Ford Reveals Next-gen Mustang and High-powered Dark Horse; Will Return to Le Mans

At a reveal event Wednesday evening on the stage at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, Ford Motor Co. introduced its next-generation Mustang, a 500-hp Dark Horse variant, and says it will take its new pony car to Le Mans in 2024.
The all-new Ford Mustang, including the high-powered Dark Horse variant, were unveiled at an event Wednesday evening at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. // Photo by Tim Keenan
The all-new Ford Mustang (above), including the high-powered Dark Horse variant (below), were unveiled at an event Wednesday evening at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. // Photo by Tim Keenan

At a reveal event Wednesday evening on the stage at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, Ford Motor Co. introduced its next-generation Mustang, a 500-hp Dark Horse variant, and says it will take its new pony car to Le Mans in 2024.

The star of the show was the 5.0-liter, 500-hp V8 Mustang Dark Horse, a high-powered variant of the new, seventh-generation Mustang. The event featured video presentations and guest appearances by Ford NASCAR drivers Harrison Burton and 2022 Daytona 500 Champion Austin Cindric, Le Mans-winning sportscar driver Joey Hand, drifting champion Vaughn Gittin, and Ford Flat Rock plant workers where the Mustang is built.

A team of Ford engineers, designers, and experts worked for more than three years to create Mustang Dark Horse, a street and track-capable performance Mustang. It is the first new performance name for the brand since the Mustang Bullitt was introduced in 2001.

“For decades, Mustang has competed against the most premium brands on the greatest world stages and won,” says Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Co. “We surprised everyone, and we’re going to surprise them again with a track-capable Mustang that puts a new level of performance, styling, and American engineering in the hands of everyday customers who still want the thrill and excitement of a V8 sports car.”

The heart of Mustang Dark Horse is its 5.0-liter Coyote V8 engine, specially modified with piston connecting rods first introduced in the 760-horsepower Ford Performance Mustang Shelby GT500. Mustang Dark Horse will deliver the highest level of performance in the all-new Mustang family.

Visually differentiated from any 5.0-liter V8 before it, Mustang Dark Horse includes a dual throttle-body intake design to improve engine breathing, accentuated by the open nostrils in the front grille.

It will come standard with a six-speed TREMEC manual transmission that connects to the driver through a standard 3-D-printed titanium shift ball. The manual also includes a special Mustang Dark Horse transmission oil cooler. Drivers also have the option to choose Ford’s advanced 10-speed automatic transmission with sport paddle shifters for fast and precise shifting – from the highway to the race circuit.

Mustang Dark Horse includes brake cooling NACA ducts, an auxiliary engine oil cooler, a rear axle cooler and a unique and lighter-weight radiator with improved cooling capability and more powerful cooling fans to improve endurance and recovery. It also features unique chassis tuning, larger rear sway bars and heavy-duty front shocks.

Stopping is courtesy of 19-inch Brembo front six-piston brakes with 13.9-inch rotors. Steering response and grip is further enhanced with a new lightweight Ford Performance-designed strut tower brace and K-brace for even better handling and feedback from Mustang Dark Horse.

Mustang Dark Horse puts the torque down without losing traction through a Torsen rear differential and standard Pirelli P ZERO™ (PZ4) tires with staggered fitting wheels (19-inch-by-9.5-inch front and 19-inch-by-10-inch rear wheels).

The introduction of Mustang Dark Horse is part of a broader launch of six new racing Mustangs that will compete globally in a variety of series, including GT3, GT4, NASCAR, and NHRA Factory X racing.

Two dedicated, track-only Dark Horse Mustangs powered by 5.0-liter V8 engines will only be available for racers and non-street use. Mustang Dark Horse S is designed for the weekend track day enthusiast while Mustang Dark Horse R has been developed for racing.

The icing on the Ford Performance cake came at the end of the evening when Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford took the stage to declare that the blue oval would be making its return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Dark Horse Mustang in the summer of 2024.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse variant. // Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.
The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse variant. // Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

The basis of the Dark Horse Mustang is the all-new, seventh-generation Mustang, which also was introduced Wednesday evening, the culmination of an event called The Stampede, which started in Washington State, featured 1,000 Mustangs from every era, and ended up in Hart Plaza after a pit stop at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn.

The new Mustang features a fighter jet-inspired digital cockpit, new advanced turbocharged and naturally aspirated engines, and an edgier timeless exterior design.

“Investing in another generation of Mustang is a big statement at a time when many of our competitors are exiting the business of internal combustion vehicles,” says Farley. “Ford, however, is turbocharging its ICE growth plan, adding connected technology, opinionated derivatives, and hybrid options to our most profitable and popular cars — all in the Ford Blue family — on top of investing $50 billion in electric vehicles through 2026.”

Behind the exterior silhouette of the seventh-generation Mustang lies what Ford calls “the most technologically advanced, driver-centric cockpit of any Mustang to date.” The fighter jet-inspired cockpit offers the driver two flowing and curved displays that can be quickly customized to show information the driver wants or needs to see.

Based on the same Unreal Engine 3D creation tool used in modern video games, when choosing personalized drive mode settings, the car’s current setup is displayed on the center stack as real-time graphical renderings. Settings can be adjusted by simply swiping the graphic to rotate the car virtually in a true gamified style.

