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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A blue and black 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse is shown parked near a Ford dealer.

Ford Performance Unleashes Bold Power

Many vehicles exist simply to get people from Point A to Point B, while others are designed to help us get some serious work done, delivering reliable power with plenty of muscle for towing. There also exists a particular subsect of vehicles for purely the joy of driving, offering bold performance and sleek handling that makes every chance to get behind the wheel an absolute pleasure.

Few car companies out there understand and appreciate this as well as Ford does—particularly the Ford Performance team, which makes some of the most exhilarating vehicles to ever grace the road—so I thought it would be fun to have a look at some of the most exciting models you can find at your local Ford dealer and get a sense of what they have to offer.

These are far from the most practical cars, trucks, and SUVs out there, but they deliver a driving experience that grabs you by the chest and never lets you go. If you’re interested in a vehicle that’ll push the envelope, these are the Fords worth getting to know…

The Mustang Dark Horse (2024)

How could I start with anything but a Ford Mustang? Of course, I’m not going to talk about any old Mustang (don’t get me wrong, any Mustang is a good one); we’re talking about the pinnacle of speed and power. For the 2024 model year, that’s the Mustang Dark Horse—an absolute monster that delivers amazing performance and is the inspiration for the latest Mustang race cars you’ll see on the track this year.

The Dark Horse is powered by a 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 engine that delivers a heart-pounding 500 hp and 418 lb-ft of torque, paired with a TREMEC six-speed manual transmission (though a ten-speed SelectShift automatic is available). With big Brembo brakes and a TORSEN limited-slip rear axle, the Dark Horse leads the herd of performance Mustangs.

The Mustang Mach 1 (2023)

The Dark Horse is amazing, but let’s not forget about last year’s option for peak performance: the Ford Mustang Mach 1 (not to be confused with the all-electric Mustang Mach-e). This beauty is powered by a 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 engine as well, but it delivers 450 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

Let’s not pretend 450 hp in a sports car like this is something to balk at; I just wanted to point out that you can see Ford has pulled out all the stops to improve on the Mach 1 with this year’s Dark Horse. Beyond the improved tuning of the engine, the Mach 1 has a lot of features similar to the Dark Horse, such as a TREMEC six-speed manual transmission, Brembo brakes, and more.

A blue and white 2022 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is shown parked in a dark room.

The Mustang Shelby GT500 (2022)

Going back another year, we get the previous reigning champ in the Mustang lineup, the Shelby GT500. This absolute speed-fiend was only around for three years in its most recent incarnation, but the Shelby GT500 nameplate has been no stranger to Mustang fans over the years.

The recent 2022 Shelby is on another level, however, as it features a 5.2L supercharged V8 engine that roars to life with 760 hp and 625 lb-ft of torque. Paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, this is the most powerful Mustang ever made—and it’s also the most powerful street-legal car that Ford has ever produced. 2022 was the 55th anniversary of the original Shelby GT500, and we hopefully won’t have to wait another half-century for something on this level.

The F-150 Raptor (2024)

Moving on from Mustang, we get to a pair of powerful Ford trucks designed to take off-road performance to another level. The standard Ford F-150 has been America’s favorite truck for over forty years, and the Raptor is the ultimate expression of its off-road performance.

Powered by a 3.5L EcoBoost High-Output V6 engine that delivers 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, the F-150 Raptor also features a five-link rear suspension with extra long trailing arms and 24-inch coil springs, plus next-generation FOX Live Valve internal bypass shocks to take performance on the trail to the extreme. For anyone looking for boldness on the road less traveled, the Raptor is hard to beat—and yet…

The F-150 Raptor R (2024)

If anything can beat the standard F-150 Raptor, it’s the F-150 Raptor R, which combines incredible off-road capability with race-track performance that you have to feel to fully appreciate. Designed to go head-to-head with the remarkable Ram 1500 TRX, the F-150 Raptor R features a 5.2L Supercharged V8 engine that puts out 700 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, creating the most powerful F-150 Raptor ever built.

This truck wears 37-inch all-terrain tires with massive treads for dominating the trail, plus it features the remarkable FOX live valve shocks that we’ve come to expect on the Ford Raptor. I never envisioned this kind of power packed into an ostensibly off-road truck, but here we are.

The Bronco Raptor (2024)

Ford’s latest leader in the off-road market is the re-imagined and re-released Bronco, which has proven incredibly popular and won over tons of fans. Taking capability and performance further than ever before, Ford has introduced a Bronco Raptor that features a 3.0L EcoBoost V6 engine tuned by the Ford Performance team to deliver 418 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque.

One of the most impressive features of the Bronco is its High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (HOSS) system; the Bronco Raptor features a HOSS 4.0 system that monitors terrain conditions hundreds of times each second and adjusts traction and performance as needed. With 13 inches of front wheel travel and 14 inches of rear wheel travel, plus 37-inch all-terrain tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, the Bronco Raptor is ready to go anywhere and tackle any challenge.

A silver 2024 Ford Edge ST is shown driving on a city street.

The Edge ST (2024)

From the outside, the Ford Edge is not something I would expect to deliver any kind of exhilarating performance; it’s a good midsize SUV, but it’s definitely more of a daily driver than a performance machine—that is, however, unless you choose the ST trim, which has been designed in partnership with the Ford Performance team.

The Ford Edge ST features a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 engine that puts out 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque with intelligent all-wheel drive as standard. This might not compete with something like the Mustang Dark Horse, but it’s an impressive piece of machinery that delivers surprising excitement.

The Explorer ST (2024)

Similarly, the ST trim for the Ford Explorer elevates this popular three-row SUV to another level of driving fun. The Explorer ST features a 3.0L EcoBoost V6 engine that delivers 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque; that’s fantastic tuning when you compare its power output to its size.

Ford Performance has given the Explorer ST a thorough going-over, and the results are a powerful three-row SUV that’s the perfect option for someone who needs to be able to get the kids to school but wants to beat every other SUV off the line at red lights.

What Will Ford Performance Cook Up Next?

From expected powerhouses like specialized track-ready Mustangs to off-road beasts like the Raptors, it’s clear that Ford is ready to serve up pretty much anything their performance hounds are hungry for—and, honestly, I love it.

The only question is what the future for Ford Performance will look like, particularly since just about every car company out there is pushing for all-electric lineups in the next few years. Electric models have already shown they can deliver a pulse-pounding driving experience, and I can’t wait to see what Ford’s team can do with instant torque.

Plus, at the rate Tesla is going—and considering how the F-150 Lightning beat the Cybertruck to market—we could easily see an all-electric, race-track-ready Ford Mustang long before an updated Roadster hits the scene.

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