All-New Mustang Dark Horse Is A 500-HP Track-Ready Superstar

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Street-legal, track-ready, and the most powerful naturally-aspirated V8 Mustang you can buy.

  • Track-ready Mustang variant features a 500-horsepower Coyote V8 and standard six-speed manual gearbox
  • Carbon fiber wheels available for the first time on a non-Shelby Mustang
  • Track-honed suspension, braking, and cooling systems

After months of torturous waiting and endless teasers, Ford finally revealed the seventh-generation Mustang at the Detroit Motor Show. Suffice to say, the newcomer has raised the bar in several ways, with fresh new styling, plenty of technology, and a brilliant interior.

You can read more about that here. But before you do so, say hello to the Mustang Dark Horse, a brute the Blue Oval describes as "the most track-capable 5.0-liter V8 street-legal Mustang ever." We first uncovered the Dark Horse trademark in June and surmised it would be a special edition of sorts. It seems we were on the money.

A special team of engineers set about transforming the new Mustang into a masterpiece. The 5.0-liter Coyote V8 is fitted with the piston connecting rods from the Mustang Shelby GT500 to deliver immense power. While exact outputs are still to be confirmed, Ford is targeting 500 horses, making this the most powerful nat-asp V8 Mustang around. Elsewhere, the Dark Horse sets itself apart with a dual throttle-body intake design to better engine breathing.

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To make it the consummate track weapon, the Mustang Dark Horse receives an auxiliary engine oil cooler, a rear axle cooler, and brake cooling NACA ducts. Even a lightweight radiator has been fitted, along with more powerful cooling fans to aid track endurance. But this is no straight line special - Dark Horse was designed to carve up the corners, too.

The high-performance variant receives model-specific tuning, heavy-duty front shocks, and bigger rear sway bars. The standard MagneRide shocks are capable of monitoring the wheel movement 1,000 times per second and can adjust to the surface and driving mode almost immediately. Overall grip and steering feel have been greatly improved, thanks to a new Ford Performance strut tower brace and K-brace.

Of course, there's also a Torsen rear differential. The staggered 19-inch wheels (9.5-inch front and 10-inch rear widths) are wrapped in standard Pirelli P Zero tires. Behind the front wheels, you'll find Brembo six-piston brakes with 13.9-inch rotors that will ensure you come to a halt without fuss.

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If that's not enough for you, the Handling Package should prove alluring. Aerodynamics are improved with a unique rear wing and integrated Gurney Flap, while stiffer springs, larger sway bars (front and rear), and even wider Pirelli Trofeo tires improve vehicle dynamics. This package equips wider wheels (10.5 inches in front and 11 at the rear) shod in Pirelli Trofeo track rubber.

Lightweight carbon fiber wheels from Carbon Revolution will be made available at a later date, the first time this has been made available on a non-Shelby Mustang.

Aside from the wheels, the Dark Horse visually distinguishes itself from the herd with darkened LED headlights, a gloss black grille with unique design elements, and a Dark Horse-specific lower front bumper. Deeper side skirts, a race-inspired diffuser, darkened quad exhaust tips, and a new diffuser underline the sinister demeanor.

Keen-eyed readers will note the unique rear badging. Joel Piaskowski, global director of Ford design said, "This is the first time for Mustang that we've ever had a forward-facing horse. It's aggressive, a bit sinister and it's coming from the shadows head-on to win."

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The Dark Horse receives an exclusive paint color, Blue Ember metallic. The racy shade is said to "emit a warm glow" when it catches the sunlight. If you want a more exuberant look, a variety of graphics will be made available in different colors and styles, while an Appearance Package includes blue-painted Brembo brake calipers.

Inside, the high-performance Mustang features several performance-minded upgrades. There's a meatier, flat-bottomed steering wheel finished in suede with Indigo Blue stitching. Behind this are anodized silver paddle shifters on 10-speed automatic variants, but a six-speed manual transmission is equipped as standard. Blue is a recurring theme and is used for the seatbelts and the rest of the interior stitching, and interior brightwork and trim elements are swapped for Black Alley-painted trim, vents, and bezels.

An available Dark Horse Appearance Pack introduces Deep Indigo Blue seats with a special seat perforation.

The Dark Horse receives a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system as standard equipment.

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This isn't even the most exciting Mustang that Ford will reveal in the coming weeks. The Dark Horse name will soon be applied to a pair of track-only models, known as the Dark Horse S and Dark Horse R. The S variant is designed for weekend track days and is essentially a stripped-out version of the road-going muscle car. The S does away with all the luxurious touches, in favor of an FIA-certified safety cage, a racing seat and steering wheel, and several other details.

The R builds on this with a fuel cell for increased range, Ford Performance wheels, and strategic seam welding. "Both Dark Horse S and R have been further enhanced for performance and stripped of almost every unneeded comfort, keeping only what is needed to provide better performance," said engineer Ed Krenz.

While once the Shelby GT350 was the perfect embodiment of street-legal, track-ready performance for the Mustang brand, the Dark Horse is now staking its claim as possibly the best 'Stang yet.

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