2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Quick Spin: Power, Civility

We’ve previously had the opportunity to drive the 500-horsepower 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse, which replaces the turbocharged four-cylinder 2024 Mustang EcoBoost and the 480-horsepower V-8 2024 Mustang GT. It is the new Mustang’s highest performance trim level, providing a more aggressive, track-oriented version of the Mustang GT. Even though the Dark Horse has amazing capabilities, what surprised me more was how practical this sports car is for daily use—a few compromises notwithstanding.


Related: A Known Formula Drives the 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse


The Way It Moves


First of all, for a high-performance sports car, the Mustang Dark Horse rides incredibly well; in fact, it has superior ride quality than many popular cars. After viewing the suspension modifications made to the Dark Horse with the optional Dark Horse Handling Package—which we tested and which comes with larger sway bars, low-profile competition tires, and stiffer springs—you might not have expected this. However, when the car is in Normal driving mode, it does a decent job of absorbing road imperfections and keeping any harshness from getting to the passengers. Ford’s adjustable firmness MagneRide adaptive shocks are standard on the Dark Horse, and they perform admirably in this application.


Some less desired handling features are introduced in daily driving due to the extra-wide wheels and tires included with the Dark Horse Handling Package (19-inch wheels are 10.5 inches wide in front and 11 inches wide at the back). When driving over utility covers, the Mustang Dark Horse sways a little bit, and it also likes to follow highway grooves. The sound of pebbles and sand being scooped up by the sticky tires and thrown against the fender wells is also audible. Similar issues have been reported in the past with Mustangs that had extra-wide wheels and tires, so while not totally shocking, this is something that the 2024 Mustang GT won’t have.


I’ll take that, though, if that’s the price for the Dark Horse’s overall agility and fast steering. When accelerating into turns, the car’s grounded, hunched-over sensation and precise steering inspire a great deal of confidence.


The Dark Horse is one of those vehicles that you occasionally come across that always seems to be begging you to go faster, regardless of how quickly you are already traveling. It seems as though the devil’s horse is perched on your shoulder, gently encouraging you to depress the accelerator a little bit farther. Additionally, the Dark Horse has a lot to offer thanks to its 500-hp V-8 engine, which delivers powerful surges followed by a constant exhaust roar. It doesn’t feel like you’re moving that quickly, even when you’re speeding over 70 mph on the freeway. It’s evidence of the car’s general poise and calm.


The Dark Horse is available with a six-speed manual or a 10-speed automatic transmission, just as the GT. However, the manual transmission is not from the same source and has a different gearing: The Dark Horse has a Tremec unit, whereas the GT has a Getrag manual. Both shifters have short throws, but the stick shifts more smoothly between gears on the Dark Horse’s Tremec manual transmission, which is a little more sophisticated.


Similar to the GT, the dynamic exhaust system of the Dark Horse produces a loud and noticeable exhaust note even when it is set to Normal. By selecting the Sport or Track modes, you can adjust it even further. Alternatively, you can choose the Quiet mode to significantly reduce noise. The Dark Horse’s booming exhaust noise is appropriate, but much like with the standard GT, I could see it getting old fast.


Interior Requires More Care


Although the motor and suspension modifications of the Dark Horse make it an amazing performer, Ford ought to have added something unique to the interior of this special trim level to make it feel even more special. The modest design cues that set the cabin apart from a standard GT include a titanium shift ball on manual-transmission cars, blue stitching on various trim pieces, and a thicker flat-bottom steering wheel with suede inserts. Furthermore, the Dark Horse’s carbon-fiber-inspired plastic trim on the doors and dashboard seems even more out of place than it does on other 2024 Mustangs.


I had another opportunity to try the 2024 Mustang’s available Recaro front bucket seats while driving the Dark Horse, and it confirmed my belief that they are not ideal for daily driving. The huge side bolsters in the seats are comfy, but they get in the way as you twist the steering wheel back and forth. My arms kept brushing against them.


Is It Time to Invest in a Dark Horse?


Any enthusiast who enjoys the sound and feel of a large V-8 engine and the agility of a classic sports car will grin when they drive the Dark Horse. But there’s a big price difference compared to a GT, which will probably make many purchasers hesitate.


The Dark Horse is more than $16,000 more expensive than a GT, with a starting price of almost $61,000 (including destination), but it comes with extra convenience options, such dual-zone automatic climate control and a B&O premium radio, in addition to performance features. However, it only takes a few expensive extras for the Dark Horse’s price to skyrocket from there; our Dark Horse Premium model’s as-tested pricing, for example, was almost $77,000. Undoubtedly breathtaking, but so is the Dark Horse’s performance.

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