The 2024 Dark Horse, Steeda's Next Project Vehicle

2024 Steeda Dark Horse

Born To Gallop Past The Competition, The 2024 Dark Horse Is Steeda's Next Project

Dark Horse R

Darting into the final turn, a sinister pony lowers on its haunches and gallops past its opponents on the way to victory. That’s the idea behind the name and of the first all-new Mustang variant since Ford fired off the Bullitt back in 2001. A high-performance double entendre, the 2024 Mustang Dark Horse is both menacing and an unexpected rival.

That’s what Ford had in mind as it created a new street-going high-performance pony car that would serve as the basis for Mustang race cars across the globe, including the Mustang GT3 that looks to play spoiler at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and beyond.

Though those race cars are a different breed, the production Dark Horse is currently the fastest production S650 Mustang delivered so far. Ford considers these vehicles to meet its all-new standard, but they take over where the well-executed S550 left off. The cars share much of the same basic architecture and mounting points, but much of that hardware is tweaked for better performance based on the knowledge gained throughout the development of all the 2015-2023 Mustangs.

Picking up where the outgoing car left off, Ford engineers focused on improving the steering of the S650.

Picking up with the splined steering shaft that debuted with the outgoing Mach 1, the S650 also sheds the isolator used on S550 models, and its body structure is bolstered with a new cross-car beam. The result is sharper steering response and better feel while resisting the tram-lining that often leads staggered tire fitments like those found on the Dark Horse to follow along with imperfections in the road.

Paired with stiffer springs all around, a fatter rear sway bar, and short-sidewall tires, the Dark Horse is dialed in for sharper handling. On Dark Horses optioned with the Handling Pack, like Steeda’s new Race Red development vehicle, that retuned steering setup works with a unique MagneRide calibration designed for the car’s lower ride height, stiffer springs, and hollow 24mm front sway bar.

Both versions steer well, but the Handling Pack cars feel more playful than the base Dark Horse, despite being sharpened for track use. Though these cars are geared toward on-track performance, engineers took great care to dial in that MagneRide calibration, which keeps tabs on wheel and tire movement 1,000 times every second, to balance the performance with ride quality. Optimizing the Dark Horse calibration for ride quality required significant engineering time. That’s because it mandated a ground-up calibration that leverages a new software control strategy.

Dark Horse Wheels and Tires

That refined suspension plants 19x9.5-inch front and 19x10-inch rear wheels wrapped in 255/40R and 275/40R Pirelli P ZERO tires. However, Handling Pack cars like Steeda’s latest project wear grippy, game-changing Michelin Trofeo RS tires designed with the Dark Horse in mind using technology deployed in Formula 1 racing that allowed engineers to adjust tread-block stiffness across the contact patch. This tech allowed for a better balance between wet and dry traction along with improved treadwear. Measuring 305/30R in front and 315/30R in back, they are wrapped around 19x-10.5-inch and 19x11-inch wheels.

Lightweight carbon fiber wheels from Carbon Revolution are optional as well for those who want to shed unsprung weight, as they are 37 percent lighter than the standard aluminum Dark Horse wheels.

Behind either set of wheels are massive Brembo brakes measuring 19 inches in front and 13.9 inches in the rear. These huge rotors are clamped by six- and four-piston calipers respectively. Engineers found that they were so effective, that they saved money during development by going through fewer pads. Steeda will certainly put them to work by track-testing the Dark Horse throughout the development process.

With suspension and braking systems that benefit from years of development and iterative testing, the 2024 Mustang Dark Horse puts its ample power down to the pavement and slows down in the turns with ease. Carrying the most power from a factory 5.0-liter engine to date under the hood, the Dark Horse Coyote engine sports 12:1 compression and growls with 500 horsepower and 418 lb-ft of torque as it climbs to 7,500 rpm making beautiful music through its standard, quad-tip Active Valve Performance Exhaust system, which also benefits from a freer-flowing, re-engineered left exhaust manifold.

What might surprise you is the Dark Horse’s Gen 4 Coyote engine isn’t that much different than its 480-horsepower cousin in the Mustang GT

Both engines benefit from a dual-inlet, dual-throttle body induction system that improves efficiency to allow for more power. However, to meet Ford’s stringent durability standards for sustaining the higher sustained cylinder pressure and piston speeds seen with 500 horsepower and 7,500 rpm, the Dark Horse 5.0-liter borrows the forged rods and matching rod bearings from the 2020-2022 Shelby GT500’s heralded Predator 5.2-liter engine.

