The Ford Mustang Dark Horse Rips

By automotive-mag.com 7 Min Read

“If we’re the only one on the planet making an V-8 affordable sports car for everyone in the world, so be it.” Jim Farley knows exactly what to say to leave fans frothing at the mouth. During a preview of the new Mustang GT3 race car in Charlotte this past January, the outspoken CEO was adamant his company would keep selling V-8 Mustangs until the sun explodes, or until he retires, whichever comes first.

That’s exactly what you want to hear if you’re a longtime fan of the Ford Mustang—or muscle cars in general. As Chevrolet kills the Camaro, and Dodge downsizes and moves to electrification, the Mustang is the last remaining vestige of the good-ol’ American V-8 pony car. And the Dark Horse is the pinnacle of what the S650 generation is capable of. Until a new Shelby arrives, at least.

Quick Specs 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse
Engine 5.0-Liter V-8
Output 500 Horsepower / 418 Pound-Feet
0-60 MPH 4.1 Seconds (est.)
Weight 3,993 Pounds
Base Price / As-Tested $59,780 / $68,860

But what is a Dark Horse, anyway? We’ll have a deeper dive on what the new badge means for the Mustang lineup as a whole. But in the simplest sense: The Dark Horse is the most powerful naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 Mustang ever built, and the most track-focused version you can buy today.

The 5.0-liter Coyote engine sends 500 horsepower and 418 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. You can choose from a slick six-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic, and it takes just about four seconds for this car to reach 60 miles per hour.

Pros: Ridiculously Good V-8, Agile Handling, Aggressive Design

That said, it doesn’t feel as ferociously quick off the line as something like a BMW M2 or Nissan Z Nismo, even if their 0-60 times are all similar. That’s mostly a result of both of those cars having forced induction, and more low-end grunt. Higher towards the rev limiter is where the Dark Horse does its best work. The V-8 begs you to wring it out to the 7,500-rpm redline with torque peaking at 4,900 rpm and max horsepower hitting at 7,250 rpm. This car is a high-revving riot.

Having already spent plenty of time with the six-speed Dark Horse on the track—you can read that here—I was eager to see what the 10-speed automatic had to offer. While I’m not typically someone who immediately poo-poos a sports car just because it has an automatic… this Mustang needs a manual.

The 10-speed automatic is quick and well-tuned, and you can twist the drive mode dial to Track for super snappy responses. But the auto doesn’t mesh well with the visceral nature of the V-8. it feels disconnected; I want to rip from third to fourth with the rumble of that V-8 under my left foot.

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Review
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Review

Gearbox notwithstanding, the Dark Horse is easily the most agile Mustang since the last Shelby. MagneRide dampers remove the floatiness of the standard EcoBoost and GT models. It’s still a big car—3,993 pounds with the automatic—and it feels it. But the suspension keeps that weight in check by minimizing body roll.

The steering loads up well in corners, but it’s a titch too lightweight for my liking otherwise. It can feel vague on center. The standard Pirelli P Zero tires offer enough grip for daily use, but if you plan on tracking it, the optional Trofeo RS rubber is worth the splurge. The $4,995 Handling Pack pairs stickier rubber with stiffer springs, bigger anti-roll bars, and an integrated Gurney flap on the rear wing.

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Review

As a daily, though, the MagneRide suspension delivers the best mix of comfort and capability. It’s still a bit stiff, as most sports cars are, but it’s nothing backbreaking. In general, the Dark Horse is a surprisingly livable sports car—more so than the BMW or Nismo.

Visibility is hugely improved from the previous car and the seating position is actually nice. The Recaro buckets in this Premium trim are highly bolstered but not uncomfortable, although they are manually adjustable for weight-saving purposes.

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Review

Cons: Needs A Manual, Steering Could Be Sharper

The new tech suite combines a 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster with a 13.2-inch touchscreen. Finally, a Mustang that feels modern. It loses some of the likable tactile touches of previous generations, but both screens are highly configurable and have hidden throwback Easter eggs. There’s a fun Fox-body gauge cluster configuration if you’re feeling nostalgic for the ‘90s.

And this car just looks good. The dark mascara accents that underline the headlights will be hit or miss to most, but the subtle Dark Matter Gray paint on this car helps tone down the aggressive styling. This car still looks stellar in profile, though; a long hood, a low stance, and a gorgeous fastback rear tapered into a short rear overhang help maintain that iconic Mustang shape. It all sits perfectly on a set of 19-inch wheels.

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Review
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Review

The Mustang Dark Horse starts at $59,780 with the $1,595 destination fee included. The Premium is $63,775 with a slightly nicer interior. You will still have to pay $495 extra for this paint, $1,595 extra for the automatic, and $1,995 extra for the seats. This comes out to just under $70,000 all told. Not cheap.

But when you consider the BMW M2 starts at $64,195 and the Nissan Z Nismo is $66,085, the Mustang Dark Horse is a pretty screaming deal. Sixty-thousand dollars gets you a big ol’ V-8 with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive. What more do you need?

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