The latest iteration of the iconic Ford Mustang introduces a compelling addition to its lineup, the Ford Mustang Dark Horse, which is currently vying for the prestigious title of Motor Authority’s Best Car To Buy 2024. This new Mustang variant, touted as the most potent, track-focused, and street-legal pony car bearing the revered Mustang emblem, effectively carries forward the legacy left by its predecessor, the Mustang Mach 1. Notably, the Mach 1 was a finalist for AutoMotorMart’s Best Car To Buy in 2019, demonstrating the brand’s commitment to excellence in automotive innovation. The question that looms large is whether this new generation will propel the Dark Horse to victory.
Ford Mustang Overview
While the core Mustang lineup retains its essence, it undergoes substantial revisions that necessitate an internal platform code change from S550 to S650. This evolution underscores Ford’s dedication to refining and enhancing the Mustang’s performance and overall appeal.
Ford Mustang Dark Horse
The focal point of the Dark Horse’s appeal lies in its revamped 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine, now delivering an impressive 500 horsepower and 418 lb-ft of torque. Notably, this represents a noteworthy increase of 20 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque when compared to the standard GT’s V-8 powerplant. Although these enhancements may not be immediately perceptible in day-to-day driving, they undeniably contribute to the Dark Horse’s reputation and standing within the Mustang family.
These power gains are primarily attributed to various improvements, including a distinct tuning, a dual-intake plenum, enhanced intake routing with dual air intakes integrated into the grille, standard active exhaust, and the incorporation of connecting rods sourced from the formidable Mustang Shelby GT500. The result is a symphony of exhaust notes, particularly pronounced during the initial startup.
One notable change that directly influences driving dynamics is the transition from the GT’s Getrag transmission to a Tremec 6-speed manual gearbox. This transmission offers robustness, a dedicated transmission cooler for track use, and precise, tactile gear shifts complemented by a substantial clutch pedal feel. For those who prefer an automatic transmission, a 10-speed automatic option is available for the Dark Horse, featuring tailored programming adjustments that extend gear engagement.
In terms of braking performance, Dark Horse models inherit the same formidable braking system as the Mustang GT Performance Pack vehicles, featuring 15.4-inch vented front rotors clamped by Brembo 6-piston calipers, along with 14.0-inch vented rear rotors accompanied by 4-piston calipers. These brakes demonstrate exceptional stopping power, capable of repeatedly bringing the Mustang to a halt from triple-digit speeds without exhibiting any signs of fade or overheating.
Additional enhancements specific to the Dark Horse, geared toward optimizing track performance, encompass a marginally quicker 15.5:1 steering ratio (versus 16.0:1), a reinforced steering column for enhanced road feedback, and 50% stiffer rear lower control arm bushings to elevate handling precision.
Base Dark Horse models share performance-oriented components with GT models equipped with the Handling Package, including 255/35R19 front and 275/30R19 rear Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires, a strut tower brace, and a Torsen limited-slip rear differential with a 3.73 ratio (manual transmission) or a 3.55 ratio (automatic transmission). However, the Dark Horse goes a step further with front springs that are 31% stiffer, half-inch wider wheels both front and rear, and standard magnetic dampers. Additionally, transmission and rear differential coolers are integrated, along with an efficient engine oil-to-air cooler positioned in the grille.
For enthusiasts seeking an even higher level of handling prowess, there is an optional $4,995 Handling Package available for the Dark Horse. This package elevates the vehicle’s performance capabilities by incorporating wider 19×10.5 front and 19×11 rear wheels paired with grippy 305/30 front and 315/30 rear Pirelli P Zero Trofeo RS tires, essentially street-legal racing tires. Unique exterior enhancements include an extended front lip spoiler, side skirts, a revised rear diffuser, and a Gurney flap adorning the fixed rear wing.
Identifying the Dark Horse is relatively straightforward, particularly in configurations without the Handling Package, thanks to distinctive dark trim elements beneath the headlights and a functional hood vent.
Interior and Pricing
Within the cabin, the Dark Horse boasts the same interior updates featured in other Mustang models. A prominent expanse of glass spans from the dashboard, enveloping a 12.4-inch digital gauge cluster and a 13.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system. This system is highly configurable, even offering a set of digital gauges reminiscent of the iconic Fox Body Mustang for those with a penchant for the model’s rich history. While the standard seats provide comfort, the optional Recaro seats are a compelling choice for track enthusiasts, offering exceptional support and a snug fit during spirited driving.
As for pricing, the Dark Horse starts at $60,865, positioning it as a premium offering within the Mustang lineup. This represents a $4,285 premium over a GT model equipped with the Performance Package, magnetic dampers, and active exhaust. However, when evaluating the Dark Horse in terms of its performance enhancements and exclusive features, the price differential appears justified.
While the Ford Mustang Dark Horse presents an enticing package for enthusiasts seeking a formidable and track-ready pony car, it’s essential to acknowledge that it inherits some of the limitations inherent to the broader Mustang range. These include challenges such as the relatively challenging door closure, limited rear-seat space, and the ongoing trend of increasing size and weight in recent Mustang generations.
The ultimate question remains: Can the Ford Mustang Dark Horse secure the title of AutoMotorMart’s Best Car To Buy 2024, triumphing over formidable competition, including American supercars, German sports coupes, high-performance electric sedans, and Japanese hot hatches? The answer awaits, with the winner set to be unveiled on January 3rd, alongside the victors from our affiliated platforms, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. Stay tuned for the announcement.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mustang Dark Horse
What is the Ford Mustang Dark Horse?
The Ford Mustang Dark Horse is a high-performance variant of the Mustang lineup, known for its exceptional power, track-focused features, and street-legal status. It represents a significant step forward in Mustang’s evolution.
What sets the Dark Horse apart from other Mustang models?
The Dark Horse distinguishes itself through its revised 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine, delivering 500 horsepower and 418 lb-ft of torque, improved handling components, and unique exterior elements. It also offers a Handling Package for even greater performance.
What are the key performance enhancements in the Dark Horse?
Performance upgrades include a more robust Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, magnetic dampers, and a high-performance braking system. The Handling Package equips the Dark Horse with race-inspired Pirelli P Zero Trofeo RS tires and aerodynamic enhancements.
How does the Dark Horse compare in terms of pricing?
Starting at $60,865, the Dark Horse commands a premium over the standard GT model with the Performance Package. However, this price difference is justified by its enhanced performance and exclusive features.
What are some of the limitations of the Dark Horse?
Like other Mustangs, the Dark Horse may have relatively challenging door closure, limited rear-seat space, and an increase in size and weight in recent generations. These are aspects to consider when evaluating its suitability.
When will the winner of the Best Car To Buy 2024 be announced?
The winner, including the Ford Mustang Dark Horse’s fate, will be revealed on January 3rd, alongside the victors from The Car Connection and Green Car Reports, so stay tuned for the announcement.
More about Mustang Dark Horse
- Motor Authority – Ford Mustang Dark Horse
- AutoMotorMart – Best Car To Buy 2019 Finalist
- Ford Mustang Official Website
- Tremec Transmissions
- Pirelli P Zero Trofeo RS Tires
- Brembo Brakes
- The Car Connection
- Green Car Reports