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Old 05-02-2007, 12:51 PM   #1
NYCshopper
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Default 07 Mustang Shelby GT v 07 Mazda RX-8 v 07 Nissan 350Z v 08 Audi TT 2.0T

07 Mustang Shelby GT v 07 Mazda RX-8 v 07 Nissan 350Z v 08 Audi TT 2.0T

http://www.caranddriver.com/comparis...di-tt-20t.html



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2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT v 2007 Mazda RX-8 v 2007 Nissan 350Z v 2008 Audi TT 2.0T

Thereís something special about coupes. For one thing, they sacrifice function ó ease of entry, room for stuff ó in the name of style. Thereís a reason why most of the best sports cars are coupes: Itís because driving fast is supposed to look good. Choosing a coupe is different because it says aesthetics are important to you. In the past, midrange sticker prices ó $35,000 in this case ó could get you high style or outright speed, but rarely both, which brings us to the 2008 Audi TT.

The old TT was a triumph of design but lacked driver involvement. The new TT straightens out the rounded bulging shape of its predecessor and is now creased and pressed like a fine suit, as if to say, ďThis time Iím serious.Ē The insides also dismiss the previous circle theme in lieu of a more straightforward, if less interesting, interior.

Does the zoomy new look of the TT equate with a corresponding improvement in performance? To find out, we rounded up three other coupes, all around a sweet-spot price of $35,000, and flogged them from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Between the blackjack tables and sleep-deprived nights, we spent a day at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, to see how each car works at its absolute limit (being careful to steer clear of any establishment with the words ďchicken ranchĒ in the name). Then we toured the winding and heat-warped roads around Lake Mead to get an impression of how the cars perform in the real world. Like the TT, each entry here is a different take on the coupe formula, and each has its own style.

First up is the Ford Shelby GT. Similar to the Shelby GT-H [November 2006], the car starts life as a Mustang GT and then heads to Shelby Automobiles in Las Vegas where the upgrades are installed. On the outside, the Shelby GT gets a lower front air dam, an aluminum grille, dual exhausts, chrome wheels, and three scoops that have no performance mission: one on the hood and one behind each door. You can choose between a white or black paint job, both with the obligatory silver racing stripes. The inside is jazzed up with new floor mats and an authentication plate on the center of the dash.

The Shelby GT is almost mechanically identical to the GT-H car rented out for a big fee from Hertz, except this one has a standard manual transmission. The suspension upgrade over the Mustang GT is the Ford Racing Handling Pack, which consists of new shocks, stiffer springs that lower the car by an inch and a half, a front strut-tower brace, and special anti-roll bars. The engine is massaged with Ford Racingís Power Upgrade package, a cold-air intake, a new engine calibration, and a free-flowing exhaust. On premium fuel, power increases 19 horsepower to 319 and torque is up 10, to 330 pound-feet. The bill for this transformed Mustang, including leather seats, an upgraded interior, and a 500-watt stereo, comes in at a hefty $38,970, $500 more than the Audi TT.

Next is the Nissan 350Z. Fresh off some minor upgrades in 2006, the 2007 Z gets the latest edition of Nissanís 3.5-liter V-6 (the VQ35HR). Shared with the Infiniti G35 sedan, 80 percent of this engineís parts are new, and it has six more horsepower, better midrange torque, and a redline 500 rpm higher than previously. To accommodate the taller cylinder block, the 350Z also has a bulging new hood. Our test car was the base 350Z, which comes without stability control, a limited-slip differential, or even cruise control, but such frugal optioning keeps the sticker price to a low $29,485. The 350Z also lacks back seats, a luxury found in the closely related Infiniti G35 coupe, which we didnít include because the G35 is near the end of its run, and its replacement, the G37 coupe, wasnít yet available.

