Battle of the 5.0s: Is the 2024 Mustang Dark Horse Worth its $20,000 Price Premium Over the Mustang GT?
With the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro being retired after 2023, it’s like a return to the 2000s with the Mustang being the sole torchbearer for American V8 fun.
Even though it faces less outside competition than it did before, Ford hasn’t rested on its laurels with the new (or heavily revised, depending on your point of view) 2024 Mustang.
And joining the Mustang GT for 2024 is a more powerful, more track-focused—and more expensive—variant of the Mustang called the Dark Horse. It uses the same basic Coyote 5.0 V8 as the GT but packs some notable upgrades to transform it into an even more athletic machine.
But is the Dark Horse worth the extra cash over the standard-issue Mustang GT? Let’s break it down.
What is a Dark Horse?
While the Dark Horse branding might be new, the car’s position in the lineup isn’t. Similar versions of the Mustang have been offered over the last decade, slotting in between the entry GT and the flagship Shelby GT500.
Back in the early 2010s there was the S197 Boss 302, and more recently there was the S550 Mach 1, both of which used the GT’s naturally aspirated Coyote V8 but with some nice improvements and a focus on track use.
There was also the previous generation Shelby GT350, which the Dark Horse could be considered a replacement for. But the GT350 used its own unique 5.2-liter Voodoo V8 and had other more substantial changes that gave it its own personality. It was also a little more expensive than Dark Horse (inflation-adjusted).
Money-wise, when compared to the Dark Horse, the ’24 GT is substantially cheaper. It starts around $45,000 in base trim. The Dark Horse, meanwhile starts around $61,000.
And from there, figure another $5,000 on top of each MSRP to add their respective Performance or “Track Handling” Package, both highly recommended for improved fun factor and resale value down the line.
Coyote vs Coyote
Despite its more expensive price, if it’s raw horsepower and straight-line speed you are after, the Dark Horse simply isn’t going to make much sense over the regular Mustang GT.
In fact, it makes only 14 more horsepower than the GT (500 vs 486), both with the same 418 pound-feet of torque.
If you just the best acceleration and power from your new Mustang, you’d be much better off buying the GT and using the money you saved to install a supercharger kit (and other upgrades of your choice).
That doesn’t mean, however, the Dark Horse doesn’t have some worthwhile improvements. For starters, there’s the Tremec six-speed manual transmission, which is known to be stouter and better to use than the GT’s MT-82 (you can also get either version with a 10-speed automatic).
The Dark Horse also gets MagneRide dampers, a more aggressive chassis tune, wider wheels, better brakes, and many other tweaks designed to make it a track day hero.
If you don’t have track day aspirations you probably won’t use much of that extra hardware. And even if you do plan on track days, a regular 2024 GT is no slouch, and like the last Mustang GT, can be easily improved with aftermarket parts.
So yes, the regular GT is probably the better choice for drag racers, value-conscious buyers, and those who like modifying their cars themselves. So who, then, is the Dark Horse for?
It’s for the enthusiast who wants a Mustang that is capable at the track right off the showroom floor and can handle serious abuse without any need for aftermarket upgrades.
The Dark Horse is also going to be more exotic than a GT, even if it’s built from similar parts. And like the aforementioned Boss 302s and Mach 1s, it should hold its value well. If it fits your budget, it’s an exciting, extremely capable car that’s quite different from anything else on sale right now.
Strike Now or Wait?
Now if there’s one thing that would make potential Dark Horse buyers wait, it’s that the Dark Horse probably won’t be at the top of the Mustang lineup for long.
Yes, there’s the exotic, $300,000 Mustang GTD that Ford is building, but the car that more buyers are waiting for is the next version of the Shelby GT500.
No one’s sure what exactly the next GT500 will bring, but it will surely be supercharged and at least as powerful as the outgoing version, with over 700 horsepower on tap.
The GT500 will of course be more expensive than the Dark Horse, likely by $10,000 or $20,000, but it will also be a much more powerful, faster car.
And when the new GT500 does come, the Dark Horse will be situated more as the lower-powered, handling-focused car than it was meant to be. And we see nothing wrong with that at all.
In a landscape where Dodge and Chevy are no longer selling V8 muscle cars, the more versions of the Mustang one can choose from, the better.
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