Nissan, Ford offering new sports cars with an extra dose of performance

Dave Kunz Image
Saturday, November 11, 2023
Nissan, Ford, offers new sports cars with extra dose of performance
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Nissan and Ford are putting even more powerful performance cars on the road for those who like even more force.

Nissan rolled out the latest version of its iconic Z model last year. With 400 horsepower and great handling, it remains true to the heritage behind it, and not just in looks.

Now, the hotter version for those who want a little more performance worthy of a race track: the Z NISMO.

"It is track-ready. That's absolutely what the NISMO's about," said Chad Fishburn, a product specialist with Nissan North America.

Not a ton of extra horsepower under the hood, though 420 is nothing to sneeze at. The focus here is on the handling for that on-track composure. Or more confidence on that favorite twisty road. Or even just having the more special version of a car that's not seen on every block as it is. Visual cues tell others that this is the higher-performance Nissan Z, and it carries a special (higher) price tag of $66,085 MSRP.

Ford didn't waste much time coming up with a hotter model of the 2024 Mustang that's just come out of the gate. The Dark Horse steps it up a whole bunch from the Mustang GT.

An even 500 horsepower from the 5.0 liter V8, topping the GT model which is no slouch itself. And yes, a revised suspension, bigger wheels and tires, big brakes, and aero enhancements for high-speed stability.

But it's still essentially as practical as any other new Mustang. There is a back seat, albeit a small one, and the trunk is surprisingly not that small for a car of this type.

Inside, the high-tech digital instrument cluster that debuted on the 2024 Mustang, and an optional 12-speaker sound system so your tunes can accompany the music of the V8. The Mustang Dark Horse carries a base MSRP of $61,510

Both the hotter Nissan and hotter Ford make amped-up engine sounds that stand out even more in a world of increasingly-popular electric cars. It's old-school motoring at its best.

One thing the Z NISMO does not offer is a choice of transmissions. It's only available with a 9-speed automatic, with paddle shifters. But for performance, the automatic actually wins.

"If you want to go faster, which is what 'track' is all about, that's when you go with the 9-speed automatic, which is what we have here in the Z NISMO," Fishburn noted.

But that reality notwithstanding, Ford will let you shift your own gears in the Mustang Dark Horse. A 6-speed manual is a no-cost option over the 10-speed automatic. The cool rev-matching feature lets you downshift like a pro.

So you can choose your weapon for traditional driving fun. While sports cars and sporty cars are a bit of a dwindling segment, for those who want to make any trip a bit more exciting, some brands are still playing "travel agent" in that regard.