Rounding out our foursome is the Mazda RX-8, which is a sort-of coupe, owing to the tiny doors that open to the rear seats. Virtually unchanged since its 2004 introduction, the latest SAE standards rate the RX-8 at 232 horsepower. Our car came loaded in Grand Touring trim, which includes a sunroof and keyless ignition, and it was optioned with navigation and satellite radio. Still, the as-tested price was in the middle of the group at $34,095. Okay, open the gates.

Fourth Place: 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT



The Shelby GT has two things the rest of the group go without: eight cylinders and a solid rear axle. The V-8, with the greatest horsepower of the group, is good for the best 0-to-60 time and a tie in the quarter-mile. It also has the sweetest engine note of this pack, a raucous growl that sends shivers down your spine every time you hit the ignition. The live axle, on the other hand, is responsible for the worst handling of the group. In truth, the blame isnít all located at the rear. The front suspension is lousy enough that one tester compared the whole package to a 20-year-old pickup truck. On a particularly rough stretch of road, the vibrations were severe enough that the hood clips worked themselves loose. Combine that with the greatest curb weight and its overboosted, numb steering, and itís easy to see why the Mustang was the last choice on the curvy roads surrounding Lake Mead. The brakes didnít inspire confidence, either, but the long, 189-foot stopping distance from 70 to 0 mph suggests that something was awry with our test vehicle; the last Mustang GT we tested came to a halt in 170 feet.

The Shelby also drew gripes for the Hurst shifter, which is so high-effort that itís difficult to make two-to-three and four-to-five upshifts. The speedometer was also criticized for a crowded, small font thatís impossible to read at a quick glance. The cheap-feeling interior, a questionable value on a standard Mustang, is not improved as part of the price of the Shelby upgrade.

On a smooth surface, such as a trackís, the Shelby GT shows a much better side. The stiffer suspension controls body roll well, and the prodigious torque from the V-8 allows for tail-out cornering in any situation. In some respects, its penchant for lurid, tire-smoking slides made the Shelby GT the most fun in the right situation. But then again, the same antics are possible in a $26,440 Mustang GT


Third Place: 2007 Nissan 350Z



Donít let the modest increase in horsepower fool you. This is a faster car than before in every respect. The 0-to-60 time of 5.2 seconds is 0.2 second quicker than that of any other 350Z weíve ever tested. Better still, the new internals make for a smoother engine. Smoother, but not smooth. Thereís still some coarseness, and the thrumming engine noise inside the cabin becomes annoying on even short highway trips. Aside from the seats, which drew praise for their comfort and support, the interior doesnít provide much comfort. The plastic has been upgraded since the 350Zís launch in 2002, and the padded armrests are a nice touch, but itís obvious that this car was built on a tight budget, as evidenced by headrest stakes that bulge into your back when you lean your head rearward.

At least the 350Z is still a focused driving machine, which is what really matters. Not only does it keep up with the Mustang in a straight line, but it also beats the three other cars around the track, thanks to the best power-to-weight ratio and tenacious grip. The steering drew positive reviews as well for its good on-center feel and feedback. The brakes felt solid and resisted fade.

On the worst road surfaces, the 350Z keeps going where the driver points it, but the way the suspension bucks and jives requires a certain amount of faith from the driver that the car will stay planted.

Think of the 350Z as a Japanese Corvette. It has plenty of speed at a good price but lacks the refinement needed for all-around greatness. In this group, thatís enough to keep the 350Z down.

Second Place: 2008 Audi TT 2.0T



Whatís the front-driver doing up in second place? Heresy, you say, and it doesnít even have a clutch pedal. Weíre as surprised as you, dear reader, but the TT moves. It has the least horsepower of the group, but the 2.0-liter turbo four earned praise for its quick responses. The engine doesnít have much weight to move around, either, as the TT is the lightest car of the group.

On the highway, the TT gains speed with a transparent smoothness, due in part to the hushed cabin. The power seats, covered in Alcantara, give plenty of lateral grip and long-term comfort. The overall impression of the TT interior is so pleasing that the insides of the rest of the group feel rental quality in comparison.

