- The 5.0-liter V8 will make an estimated 500 horsepower.
- Braking, handling and aerodynamic enhancements max out the new Mustang's street-legal performance.
- Two track-only versions, as well as other race variants, are on the way.
While the general reveal of the seventh-generation Ford Mustang dominated the headlines, Ford also took the opportunity to launch what it calls the Dark Horse series. If you're not sure what to make of that, take the current Mach 1 and the late, dearly beloved GT350, combine them and you're most of the way there. To help differentiate the Dark Horse, Ford also created a new badge where the horse is looking directly at you. And that's weird.
Because the Mustang GT's V8 — which we expect to produce around 480 horsepower — won't be enough for some buyers, the Dark Horse motor will be boosted to about 500 hp. Details are sparse at this point, but Ford did say that the Dark Horse version of this engine will use the same style of connecting rods (those are the internal engine pieces that bolt to the crankshaft at one end and the piston at the other) as were used in the maniacal 760-horsepower GT500. Ford also stated the Dark Horse's engine will get its fresh air from a dual throttle body intake, which will likely allow just that much more air to be consumed by the 5.0-liter V8. We wouldn't rule out a burly active exhaust system either. Because if you can't hear a V8 engine from two blocks away, do you really have one?
Connected to that V8 will be a Dark Horse-specific six-speed manual gearbox or a 10-speed automatic, albeit with shorter gearing (for quicker acceleration) than the Mustang GT's version. More about that six-speed manual: Supplied by Tremec (the Mustang GT uses a Getrag transmission), the gearing is significantly shorter than the GT's and will help funnel power through a rear end with 3.73 gears and standard Torsen limited-slip differential.
The Dark Horse will build off the Mustang GT's Performance package and come standard with Ford's MagneRide adaptive suspension and a set of Pirelli P Zero summer performance tires (255/40 up front and 275/40 in the rear). Much like the current Mach 1, the Dark Horse lets you bump up to a Handling package that, among modifications like stiffer springs and larger sway bars, includes 305/30 front and 315/30 rear Pirelli Trofeo tires. If they don't make the Dark Horse change direction in a hurry, we don't know what will.
Brakes, too, will be upgraded above and beyond what you can get on the Mustang GT. Front brakes will be two-piece 15.4-inch rotors and use six-piston fixed calipers for maximum clamping force. Aerodynamic changes are courtesy of a redesigned rear wing that, on models with the Handling package, uses a Gurney flap for added downforce. Of note, the Dark Horse is estimated to weigh around 130 pounds more than a Mustang GT.
While we have no doubt the Dark Horse will do just fine during the occasional track day, Ford is committed to fans who want their Mustang to see as much track action as possible. For those buyers there are the Dark Horse S and the Dark Horse R models. The S will feature a stripped-out interior, a full FIA-spec roll cage, one race seat (a passenger seat is optional), race belts, a fire suppression system, and a steering wheel with a quick disconnect feature. Like a race car, controls are relocated to a central switch panel and the S will get hood pins, a full competition exhaust system (likely not the least bit street-legal), upgraded brakes, a ride-height adjustable suspension, and super trick Multimatic DSSV dampers. And, yes, there's a pit-lane speed limiter. Because we know you were curious.
The R model gets even more serious with a seam-welded chassis, a fuel cell for added safety and range, specific Ford Performance wheels, and a special serial number that approves the car for racing. If international competition is your thing, Ford will roll out the new Mustang in GT3 trim as well as for GT4 classes in IMSA, SRO and FIA GT race series. And we'd be remiss to mention the new body style will be seen in Australian Supercars, NASCAR and NHRA Factory X racing.
Ford has fully committed to not only extending the V8-powered Mustang but to extracting every last bit of performance that it can for both street and track. We can't wait to get our hands on the wheel of the new Dark Horse and give it a thorough thrashing. Or evaluation.