by Karl Furlong
The seventh-generation Ford Mustang is here. Much has changed since the first Mustang made its mark on the motoring world as we've watched electrification and connected technologies drastically change some of the fundamentals of modern automobiles. Even so, the new Mustang is refreshingly old-school with its mighty V8 and manual gearbox.
The most exciting of all the new variants is this, the Dark Horse, which makes 500 horsepower from its 5.0-liter V8. It has more sinister styling, a uniquely tuned chassis, and a digital cockpit, all aimed at providing the best Mustang experience for the road or track. The Dark Horse represents the first new Mustang Performance Series in 21 years, and Dark Horse S and R track-only derivatives are even more extreme. Effectively a range-topper and a replacement for the Mustang Mach 1, the S650-gen 'Stang doesn't get more badass than this, at least until a potential Shelby derivative arrives.
See trim levels and configurations:
|Dark Horse Coupe||
5.0L V8 Gas
The new Dark Horse is expected to be coming out at around the same time as the regular Mustang Coupe. That means that we can expect the release date for the Ford Mustang Dark Horse to be in summer 2023.
No price for the 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse has been shared yet. But with a more powerful V8 and myriad other changes over the Mustang GT, we estimate that the Dark Horse will begin at about the same price as the current Mustang Mach 1, so we're expecting an MSRP of about $55,000 in the USA. The more hardcore Dark Horse S and Dark Horse R will likely be even pricier.
Assuming a $55,000 price point, that would make the Dark Horse pricier than rivals like the Chevrolet Camaro 2SS (455 hp and a starting price of $44,600) but cheaper than the Camaro ZL1 (650 hp and starting at $67,000). What we don't know is if the Camaro will even be around long enough to compete with the new Mustang Dark Horse as Chevy's sports car is rumored to be on the way out after 2023.
Currently, Dodge sells the Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody at a cost of $51,840. Its Hemi V8 produces 485 hp but this engine isn't going to be around for much longer, and even in this guise, the Challenger has not been known for its agile dynamics, an area where the 2024 Mustang Dark Horse is expected to excel.
The exterior of the Ford Mustang Dark Horse has a lot in common with the current Mustang. From the grille to the tri-bar taillights, there are enough nostalgic details that support Ford's statement of this being a heritage-inspired design.
Unlike the normal Mustang Coupe, the Dark Horse comes with darkened LED headlamps and a gloss black grille with trapezoidal nostrils. The lower front bumper is unique to the Dark Horse, and this aggressive coupe also has a fixed rear wing and a race-inspired diffuser. Emitting a pleasing V8 baritone note are the quad exhaust tips, also darkened to fit in with the rest of the modifications.
The traditional Mustang pony badge has been redesigned with Dark Horse badges, the first time that a Mustang has had a forward-facing horse. A dark, anodized version of the pony remains in front, while the new badges are placed on the fenders, trunk, and door sills.
Special wheels and tires are not only visually enticing but help the Mustang Dark Horse put down its power more effectively without losing traction. Staggered wheels - 19-inch-by-9.5-inch in front and 19-inch-by-10-inch at the back - are wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires. At a later stage, carbon fiber wheels will be available, which marks the first time that carbon fiber wheels will be available for any Mustang besides the Shelby GT350 and GT500. With the optional Handling Package, wider wheels come with Pirelli Trofeo tires.
Colors for the Ford Mustang Dark Horse include Atlas Blue, Carbonized Gray, Dark Matter Gray, Grabber Blue, Oxford White, Race Red, and Vapor Blue. For the full murdered-out effect, there is Shadow Black paint. An available Dark Horse Appearance Package cuts the color choices down to just three shades: Shadow Black, Vapor Blue, and the exclusive Blue Ember. This package also comes with Notorious Blue Brembo brake calipers and a brighter Grabber Blue logo.
The Dark Horse S can be differentiated by its hood pins, front/rear tow hooks, and an adjustable rear wing that improves downforce. Finally, there is the Dark Horse R with its Ford Performance Parts wheels and strategic seam welding.
Marginally taller and longer than the previous model, the Ford Mustang Dark Horse's dimensions reflect a car that hasn't actually grown all that much.
