2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Quick Spin: Impressive Capability, Surprising Kindness

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse | Cars.com photo by Adam Biba

By Mike Hanley

November 3, 2023

We’ve already driven the 2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost with a turbocharged four-cylinder and the 2024 Mustang GT with its 480-horsepower V-8, but we recently got to drive the car you see here: the 500-hp 2024 Ford Mustang Dark. Horse. This is the new top trim level of the Mustang and offers a more extreme, track-focused take on the Mustang GT. While the Dark Horse’s capabilities are impressive, what was more surprising was how livable this sports car is in daily driving, a few compromises aside.

Connected: The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse works with a familiar formula

How to fight

For one thing, the Mustang Dark Horse rides remarkably well for a high-performance sports car, and its ride quality is actually better than many mainstream cars. It’s not what you’d necessarily expect after seeing the Dark Horse suspension changes with the available Dark Horse handling package we tested, which includes stiffer springs, low-profile racing tires, and larger sway bars. But still, the car does a good job of soaking up bumps and cracks in the road when in normal driving mode, and doesn’t let any harshness reach the passengers. The Dark Horse comes standard with Ford’s adjustable-firmness MagneRide adaptive shocks, and they do a great job here.

The extra-wide wheels and tires that are part of the Dark Horse’s handling package—the 19-inch wheels are 10.5 inches wide in the front and 11 inches in the rear—introduce some less desirable handling traits in everyday driving. The Mustang Dark Horse wobbles slightly from side to side when driving through utility flaps, and it also wants to follow the freeway ruts. You also hear the sound of sand and pebbles being thrown into the fender wells after being absorbed by the sticky tires. We’ve experienced similar things in previous Mustangs with extra-wide wheels and tires, so while it’s not necessarily unexpected, it’s something you don’t experience in the 2024 Mustang GT.

However, if that’s the penalty for the Dark Horse’s responsive steering and overall agility, I’ll take it. The car’s combination of responsive steering and a squished, underfoot feel gives you plenty of confidence when cornering.

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The Dark Horse is one of those cars you come across every now and then that always seems to make you drive faster – no matter how fast you’re already going. It’s like the devil’s horse is sitting on your shoulder, making you step on the accelerator just for a little while a little little bit more. And with a 500-hp V-8. under its hood, the Dark Horse has plenty to give, with the V-8 serving up big waves of power accompanied by its constant exhaust growl. Even when you’re going more than 70 mph on the highway, you don’t feel like you’re going that fast. This is proof of the overall calmness and poise of the car.

Like the GT, the Dark Horse comes with either a six-speed manual or a 10-speed automatic transmission. The manual transmission, however, is from a different supplier and has different gearing: the GT uses a Getrag manual, but the Dark Horse gets a Tremec unit. Both shifters have short throws, but Dark Horse’s Tremec manual is a bit more precise, with the lever moving more smoothly from gear to gear.

Like the GT, the Dark Horse’s exhaust note is loud and omnipresent – ​​even with the active exhaust set to normal. You can dial it up even more by selecting its Sport or Track modes, or make it considerably quieter by using Quiet Mode. The roaring exhaust note suits the Dark Horse, but as with the regular GT, I can see it getting tiresome in daily driving.

The interior needs more attention

The Dark Horse’s powertrain and suspension changes make it an impressive performer, but Ford needed to give the interior of this particular trim level something to make it feel… special. Unique design cues – things like a thicker flat-bottomed steering wheel with suede inserts, blue stitching on various trim elements and a titanium shift ball on manual cars – are subtle and don’t significantly differentiate the cabin from the regular GT. And the carbon-fiber-looking plastic trim on the dash and doors looks even more out of place on the Dark Horse than on other 2024 Mustangs.

Driving the Dark Horse provided another chance to test the 2024 Mustang’s stock Recaro front bucket seats, and it solidified my opinion that they aren’t great for daily driving. Although the seats are comfortable, their large side bolsters get in the way when the steering wheel is moved back and forth; the backs of my hands kept bumping into them.

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Should you pony up for Dark Horse?

The Dark Horse is a blast to drive, a car that will bring a smile to the face of any enthusiast who likes the feel and sound of a big V-8 engine and traditional sports car agility. However, the price premium over the GT is significant and will likely make many buyers think twice.

With a starting price of around $61,000 (including destination), the Dark Horse is more than $16,000 more expensive than the GT, though in addition to the performance features you get convenience features like dual-zone automatic climate control and a premium B&O stereo. However, it only takes a few expensive options for the Dark Horse’s price to quickly increase from there; the test price of our Dark Horse Premium model, for example, was around $77,000. Breathtaking to be sure – but so is Dark Horse’s performance.

The Cars.com Editorial Department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In accordance with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers do not accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience in automotive industry reporting. His main focus is new vehicles and he is currently Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and benchmarking. Previously, he managed editorial content in the research section of Cars.com. Email Mike Hanley

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