The Ford Mustang Dark Horse Is the New Pony Car King

Copyright: Andi Hendrick
Copyright: Andi Hendrick
Despite the ongoing EV revolution, Ford has managed to keep the traditional pony car alive with the debut of the all-new seventh-generation S650 Mustang. While a new version of the world's best-selling sports car is exciting in its own right, the all-new Ford Mustang Dark Horse model promises to be the most powerful, track-focused car to ever sport a 5.0-liter V8 under the hood. There's some serious kit you can get with this thing.
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Goofy name aside, the Dark Horse comes as the first all-new special-edition Mustang since the Bullitt's introduction in 2001. While nameplates like the Mach 1 or GT500 bring with them a certain historical expectation from customers, Global Design Director Joel Piaskowski told R&T that the Switching to the S650 generation opened up a new opportunity for the Mustang team. More specifically, the new platform allowed the automaker to push the boundaries of what a Mustang can and should be.
"We talked about all the different series within Mustang and felt now was the right time to do something new," Piaskowski said in an interview with R&T. “We have a great heritage, but that also leaves the door open to future possibilities. Here we see that we understand our customer base and know that we want to acquire a newer customer. We know the current customer very well, and we have the GT that's really resonating with that customer, but we feel Dark Horse is this new entry that we think really brings a different customer into the mix. It's a lot more track focused.”
That focus on raceability begins under the hood, where a familiar 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine sits, now in its fourth generation. For the Dark Horse, it's packed with a ton of unique components aimed at improving performance, including a harder set of camshafts, as well as a forged crankshaft and connecting rod setup borrowed directly from the outgoing GT500. Combined with a unique engine calibration, the Dark Horse promises the highest performance ever offered by a 5.0 liter Coyote engine. Ford didn't give us an exact number, but we have an idea. For the car to have the most powerful 5.0 Coyote, it needs to produce at least more than the 480 horsepower offered by the S550 Bullitt and Mach 1 offerings.
Copyright: Andi Hendrick
This powerful V-8 can be mated to either a 10-speed automatic or Tremec's six-speed manual transmission offered in the Mach 1. The latter gearbox is a welcome addition in this case, as the Mustang's standard MT82 manual gearbox has often been bemoaned for its lack of on-track performance. The Dark Horse team also wanted to celebrate manual customers by offering a shift knob inspired by the titanium exhaust of the mid-engined GT supercar. The shifter itself is topped with a 3D printed piece of blue anodized titanium that has a unique texture underneath to help cool the surface.
While the S650 generation is indeed largely based on the outgoing S550 chassis, Krenz noted that around 85 percent of the car is new. Automakers tend to use a different definition of this word than the rest of us, but the Dark Horse includes some chassis tweaks specifically for track use. Every Mustang Dark Horse is fitted with MagneRide shocks recalibrated for the S650. An additional engine oil cooler, a rear axle cooler and a lighter radiator work together to improve cooling performance. Opt for the Performance package and you'll get more chassis tuning adjustments, larger rear anti-roll bars and a stronger set of front shocks. A strut tower brace and a unique Ford Performance K-strut help improve chassis handling and response. A Torsen rear differential ensures order out of corners, while 19-inch wheels shod with Pirelli P-Zero PZ4 tires work together with a set of massive Brembo stoppers.
The story goes on

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