gearbox, as tested here. And this 2018 upgrade brings a high-performance clutch from Japanese specialist Exedy.
Drive goes to the rear wheels via a carbon-fibre composite drive shaft, connecting with a viscous limited slip differential (LSD).
Additional features that won't necessarily be music to purists' ears include 'Active Noise Cancellation', and 'Active Sound Enhancement'.
The former monitors and measures engine sounds, using the audio speakers to produce "acoustically opposing signals to cancel undesirable sounds". So, okay, maybe filtering out the messy noise is a good thing.
But at the same time Active Sound Enhancement employs "digital signal processing to enhance the engine note, using the vehicle's sound system to augment or modify the spectrum of select powertrain sounds in the cabin". Yuck.
I can cop a tube that channels a bit of genuine engine noise into the interior, but in this context, the phrase 'digital signal processing' is a turn-off.
Mustang models sold with the 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo model are more efficient, as you’d expect. The six-speed manual coupe is claimed to use 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres, while the 10-speed auto coupe model has a claimed consumption of 9.5L/100km.
The convertible version with the EcoBoost uses 9.5L/100km with the standard 10-speed auto.
As for the V8 coupe, the six-speed manual uses a claimed 13.0L/100km, while the 10-speed auto helps drop consumption to 12.7L/100km. The V8 auto convertible claims an identical figure as the fastback: 12.7L/100km.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 10.6L/100km, the 370Z emitting 249g/km of CO2 in the process.
Over roughly 250km of city, suburban and freeway running, we averaged 15.6L/100km, at the bowser. Far from miserly.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, although Nissan says "for optimum performance" you should stump up for 98 RON. And just to rub it in, you'll need 72 litres of it to fill the tank.
I spent the most time in the V8 model, and it wasn't so much the extra power and torque that was noticeable, as the extra noise. If you were blindfolded and sat in the new Mustang, you might think you’re sitting in a ‘70s yank tank - there’s a delightful burble at idle (a little more pronounced in the auto) and it gets even better the faster you go.
In fact, the 10-speed auto V8 was the standout vehicle I drove. The logic of the transmission is brilliant - if you suddenly stab the throttle the auto will downshift three or four gears in the blink of an eye - and I mean that literally, because you can barely perceive it via the display on the driver information screen; it happens that fast.
The shifts aren’t always smooth - there can be a perceptible thunk through the cabin at times - and while that may not be the most refined experience, it’s actually pretty rewarding as a driver to get that sort of feel-able feedback.
The manual version of the V8 feels more relaxed - I’d even go as far as to suggest it’s a bit lazy. The auto just does a better job of making use of the grunt on offer.
The multi-mode sports exhaust - with Quiet, Normal, Sport and Race Track settings - was a set-and-forget feature on my test. It was in Sport, because - while there might be a perceptible difference on a track - it was identical in ‘regular’ driving.
Another new addition helped transform the drive experience - the MagneRide adaptive dampers. They may be optional on all models, but it seems that if you want a muscle car that handles corners and bumps adeptly, it’d be money well spent.
The magnetic ride control system can adjust each corner up to 1000 times per second, and while you’d have to be some kind of superhero to perceive that, there is no denying that the system does a terrific job of isolating cabin occupants from rough surfaces below, while also helping the Mustang corner with more sporting intent than I remember the previous one possessing.
The steering is trustworthy, with good feel and a nice linear and progressive sensation to it when you’re changing direction. The Mustang does have a big turning circle, though, so making tight moves in parking spots can be a bit of a task.
I also had a drive of the EcoBoost engine and its new 10-speed auto, and found it felt more tense and eager to please than the V8, particularly the V8 manual. It’s noticeably lighter at the front end, meaning it feels more keen for hard driving in corners.
Try as it might, though, the four-cylinder simply can’t match the V8 for fitting the image of the Mustang. It is good to drive, but it just doesn’t sound as good, or as Mustang, and therefore doesn’t make you feel as good as the V8 model does.
The Nissan 370Z is actually the car many want the Toyobaru 86/BRZ to be. I can sense some of you spluttering out a sweary response to that notion. But hear me out.
If you, like many others, think the 86/BRZ would be perfect with an extra 50kW/80Nm, just bolt on a turbo or supercharger, and voila. You'll get that extra grunt, but remember, the 86/BRZ was conceived to be light, tactile, and, not least of all, affordable.
Up the outputs and you light the wick on an engineering arms race that should also lead to bigger brakes, an engine with more exotic pistons and a tougher bottom end, a stronger gearbox and clutch, a beefier diff, sturdier chassis, fatter rims and rubber... the list goes on, and on. Until you end up with something very much like the spec, weight, and price of the 370Z.