There is one carry-over from the old car, at least in philosophy. It shares its architecture with the Volkswagen Rabbit, including the engine and the dual-clutch transmission, the latter of which will shift at redline even in manumatic mode. Audi claims 69 percent of the TT chassis is made of aluminum, but the car is only 195 pounds slimmer than the last GTI we tested.

Most significant, the TT is still front-wheel drive. The only way to get all-wheel drive for now is to upgrade to the 3.2-liter V-6. Even with the aluminum weight saving focused at the front of the car, 60.8 percent of the Audiís heft hangs over the front wheels, a setup that results in understeer when entering a corner and the front wheels fighting for grip on the exit.

Powering the wrong wheels didnít stop the Audi from posting the second-best time around the track, though, and it came away with the shortest braking distance, too. It also earned top marks in fuel economy, both from the EPA and our aggressive drivers.

On rough roads, the TT exhibits a worrying amount of creaks and rattles, and it isnít quite as composed as the Mazda or Nissan. And itís expensive: Our test car was optioned with upgraded wheels and tires and the Premium package, which includes power heated seats and a leather steering wheel. Add in magnetic ride-control shocks or navigation, and the TTís price creeps over 40 large. Thatís a lot of money when an A3 or GTI will perform at almost the same level for less money and with more interior space. But the A3 and the GTI donít have the eye-catching exterior of the TT. The TTís premium is its style. Fortunately, it moves as well as it looks.

First Place: 2007 Mazda RX-8



Now in its fifth year of production, the Mazda RX-8 is getting gray at the temples. But the virtues that earned it a 10Best selection three times (the RX-8 fell off the list in 2007) are still there. That means a chassis that instantly reacts to driver inputs. At 3060 pounds, the RX-8 is 100 pounds heavier than the TT, but the weight is better balanced from front to rear and the diminutive rotary engine sits low and aft of the front axle. This allows the RX-8 to change direction more quickly, as shown by the lane-change speed, which was more than 4 mph faster than the second-place Audi. The Mazda is easy to drive fast; test drivers all praised the responsive steering and low cowl height, which make it easy to place the car on the track.

The RX-8 is great at speed, but getting up to speed is a challenge. With only 159 pound-feet, the RX-8 has less than half the torque of the Shelby GT. The six-speed gearbox and short gearing donít alleviate the problem, either. On steep grades, downshifts are required from sixth gear to hold a constant speed, and two-lane passing requires a downshift to third and a planted right foot. The lack of oomph was more than a source of constant frustration ó running the RX-8 near its 9000-rpm redline burns a lot of fuel as well, resulting in a cruising range of less than 250 miles.

The RX-8 is the only car here that offers any comfort in the rear seats. Taller drivers have a hard time fitting in front, however. The rotary-engine theme is carried through to the interior in the shift knob and cutouts in the seats, a constant reminder that, yes, this engine is different, and not in a good way.

Get off the highway, and the annoyance caused by the wheezy engine subsides as cornering speeds increase. The suspension takes hits from the road like a champion prizefighter, so much so that during our driving loop the RX-8 was actually the fastest car on real-world roads.

On the track, the Mazda couldnít make up for its woeful lack of torque and posted the slowest time around the circuit. But just as on the street, the RX-8 inspires confidence in the driver to carry more speed through the corners, and the challenge of maintaining velocity in this car is ultimately more rewarding than relying on the gas pedal in the others to make up for your mistakes. Thatís not to say some extra power isnít sorely needed here ó it is ó but even at the ripe old age of five, the RX-8 pleases us the most.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:16 PM   #2
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The Z came third place compared to these other 3 cars? That's just wrong.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:18 PM   #3
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amazing how the rx-8 is still competitive
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:22 PM   #4
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I was a little surprised and I own one. Man that TT looks so hot both inside and out.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:38 PM   #5
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tt looks great.
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Old 05-02-2007, 03:55 PM   #6
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I'm glad to see the editors aren't too caught up in the stupid horsepower wars going on. Sure the RX8 needs more power, but driving that thing on a course is so fun. It has amazing balance and will do exactly what you tell it too.


