Ford surprise-drops track-focused 500-hp 2024 Mustang Dark

The new trim, which debuted at the 2022 Detroit auto show, marks the first all-new Mustang performance name in over 20 years

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Ford had a crowd of media, owners, and enthusiasts gathered in downtown Detroit to welcome the new seventh-generation Mustang, but also to prank them when the event’s host hastily said “goodnight” after introducing the coupe and convertible EcoBoost and V8 models. Turns out the event wasn’t over, and even as the Internet saw pre-written stories about the launch, written by journalists using materials provided in advance, crop up, Ford did what is increasingly difficult in this digitally enabled world and surprised us all with a brand-new performance model that nobody saw coming. 

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It’s called the “Dark Horse,” and it’s the brand’s first such new performance name on Mustang since the Bullitt trim was introduced in 2001. There’s a Dark Horse S for the track-day hero who also wants to bomb around town; and the Dark Horse R that’s made expressly for racing, something the brand says it plans to do a lot of in the car, including at Le Mans. 

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Ford says it’s targeting 500 horsepower with the V8 Coyote engine that will run at “480-plus” in the regular V8 models. Engineers coaxed the extra horses out of the most powerful Coyote V8 to ever enter a Mustang with piston connecting rods first used in the Shelby GT500, and by adding parts to make it stay cool at speed, like an auxiliary engine oil cooler, rear axle cooler, and an improved radiator.

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Ford also borrowed optional carbon-fibre wheels from the Shelby stable, marking the first time Shelby has shared them with an out-of-house product. Power is handled by an exclusive Tremec six-speed manual, or a 10-speed auto, and there’s also a Torsen limited-slip differential.  

Further tuning was done to the chassis and suspension, while 19-inch Brembo front six-piston brakes were added with 13.9-inch rotors. All Dark Horses will ride out on MagneRide adaptive dampers and have 19-inch wheels with Pirelli PZero PZ4 summer tires. A Handling Package adds an adjustable rear wing, stiffer springs, larger sway bars, and wider Pirelli tires. 

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Distinguishing the Dark Horse visually isn’t difficult thanks to an overall darkened appearance with black exterior paint, darkened LEDs, gloss black grille, trapezoidal nostrils, dark exhaust tips, and that rear wing. Plus there’s the badge, which, in my opinion, looks much more canine than equine, almost like they hired a Doberman to model instead of an actual horse. 

The Blue Oval also took the launch opportunity to announce its racing intentions with the new Dark Horse, setting sights on GT3, GT4, and even NASCAR with the upcoming model. 

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