That's not to say this car isn't a fun drive. It is. Just don't expect the quick reflexes of an MX-5 or 86/BRZ.
Despite light-weighting tricks like an aluminium bonnet and all-alloy suspension, the 370Z weighs in at a not inconsiderable 1467kg. And although its 3.7-litre V6 develops a solid 245kW/363Nm, first impressions are dominated by its hollow mid-range.
Much as I love the free-revving nature of a naturally aspirated engine, there's no denying a modern turbo typically delivers lots of torque low down, with peak power also available within a useful rev range.
All the action here is at the top end, with maximum torque arriving way up at 5200rpm, and peak power taking over at a nose-bleed 7000rpm (the rev ceiling is 7500rpm). Not exactly an easily accessible sweet spot.
But there's still so much to like about this evergreen Zed. Its classic front engine/rear-drive layout results in a 53/47 front to rear weight distribution and the car feels balanced and beautifully predictable.
Suspension is double wishbone front, multi-link rear, and ride comfort, even over choppy bitumen surfaces is surprisingly good. On the flip-side, rumble coming up from the Bridgestone Potenza RE050A rubber (245/40 f / 275/35 r) is always noticeable, and often intrusive.
The steering is supported by old-school hydraulic power assist and while connection with the front wheels is impressive, overall feel is light. Hello 'Merica.
The gearbox is a sweet reminder of what a pleasure it is swap ratios in a top-notch close-ratio manual, and hats off to Exedy for producing a wonderfully progressive clutch. Personal preference was to turn off the standard 'SynchroRev Match' function, because I like having a go at the ol' heel 'n' toe tap dance myself.
Brakes are ventilated front and rear with almost equal size rotors (355mm f / 350mm r) clamped by four-piston calipers up front and two piston units at the rear. They are reassuringly powerful and consistent.
Age has not wearied the 370Z's ergonomics. Although the lack of a digital speedo and no reach adjustment for the steering column is annoying, the sports seats are snug and comfortable, the moderately chunky wheel feels great, and all the major controls are simple to use. Who needs slick screens and 'piano black' finishes?
This is a difficult section to score, because the updated Mustang has a lot of safety equipment, but it falls short on the ANCAP crash test score. It was tested by Euro NCAP in 2017, and managed a lowly three stars, due to poor crash protection for occupants.
At the very least, that’s a step up on the pre-facelift model, which scored just two stars in ANCAP testing in 2017. ANCAP has announced the updated Mustang achieves the same three-star score as Europe (from December 2017 production).
Despite that, the 2018 Mustang comes fitted with a lengthy list of safety gear, including dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags (no curtains on the convertible model). Plus there’s a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, auto high-beam headlights and auto wipers.
So, with all the gear, 6/10 seems harsh. But if you have a crash, the Mustang has been deemed to be less safe for occupants than other cars out there, so it’s a justifiable score.
The 370Z must feel like a wall flower at the crash-test disco because it currently isn't rated for safety performance by ANCAP, its Euro NCAP affiliate, JNCAP in Japan, or the USA's NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) or IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
That said, in terms of active safety features you'll find ABS, BA, EBD, traction control, 'Vehicle Dynamic Control' (stability control), and a rear-view camera with 'Predictive Path' guidance lines.
But if you're looking for more current active tech, look elsewhere, because things like AEB, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, active cruise, lane-keep assist, auto high beam or any kind of pedestrian detection are missing-in-action. They're not even available on the options list.
If all else fails and a crash is unavoidable, primary passive safety runs to active head restraints and eight airbags (driver and passenger front and side airbags, plus roof- and door-mounted curtain airbags).
Ford has recently introduced a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, applicable to all vehicles purchased from May 1, 2018. That’s a nice touch from the brand, which needs to appeal to customers now more than ever.
As with most Ford products, the Mustang has service intervals every 12 months/15,000km, and the company has a capped-price service plan applicable for the life of its cars. Prices can be found on the company’s website, but to give you an idea, the average cost per year for the first five years if you stick within the 15,000km interval bracket works out to $372 for the four-cylinder and $477 for the V8.
If you’re worried about Mustang problems - be it questions over reliability, engine problems, transmission problems or general issues - be sure to check our Ford Mustang problems page.
But it does include 24-hour roadside assistance for three years, and Nissan's 'myNissan Service Certainty' capped-price servicing program applies for up to six years/120,000km.
The scheduled maintenance interval is six months/10,000km, with charges ranging from a low of $283, to a high of $831 (100,000km), averaging out to roughly $428 per service.