If only mazda could put the turbo 4 from the mazdaspeed 3 in that thing......
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:09 PM   #7
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here come the Mustang haters!
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:29 PM   #8
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Ford owns Mazda or a controlling interest or something, right?

Mazda has a RWD platform with very similar (if not bigger) interior dimensions to the Mustang and weighs on the order of 400lbs less. Ford looked in the wrong parts bin for its chassis. Should have been looking in Mazda's rather than Lincoln's for a sports car chassis.
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SublimeGTP View Post
Ford owns Mazda or a controlling interest or something, right?

Mazda has a RWD platform with very similar (if not bigger) interior dimensions to the Mustang and weighs on the order of 400lbs less. Ford looked in the wrong parts bin for its chassis. Should have been looking in Mazda's rather than Lincoln's for a sports car chassis.
ford thought about that once before and later scrapped the idea, that became the probe

if people found out that the all-american mustang was built on a japanese platform it would probably tick off a lot of "die-hard fans"
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:40 PM   #10
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Uh, Mustang isn't a sports car, it's a pony car. That's a two-door four seater based on a sedan that had an emphasis in style. As late as the early 80's, when the Taurus started to take over sales, you could buy a family sedan with similar underpinnings and engines to the mustang. Camaro was a Nova.

The RX-8 is a much more advanced and costly platform. Also, it wouldn't so easily accept a V-8. Most Mustang owners are interested in 1/4 mile times. Also, they accept racing suspensions very easily, which is a testament as to how many have been raced over the years.

Personally, I think that this is a VERY disjointed group. Each car is desined with a different focus. Mustang with classic style, good performance and value (In GT mode, the shelby's are jokes for the $$ spent) The RX is a little two faced as it is best at home on a track, yet has the best rear-seat accomodations. The Z is the most pure of a sports car layout, yet the platform is heavy due to it's multi-model platform use. And the TT is very luxurious in content and style, yet performance wise it's separated only superficially from the cheaper GTi.
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost Rider View Post
ford thought about that once before and later scrapped the idea, that became the probe

if people found out that the all-american mustang was built on a japanese platform it would probably tick off a lot of "die-hard fans"
part right, as the probe was based on the MX-6 (not sure) FWD platform related to the 626. I think the future car styling had as much to do with that car's demise as the FWD and japanese roots.
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:51 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derbagger View Post
part right, as the probe was based on the MX-6 (not sure) FWD platform related to the 626. I think the future car styling had as much to do with that car's demise as the FWD and japanese roots.
Well, in it's inception, the Ford Probe was supposed to become the Mustang in the 90's, succeeding the old Foxbody. However, automotive publications and the like caught wind of it in the late 80's and the public outroar was so great that Ford wound up going back to the drawing board and making the 4th gen Mustang. Ford still released the car, but called it the Probe instead of the Mustang.

I think that's what he was refering to.
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:56 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost Rider View Post
if people found out that the all-american mustang was built on a japanese platform it would probably tick off a lot of "die-hard fans"
Apparently it doesn't bother them that a Vietnamese guy oversaw the current Mustang's development. And it shouldn't. What's a few parts here and there from Japan if it makes the car better?
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Old 05-02-2007, 05:59 PM   #14
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Ford controlls 33% of Mazda but for the most part it's a partnership more than anything else. They leave Mazda alone and Mazda feeds them platforms like the Mazda 3 and 6.