The new Ford Mustang Dark Horse coupe measures 189.7 inches in length, just 0.3 inches longer than the Mustang EcoBoost and Mustang GT. It is 81.9 inches in width including the mirrors, 55.2 inches in height, and has a 107.1-inch wheelbase. The front track is 62.2 inches (0.2 inches wider than the GT) and the rear one is 63.9 inches (interestingly, this is 0.8 inches narrower than the GT).
Curb weight for the Dark Horse is 3,868 pounds in manual guise and 3,913 lbs with the automatic.
The Coyote V8 comes with modified piston connecting rods that were first seen in the Shelby GT500. Not all the specs of the engine in the Ford Mustang Dark Horse have been revealed, but we know that it will produce in the region of 500 hp. Rear-wheel drive and a limited-slip differential are standard, as is a Tremec six-speed manual. Optionally, there is a ten-speed automatic transmission with sport paddle shifters.
Based on its power output, we estimate a 0-60 time of below 4.5 seconds. A dual throttle-body intake is another change and is said to enhance engine breathing. To make the best use of its performance over extended periods, the Dark Horse comes with an auxiliary engine oil cooler, a rear axle cooler, and a lighter radiator.
Ford went even further to prepare the Dark Horse for track use. It comes with bespoke chassis tuning as well as heavy-duty front shocks and rear sway bars that have grown in size. A strut tower brace and K-brace benefit steering responsiveness, and the MagneRide shocks that are optional on lesser Mustangs are standard here. These shocks monitor wheel and tire movement 1,000 times per second and make adjustments accordingly based on the driving mode or surface.
Selectable driving modes for the new 'Stang are Normal, Sport, Slippery, Track, and Drag Strip. With the optional Handling Package, the Mustang Dark Horse becomes an even more capable track toy. This pack comes with larger front/rear sway bars and stiffer springs.
The faster you go, the better the braking system needs to be. That's why the Dark Horse has 19-inch Brembo front brakes with six pistons and 13.9-inch rotors at the back.
This brings us to the Dark Horse S for weekend track day enthusiasts and the Dark Horse R for racing. The former has Multimatic DSSV dampers, and the R is the most extreme of all, as Ford has removed "almost every unneeded comfort." Ford didn't make specific mention of the remote revving feature and electronic drift brake for the Dark Horse but expect both of these to feature on the hottest Mustang as well.
EPA ratings for the new Mustang aren't available yet but a good point of reference is the current Mach 1. It weighs almost the same as the Mustang Dark Horse and also uses a version of the Coyote V8. With the automatic, the Mach 1 returns 15/23/18 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, or 14/22/17 mpg with the manual.
If the Dark Horse has the same 16-gallon gas tank and similar consumption, it will have a range of about 288 miles.
The Blue Oval is proud of the new Mustang's interior, which comes with a fighter jet-style digital cockpit concentrated on the driver. A 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster flows into a 13.2-inch touchscreen interface with Sync 4 software and which is angled towards the driver.
A flat-bottomed steering wheel has a sporty suede wrapping, and the seats in the Ford Mustang Dark Horse have contrast blue stitching. This blue stitching extends to the door panels, gear shift gaiter, and center console. Buyers can choose from Black Onyx or Black Onyx/Indigo colors inside, while the trim inside the cabin has a Black Alley finish instead of the silver on other Mustangs.
Although the normal Mustang Dark Horse seats four, the Dark Horse S comes with a full FIA-certified safety cage, a racing seat, and an optional passenger seat. For the standard Dark Horse, space in the second row will still be a bit tight for taller folk.
Despite all the attention that has been paid to its performance, the modernized interior of the Ford Mustang Dark Horse still allows access to the latest driver-assist technologies like standard blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist. Adaptive cruise control can be added optionally. On the entertainment front, a 12-speaker B&O sound system is on offer.
The cargo space in the Ford Mustang Dark horse is on par with many sedans at 13.3 cubic feet. That is enough for typical daily errands or even weekends away if you pack lightly enough and rounds out a special car with a wide spread of talents both on the road and on the track.
The most popular competitors of 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse: