Ford Introduces New Mustang Dark Horse – New Edition – And Pack Of Track Ponies
With sinister looks and a specially modified 5.0-liter V-8 – the most powerful 5.0-liter V-8 ever, projecting 500 horsepower – Mustang Dark Horse expands the lineup and sets a new benchmark for American street and track performance that could only come in a Mustang.
A special team of Ford engineers, designers, and experts worked for more than three years to create Mustang Dark Horse, a street and track-capable performance Mustang with striking visual cues and all the capability sports car lovers expect, right down to the available carbon fiber wheels from Carbon Revolution (late availability). Mustang Dark Horse is the first new performance name for the brand since Mustang Bullitt was introduced in 2001.
“For decades, Mustang has competed against the most premium brands on the greatest world stages and won,” said Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Company. “We surprised everyone, and we’re going to surprise them again with a track-capable Mustang that puts a new level of performance, styling. and American engineering in the hands of everyday customers who still want the thrill and excitement of a V8 sports car.”
Unique 5.0-liter V8 with Even More Athletic Performance
The foundation for Mustang Dark Horse starts with the all-new 2024 Mustang, which has been transformed with a digitally immersive cockpit, new engines, and styling to make it the most exhilarating and fun-to-drive Mustang ever.
“We’ve taken the all-new Mustang, the best of our new 5.0-liter V8 performance, and added power, improved the aero, tires, steering, and provided an interactive cockpit to create a Mustang that goes beyond any 5.0-liter Mustang before it,” said Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang chief nameplate engineer.
The heart of Mustang Dark Horse is its unique 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine, specially modified with piston connecting rods first introduced in the 760-horsepower Ford Performance Mustang Shelby GT500. Mustang Dark Horse will deliver the highest level of performance in the all-new Mustang family.
Visually differentiated from any 5.0-liter V-8 before it, Mustang Dark Horse includes a dual throttle-body intake design to improve engine breathing, accentuated by the open nostrils in the front grille.
Mustang Dark Horse comes standard with a unique six-speed TREMEC manual transmission that connects to the driver through a standard 3D-printed titanium shift ball. The manual also includes a special Mustang Dark Horse transmission oil cooler. Drivers also have the option to choose Ford’s advanced 10-speed automatic transmission with sport paddle shifters for fast and precise shifting – from the highway to the race circuit.
Additional powertrain enhancements were made for performance at the track. Mustang Dark Horse includes brake cooling NACA ducts, an auxiliary engine oil cooler, a rear axle cooler, and a unique and lighter-weight radiator with improved cooling capability and more powerful cooling fans to improve endurance and recovery.
The Mustang Dark Horse provides unique chassis tuning, larger rear sway bars, and heavy-duty front shocks. Stopping is courtesy of 19-inch Brembo front 6 piston brakes with 13.9-inch rotors. Steering response and grip are further enhanced with a new lightweight Ford Performance-designed strut tower brace and K-brace for even better handling and feedback from Mustang Dark Horse. Mustang Dark Horse puts the torque down without losing traction through a Torsen rear differential and standard Pirelli P ZERO™ (PZ4) tires with staggered fitting wheels (19-inch-by-9.5-inch front and 19-inch-by-10-inch rear wheels).
Mustang Dark Horse offers standard MagneRide® shocks capable of monitoring wheel and tire movement 1,000 times per second, optimizing performance based on driving surface or driving mode.
For ultimate street-legal and track performance, the available Handling Package improves aerodynamics even further with the most downforce of any all-new Mustang, thanks to a unique rear wing that includes an integrated Gurney Flap, similar to that of the Ford GT. The Handling Package also adds stiffer springs, larger front and rear sway bars, wider Pirelli Trofeo tires, and 19-inch-by-10.5-inch front and 19-inch-by-11-inch rear wheels.
Finally, for no compromise track performance, customers can equip Mustang Dark Horse with lightweight carbon fiber wheels from Carbon Revolution (late availability). It’s the first time carbon fiber wheels have been available for a Mustang beyond Shelby GT350 and GT500.
Driver-Focused Immersive Digital Cockpit
The Mustang Dark Horse infuses even more performance style and functionality into the all-new seventh-generation car’s technologically advanced, driver-centric cockpit.
A thicker, flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in suede and finished with Bright Indigo Blue accent stitching incorporates anodized silver paddle shifters on models ordered with the 10-speed automatic transmission, and a dedicated drive mode button is at thumb’s reach, allowing drivers to quickly choose the desired driving setup. This sits in front of a 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster with customizable screens, including a variety of drive modes.
This digital instrument cluster flows seamlessly into a 13.2-inch SYNC 4 center stack behind the same piece of integrated glass, angled towards the driver. Together, these screens create a fully immersive digital experience that emulates a fighter jet cockpit – but in a real-world sports car.
Contrasting blue stitching across the door panels and seats, the gearshift gaiter and center console lift the ambiance of the cabin, enhanced further by unique blue seatbelts. The Mustang Dark Horse Appearance Pack adds Deep Indigo Blue seats with a unique seat perforation, emitting further hints of blue below the surface.
Interior trim, bezels, and vents are finished in Black Alley – a dark metallic gloss replacing the familiar bright silver shades of other Mustang trim levels.
Mustang Dark Horse also comes with the latest B&O® Sound System, providing crisp audio through 12 speakers and a subwoofer.
Sophisticated and Sinister Functional Styling
Mustang Dark Horse carries the most striking visual cues of any new road-going Mustang.
“It’s more than a new name. Dark Horse brings a new design language to Mustang that is refined yet perfectly suited to its dual purpose of street and track performance,” said Joel Piaskowski, global director Ford Design. “The visual changes, both inside and out, message that Dark Horse has a directed performance focus. The mechanical changes reinforce the purpose of Dark Horse, providing the driver with increased confidence and competence.”
At the front, a bold, shadow graphic surrounds the darkened LED headlamps, which compliments a unique gloss black grille with trapezoidal nostrils and Mustang Dark Horse-unique lower front bumper with high gloss ‘fangs.’ Lower side skirts and, to the rear, a fixed rear wing, new race-inspired diffuser, and darkened quad exhaust tips demonstrate the car’s track-focused design cues.
New Mustang Dark Horse badges were designed for this performance version of Mustang to visually separate it from other models. The badges are placed on the fenders, trunk, and door sills, while a dark, anodized version of the famous pony stays on the front. Inside, unique Mustang Dark Horse badging is featured on the instrument panel and digital display screens, and each car features an individual chassis number.
“This is the first time for Mustang that we’ve ever had a forward-facing horse,” Piaskowski said. “It’s aggressive, a bit sinister, and it’s coming from the shadows head-on to win.”
Unique to Mustang Dark Horse is Blue Ember metallic paint, a cool, dark shade that emits a warm glow when it catches the light, setting the tone for the car’s overall look. A choice of applied or painted feature graphics along the roof and down the hood is also available in a variety of colors and styles. The optional Appearance Package includes dark Notorious Blue Brembo brake calipers with a brighter Grabber Blue logo.
Dark Horse and the Future of Global Ford Motorsports
Ford Mustang was born to race. The introduction of Mustang Dark Horse is part of a broader launch of six new racing Mustangs that will compete globally in a variety of series, including GT3, GT4, NASCAR, and NHRA Factory X racing.
Two dedicated, track-only Dark Horse Mustangs powered by 5.0-liter V8 engines will only be available for racers and non-street use. Mustang Dark Horse S is designed for the weekend track day enthusiast, while Mustang Dark Horse R has been developed for racing.
“We’re taking this all-new Mustang to competition racing and the very definition of a Dark Horse is the perfect fit to introduce this vehicle to the Mustang brand,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “With our race program development underway, we’re confident we have the right car for success.”
Mustang Dark Horse S is built uniquely for motorsports as a stripped-down version of the street-legal Mustang Dark Horse production vehicle. All non-essential parts and trim pieces have been removed for Mustang Dark Horse S. Inside is a full FIA-certified safety cage, safety nets, a race seat with safety belts, and a race steering wheel with quick disconnect. Other safety items include electrical disconnects and a fire suppression system.
Driver controls are contained within a central panel, which houses switches and knobs for the headlamps, side indicators, windshield wipers, mirror adjusters and rain light. Also included for Dark Horse S is a pit speed limiter and a data and acquisition display system. A single passenger seat is optional, allowing drivers to share their experience with others and to receive feedback from ride-along instructors.
The exterior of Mustang Dark Horse S features hood pins, front and rear tow hooks, an adjustable rear wing for added downforce and a full exhaust system to help round out the foundation for a unique and fun-to-drive track car. Mustang Dark Horse S will be painted from the factory and ready for individual vehicle liveries.
While Mustang Dark Horse S has the same wheels as the street-legal Mustang Dark Horse, the upgraded brake system provides even further robustness to meet track demands. Multimatic DSSV dampers support driver tunability in addition to the adjustable ride height and camber settings.
Mustang Dark Horse R raises the track-focused intensity, featuring all Mustang Dark Horse S content, as well as special serialization that approves it for racing. It will come standard with strategic seam welding, a fuel cell for increased range, and Ford Performance Parts wheels.
“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 Krenz.
Beyond Mustang Dark Horse S and Dark Horse R, the brand will continue to compete globally in a variety of race series, and enthusiasts will see those roll out over the next year.
Ford is returning to factory-backed GT3 racing with an all-new Mustang GT3 IMSA race car that will also be available for customers, starting with 24 Hours of Daytona in 2024. Created by Ford Performance and Multimatic, the Ford Mustang GT3, powered by a 5.4-liter Coyote-based V8 engine, will deliver the full endurance racing potential of a Ford Mustang for customers globally.
A new Mustang GT4 available for customers will also debut in the 2023 season and will be available for global GT4 classes in IMSA, SRO, and FIA GT.
A new version of the Mustang will debut next season in the Australian Supercars series, and in coming years, newly designed models will debut in the NASCAR Cup series and NHRA Factory X racing.
Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent the usual number of misspent hours hanging out at gas stations Shell and Texaco (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper, "You Auto Know," an enterprise I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my living while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, etc. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.