Thus the crankshaft is balanced to match and easily rev to the redline, and the camshafts are more robust.

Channeling that power, Dark Horse buyers can choose a TREMEC 3160 six-speed manual or the 10R80 10-speed automatic. The TREMEC is paired with 3.73 gears and a TORSEN limited-slip differential in the Super 8.8 rearend, while the 10R80 also utilizes a TORSEN diff but runs with 3.55 gears. The manual wears a unique, 3D-printed Titanium shift knob inspired by the oxidized color of the heated exhaust tips on a Ford GT and benefits from rev-matched downshifting that makes decelerating into the corners a breeze even for the novice. Meanwhile, the automatic transmission, particularly in Track mode, delivers impressive performance shifting that will suit all but the most advanced drivers. Engineers fortified the powertrain with an auxiliary engine oil cooler, a rear axle cooler, and a unique and lighter, more efficient radiator cooled by improved electric fans for consistent performance on-track.

Dark Horse Engine Bay

Speaking of the Track mode, the Dark Horse benefits from the same Drive modes as the Mustang GT, which include Normal, Sport, Slippery, Drag, and Track. Normal is suited for the average driver’s everyday needs. Sport ramps up the fun by tightening the suspension, sharpening pedal response, opening up the exhaust and shifting later and quicker on automatic cars, while Slippery mode dampens the throttle response and makes automatic shifts less aggressive to ensure traction when there is snow, ice, or unsure footing. Naturally, Drag mode optimizes the shifting and tunes the suspension for better weight transfer on the 1,320, while Track mode heightens the suspension damping, revs the lower gears long, downshifts more aggressively, and loosens the reins of the ABS and stability control to let drivers do the work.

Drivers choose all these modes using the 13.2-inch SYNC 4 center stack paired with a 12.4-inch digital dash.

The big screens were first seen on the S650. These screens offer many customization options. For example, there are different displays for Drive modes. Additionally, there are old-fashioned designs that resemble Fox and first-gen Mustang instrument clusters. When selecting the Drive mode, changes are shown on the 13.2-inch display that uses the Unreal Engine software common in videogaming to render a model of the vehicle and highlight the systems altered by each mode.

The Dark Horse and all other S650s with the Performance Pack have a Performance Electronic Parking Brake. This brake enables the Drift Brake, which provides three times more braking force than a regular parking brake.

This allows enthusiasts who like to dance on the edge of traction to shred tires and get slideways without any modifications needed. When you choose this mode, the powertrain, stability, and braking controls are combined. This automatically switches the car to Track Mode, giving it more power and rpm. This allows for easier drifting and changes the ABS system from four-wheel to rear-wheel only.

In addition to the large screens on the dash, which are shared across the Mustang lineup, the Dark Horse carries some signature interior styling, including Deep Indigo Blue seatbelts, Bright Indigo Blue stitching on the center console trim and lid; door panels; gear shift boot; and seats. Likewise, its thicker, flat-bottom steering wheel is covered in suede to improve driver grip.

Dark Horse Interior

Choosing the optional Appearance Package adds RECARO sport seats with Deep Indigo Blue bolsters trimmed with Bright Indigo Blue accent stitching and black Dinamica suede centers. Meanwhile, the Interior trim, bezels, and vents wear a Black Alley finish.

The beauty is more than skin deep on the Dark Horse, which wears the first forward-facing Mustang badge in the history of the Mustang. Those badges are on the fenders and trunk lid as well.

The Dark Horse also stands out thanks to its unique hood vents and front splitter. The full aero package was developed using Ford's cutting-edge wind tunnel that features a vehicle-sized treadmill that better replicates a vehicle at speed. As a result, the Dark Horse also wears unique rear diffusers and side skirts and includes brake-cooling NACA ducts. The cars optioned with the Handling Pack also benefit from a unique rear wing with a downforce-enhancing Gurney flap.

It's clear that Steeda's 2024 Mustang Dark Horse is a well-rounded performer right off the AutoNation Ford Margate lot. However, the beauty of Ford's pony cars, even the fastest factory models, is that they serve as the ultimate blank canvas for enthusiasts to improve upon and make their own.

Steeda is no different, as we will leverage our expansive experience in modifying and improving S550 and S650 stallions to take the 2024 Mustang Dark Horse to a new level. We'll be sharing what we learn while creating products that will make your Dark Horse more of a sinister rival than a sneaky underdog, so keep an eye on this space for future updates.

Looking for the next mod on your dark horse? Check out our catalog here!

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