Honestly do you think anyone in Ford Management would greenlight a rotary engine?
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Old 05-02-2007, 06:24 PM   #15
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I was thinking more a long the lines of the Mustang V8 in the Rx8, since putting an LS1 in an Rx7 is a popular engine swap. However Ford went OHC, so those V8s are much bigger than LSx's.
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Old 05-02-2007, 08:39 PM   #16
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Don't just look at the editor's rankings, but read the reviews and form your own opinion. The RX-8 was the slowest car in the bunch around the track. It is a purely subjective ranking.

The 350Z was the fastest around the track, but ranked behind the FWD Audi because it wasn't as "refined." They praised the Audi for things like a "hushed cabin" and power seats.

I personally would take the Z, but I obviously have different priorities in a car than these reviewers.
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Old 05-02-2007, 09:15 PM   #17
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i found it cool and funny how the mustangs' picture was a guy wearing shades doing a burnout.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:11 PM   #18
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If you want good numbers, forget the RX-8. Mazdas have traditionally never been about numbers but about an intangible feel. Take a Mazda RX or MX-5 on a curvy road and you'll never want to stop. I sound like a Mazda commercial but its true.

Car & Driver actually realizes this.
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Old 05-03-2007, 10:29 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SublimeGTP View Post
Ford owns Mazda or a controlling interest or something, right?

Mazda has a RWD platform with very similar (if not bigger) interior dimensions to the Mustang and weighs on the order of 400lbs less. Ford looked in the wrong parts bin for its chassis. Should have been looking in Mazda's rather than Lincoln's for a sports car chassis.
Comparing the V6 Manual to the RX-8 is 3300lbs versus 3050lbs, so there's ~200 lbs difference in the chassis. The Rotary is a compact, lightweight engine so I wouldn't be suprised if it's 50 lbs or lighter than the cast iron V6.

Using the RX-8 chassis could very likely save some money, and just as importantly put a lot more production onto the RX-8 chassis and save mazda money.

Tom
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Old 05-03-2007, 11:14 AM   #20
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The criteria for this shootout appears to be most fun ”coupe” under 35k. If you want a more track oriented car and only need two seats the Z is your flavor. If you want sexy looks and refinement with a dash of performance the TT wins it. If you want an all around good performer that is a great daily driver, seats 4 real people but still looks like a coupe the RX8 is your choice. The Shelby is just an over priced GT and I’d save the 10k and get the GT with some Ford racing parts to my spec. The Mustang is all about a whole lotta go for not a whole lotta do, in a straight line.
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Old 05-03-2007, 12:14 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlideWRX View Post
Comparing the V6 Manual to the RX-8 is 3300lbs versus 3050lbs, so there's ~200 lbs difference in the chassis. The Rotary is a compact, lightweight engine so I wouldn't be suprised if it's 50 lbs or lighter than the cast iron V6.

Using the RX-8 chassis could very likely save some money, and just as importantly put a lot more production onto the RX-8 chassis and save mazda money.

Tom
Ironically, while compact, the rotary actually isn't a particularly light engine. Though it's size allows it to be placed low and away in the engine bay.
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Old 05-03-2007, 12:26 PM   #22
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yea, the 4 slabs of steel holding the space between rotors together can't be lighter i guess
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Old 05-03-2007, 01:17 PM   #23
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Indeed. A subaru boxer engine is actually lighter than the rotary, mostly due to material weight.

Personally, i'm not a big fan of the new Z. Drove it, didnt like it at all. Better off with a G35. So I tend to agree with this comparison, athough I havent tried the TT yet.
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Old 05-03-2007, 01:35 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kostamojen View Post
Indeed. A subaru boxer engine is actually lighter than the rotary, mostly due to material weight.
Interesting! I'd like to see engine weights to see where the rotary lines up.

Tom
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Old 05-03-2007, 01:53 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karandom View Post
If only mazda could put the turbo 4 from the mazdaspeed 3 in that thing......
Here Here! While I love the rotary, conceptually, the lack of torque and rotten fuel mileage (and potentially bad reliability) turn me off from the car. The turbo 4 would fix all of those problems.

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