"All this horsepower and no room to gallop!" Jim Carrey exclaims in the 2003 film Bruce Almighty when he encounters traffic in his Saleen S7. That's exactly how we felt as we sat shotgun in the new 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse, crawling forward along New York City's West Side Highway. The Stang's naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 purred, begging to be let loose. But while Carrey's character uses his God-given powers to part the traffic like Moses with the Red Sea and tear off in a cacophony of engine noise, we had to patiently wait for a clearing in the swarm of slow-moving vehicles.
When the traffic thinned out, we got a brief taste of the vigorous performance the Dark Horse promises. The Coyote V-8 pumps out 500 horsepower, and when the light turned green, the Dark Horse shot forward with authority, the engine roaring as we merged onto the elevated highway, quickly reaching extra-legal speeds. The Dark Horse was barely breaking a sweat, its performance potential easily exceeding the confines of our environment.
The 5.0-liter engine's 418 pound-feet of torque is sent to the rear wheels through either a standard Tremec six-speed manual or an optional 10-speed automatic transmission. Our car had the manual, and we noticed the rev-match feature working as the driver worked the rounded blue titanium shift knob.
Sitting shotgun was fun, but we really can't wait to get behind the wheel. This performance-focused model acts a middle ground between the outgoing Mach 1 and Shelby variants, so the ride was predictably stiff. You feel every bump inside the cabin, but the MagneRide adaptive dampers did a commendable job of rounding out the impacts, preventing the jolts from feeling too harsh. The damper settings are tied into the drive modes and cannot be individually adjusted, so it's best to leave the Mustang in the "normal" setting for daily driving—although most Dark Horse models will probably be weekend rides or track toys anyway.
As we merged back into traffic, we had some time to explore the 2024 Mustang's 12.4-inch digital gauge cluster and 13.2-inch touchscreen. The gauge cluster can be customized with several layouts, including one that mimics the instruments on the 1987–1993 Fox-body Mustang. A button with the Mustang logo loads what our driver called the "fun" screen—where the drive modes and other performance settings can be adjusted. The infotainment system's visuals are powered by the latest iteration of Epic Games' Unreal Engine, and the video-game inspiration is clear, with flashy graphics highlighting different sections of the car depending on what's being changed.
The exhaust has several options—Quiet mode is tame, allowing for a subdued startup and stealthy exit from the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning. But put it into Sport mode, and the Coyote V-8 snarls and shouts. A track-specific setting makes the exhaust note even fiercer.
The Dark Horse we rode in was a pre-production unit, but with the exception of some poorly-fitted plastics on the door, the cabin felt upscale thanks to an extensive use of suede. We also found the heavily bolstered Recaro seats comfortable. The titanium shift knob is 3D-printed and features a lattice core—the reduced mass means it will return to cabin temperature far quicker instead of staying ice cold or scalding hot like many metal shifters.
The Dark Horse starts at $59,565, so a high-quality cabin will be important for convincing customers to spend that much coin. But we're sure the Mustang's performance will be the main draw, and if this quick taste was any indication, the Dark Horse may deliver. We look forward to finding out for real in the near future.
Caleb Miller began blogging about cars at 13 years old, and he realized his dream of writing for a car magazine after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and joining the Car and Driver team. He loves quirky and obscure autos, aiming to one day own something bizarre like a Nissan S-Cargo, and is an avid motorsports fan.