Beyond the screen, an all-new race-inspired flat-bottomed steering wheel provides more space when getting seated.

Outside the vehicle, animated welcome lighting greets drivers as they approach and, upon entry, Mustang splash screens come to life. And for those who enjoy the sound of a revving engine, Mustang introduces Remote Rev, providing the ability to rev the car’s engine remotely using the key fob.

Mustang has a standard cloth interior featuring all-cloth seats with optional micro suede vinyl inserts and black seat belts, while premium models benefit from upgraded wrapped and accent stitched across the instrument panel and door trim. EcoBoost models feature Ford’s ActiveX synthetic leather upholstery with multiple color options, while GT models gain leather seat inserts.

Higher series models offer an upgraded, full-leather steering wheel, as well as a choice of color accent stitching and a unique upholstery perforation across the seat inserts, complemented by color-coordinated, asymmetric accent striping on the seat belts.

The center console also can incorporate an available wireless mobile phone charging pad while new overhead USB ports are installed above the cockpit, conveniently placed for track cameras and other devices, helping prevent wires from draping across the cabin.

The seventh generation adds modern looks to its heritage-inspired design, which sets out to appeal to the broadest Mustang customer mindset yet.

Its low, horizontal brow across the front emphasizes overall frontal width, while the upper grille design shape is influenced by the original 1960s design. The Tri-Bar LED headlamps continue the Mustang’s classic lighting signature. Its sleek roofline, broad sprinting stance and shortened rear overhang are also true to the authentic proportions of the first generation, while the widened rear haunches point to the power over the wheels in true Mustang style.

The roofline is optimized for driver entry and exit without removing their helmet on the track, and an extended rear deck houses a new crisp signature tri-bar lighting and redesigned diffuser for improved aerodynamic balance in the rear.

Each model in the Mustang lineup carries its own unique front end. GT is differentiated from EcoBoost models by larger, more aggressive grille openings, engineered to allow increased airflow, reflecting the increase in power and performance. The car’s aerodynamics are optimized further with the addition of new hood vents and redesigned front splitter.

“Both the EcoBoost and Mustang GT have unique styling cues that deliver on their promise of Mustang Performance,” says Christopher Walter, design manager for Mustang. “The new Mustang is more chiseled and edgier, leaning into Mustang’s classic brawniness and timelessness.”

Mustang convertible continues its drop-top legacy offering maximum open-air freedom. A simple, one-touch activation with a single-handle center latch opens and closes the fully lined and insulated fabric roof. The compact roof design and independent rear suspension also contribute toward segment-leading trunk space that can accommodate up to two golf bags.

The all-new Mustang launches with 11 exterior color options including two new shades, Vapor Blue and Yellow Splash, complemented by new stripe colors and designs. Customers also can choose from three Brembo brake caliper color options: Black, Red and Grabber Blue, plus an all-new lineup of alloy wheels, ranging from 17-inch standard size on base models to 19-inch for GT with optional 20-inch alloy wheels.

New for the 2024 model year is the Mustang Design Series, providing further customization options straight from the factory. The Bronze Design Series Appearance Package adds Sinister Bronze alloy wheels with bronze badges, and is available on both EcoBoost and GT models, with or without the optional Performance Pack.

The all-new Mustang delivers new and advanced engine technologies.

Mustang GT is now powered by an advanced, 5.0-liter Coyote V8 engine. The fourth-generation 5.0-liter is set to deliver the most naturally aspirated horsepower of any Mustang GT thanks to an innovative dual air intake box and dual-throttle body design, that helps minimize induction loss by enabling higher air flow rates.

Ford has saved the manual transmission for a new generation and the 5.0-liter V8 continues to offer a standard six-speed manual transmission for customers who want an uncompromised connection to eight-cylinder power. Ford’s advanced 10-speed automatic transmission is available, and it almost instantaneously reconfigures its shift patterns to match the selected drive mode.

Customers who desire fuel efficiency benefits can opt for the EcoBoost model, powered by an all-new, four-cylinder turbocharged 2.3-liter powertrain.

Mustang GT with manual transmission includes standard rev-matching that helps hold engine RPM when the clutch is engaged. This retains peak torque between manual gear changes, delivering even more precision, thrill, and better refinement.

Quicker steering ratios and minimal compliance from steering wheel to tire significantly enhances the car’s cornering dynamics, with increased straight-line power.

A segment-first electronic drift brake takes new technology to the racetrack, unlocking the rear-wheel-drive drifting capability of Mustang with the visual appeal and functionality of a traditional, mechanical hand brake. The Performance Electronic Parking Brake comes standard with the Performance Pack on all Mustang models, engineered for novice drivers to learn and improve their drift skills while also providing expert drivers with a competition-ready system.

The new Mustang will come equipped with Ford Co-Pilot360 features, including Speed Sign Recognition, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane Centering Assist, Evasive Steer Assist, and Reverse Brake Assist. Another feature is Active Pothole Mitigation, included with the Performance Package, which continually monitors suspension, body, steering and braking input and adjusts suspension response accordingly.

The all-new Mustang goes on sale in the U.S. starting in the summer of 2023.