The Mustang name alone is about as nostalgic as it gets, but it seems like whenever Ford ups Mustang’s performance ante, they double down with throwback names like “Boss” and “Mach 1.” But now they’ve actually come up with something all-new for the seventh-gen pony car. It’s the Mustang Dark Horse… and around the race track, it’s anything but stealthy!

Recently, MotorWeek awarded the all-new, seventh generation Ford Mustang with two top honors in our Drivers’ Choice Awards: “Best Sport Coupe” and, even more impressive, our 2024 “Best of the Year.” There are lots of reasons for that ultimate decision, from the modernized take on the iconic profile, to Ford’s unwavering support of the V8 engine and manual transmission. but another reason is this, the 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse, the first new Mustang livery in decades.

Bred as the next evolution of Mustang performance, the Dark Horse takes that pony car formula and really kicks it up a notch. It roars to life with Ford’s fourth-gen 5.0-liter, naturally-aspirated “Coyote” V8, cranked up to 500 horsepower–14 ponies more than a GT with active exhaust which is, by the way, standard here. This modern “five-oh” cranks out 418 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels through your choice of transmission: six-speed manual or, in our case, 10-speed automatic. Note that six-speed is the same Tremec used in the last Shelby GT350 and Mustang Mach 1, an upgrade from the GT’s MT-82.

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse 3/4 Front
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Grill
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Hood Decal
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Profile
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse 3/4 Rear
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Rear Detail
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Wheel
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Hood Graphic
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Badge
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Splitter
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse 3/4 Front2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Grill2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Hood Decal2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Profile2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse 3/4 Rear2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Rear Detail2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Wheel2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Hood Graphic2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Badge2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Splitter

On track, our drivers certainly would have preferred the six-speed, as the 10-speed felt more reactive than proactive, with automatic downshifts rather unaggressive. Manual mode using wheel mounted paddle shifters does improve things, allowing us to find better footing through all nine corners of Roebling Road Raceway.

However, for acceleration runs, there’s no doubt about it: this 10-speed rips! After a few trips to warm up the tires, we caught grip for a 0-to-60 time of 4.3-seconds. We have no doubt sub-4.0 seconds with this 10-speed is doable in ideal conditions.

But, the 40-degree air temps didn’t slow us down too much, racing down Roebling’s front straight to hit a 12.7-second quarter-mile at 117 miles-per-hour. Talk about warming us up!

And the day’s fun didn’t stop as we wrung out this 5.0-liter V8 to its 7500 rpm redline. Like Coyotes that came before, the Dark Horse’s V8 loves to rev, and with an exhaust note like this you’ll be compelled to oblige. We managed to hit 147 miles-per-hour before pulling back the reins: six-piston front Brembos that made easy work of hard stops. Joined by four-piston calipers clamping on the rear discs, these brakes were remarkable.

We enjoyed interrogating them lap after lap, but it took a lot for the Dark Horse tires to squeal: grippy Pirelli P Zero Trofeo RS rubber; 305’s in front and 315’s in back, both wrapping 19-inch wheels. Those wheels and tires are part of the available Handling pack, as are adjustable top strut mounts and revised chassis tuning. This $5,000 upgrade also adds the performance rear spoiler and Gurney flap– low enough to not limit visibility, but big enough to show you mean business.

And on the topic of appearance, the Dark Horse, despite the name, will stand out from your neighbor’s fresh-off-the-line GT. Available only as a coupe, it wears bespoke “Dark Horse” badging and graphics. The front end is almost evil with large nostrils sending air directly to the dual intakes, bookended by the seventh-gen’s tri-bar headlights. Opting for a bright color will show all these blacked-out elements even more, but we think it’s rather appropriate in this Blue Ember Metallic paint, reserved for Dark Horse Premiums.

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Dashboard
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Center Display
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Shifter
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Backseat
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Engine
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Dashboard2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Center Display2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Shifter2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Backseat2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Engine

The interior isn’t too far removed from the GT Premium. All models come with two large displays, a 12.4-inch instrument panel and a 13.2-inch infotainment touchscreen, mounted in one continuous housing. The Deep Indigo cloth seats can be swapped for these leather-trimmed RECAROs; quite comfortable on the street and very supportive on the track.

And although that’s where this machine truly shines, the Dark Horse is perfectly capable of gallivanting you around town too, as the standard MagneRide adaptive suspension means great handling in both scenarios.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings are on-par with a GT running on Regular, 14 city, 22 highway and 17 combined.

The Mustang Dark Horse pricing starts at $61,080, stepping up to $65,075 for a Dark Horse Premium. Add all the bells and whistles, and you can easily exceed $70,000.

But that still smacks us as a supercar-style bargain. So, is Dark Horse worthy of a permanent slot on Ford’s high-performance mantle? Or, does it simply live in the shadow of 60 years of Mustang greats?

Well, its name is “Dark Horse.” That’s far from “Black Sheep.” It’s loud, proud, and does everything a 5.0-liter Mustang should, and a lot more. So, our answer is undeniably… yes!


As Tested

  • Engine: 5.0-liter NA V8
  • Horsepower: 500
  • 0-60 mph: 4.3 seconds
  • EPA: 14 City | 22 Highway | 17 Combined
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic
  • Torque: 418 lb-ft.
  • 1/4 Mile: 12.7 seconds at 117 mph
  • Starting Price: $61,080