While the Ford Mustang brand is inimitable, there’s actually an impressive range of diversity in the current Mustang lineup. The 2024 Ford Mustang, for example, is offered with a responsible 2.3L EcoBoost engine, or an engine that’s touted as the brand’s “most powerful 5.0L Coyote V8 ever.”
Granted, we expect a certain number of differences between model years. There’s a reason we can tell the difference between a 1964½ and a 1994 Ford Mustang. Tastes change, technology improves, engineering capabilities are challenged and expanded, and new safety features are debuted year after year.
But Ford does things a little differently with the Mustang. Sure, there are generational updates, but each generation is a slightly different vehicle altogether. It’s still a sleek, sporty pony car at heart, but each year Ford does a little something to offset each model year as a different, yet still as collectible and enduring, as its predecessors. Let’s take a look at the 2024 Ford Mustang lineup in contrast with the ponies in its lineage.
Hype and Excitement for the All-New, Seventh-Generation Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang made its world debut in 1964, which makes 2024 a very exciting year for the brand as it kicks off the seventh generation with an all-new model. From its assertive yet aerodynamic appearance to the powerful engines, Ford notes that each aspect of the 2024 model is inspired by “a completely reimagined driving experience.”
What exactly does that mean? Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang chief nameplate engineer explains, “Whether driving an automatic or manual transmission, thanks to drive modes combined with fine-tuned digital engine, suspension and steering controls, we’re now able to give drivers peak performance everywhere, from their favorite roads to their local track.” As he qualifies it, “This is the most athletic and confidence-inspiring Mustang EcoBoost and GT to drive yet.”
The drive modes he mentions are Normal, Sport, Slippery, Drag, and Track, as well as a customizable setting for a total of six individual profiles. The EcoBoost and GT he mentions are the two major trim types, based on the engine. Altogether, there are seven trims: EcoBoost Fastback, EcoBoost Premium Fastback, EcoBoost Premium Convertible, GT Fastback, GT Premium Fastback, GT Premium Convertible, and Dark Horse Fastback.
The term “EcoBoost” doesn’t sound particularly powerful, especially given its previous association with models like the Ford Escape and Fiesta. They’re great cars, but they aren’t exactly worthy of “pony car” status. Not to worry–the 2.3L EcoBoost engine that propels the 2024 Mustang is good for 315 horsepower. That’s significantly more vigorous than most factory Escapes or Fiestas. Even the legendary Fox Body Mustang GT 5.0 of the 1980s barely broke 200 horsepower, depending on the year.
The Dark Horse and The Coyote
The so-called “star of the show” for 2024 is the 5.0L Coyote V8 engine, which takes its place in the GT and Dark Horse models. In the GT, it provides an exuberant 480 horsepower. The updated DOHC naturally aspirated version that lives in the Dark Horse models takes that up to 500 horsepower. Also of note that the 5.0L engine comes paired to a standard six-speed manual transmission. The 10-speed automatic is an option for those who are clutch-adverse.
The Coyote is a familiar engine to long-time Mustang enthusiasts. First introduced in 2011, it has come a long way since its first iteration, which provided an already generous 420 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. Careful retuning and engineering has brought it through three previous generations to today’s blazingly fast 500-horsepower model.
There are some critics who say that the Coyote isn’t anything to get excited about. It’s old news. As a matter of fact, this very engine powers the 2023 Ford Mustang Mach 1 and Mach 1 Premium. However, at that stage in its life, the thrills maxed out at 450 horsepower. Most drivers who have experienced these levels of behind-the-wheel performance will confirm that there’s a difference between 450 and 500 horsepower. And given that these vehicles also come with performance transmissions, track-tuned axles, and race-performance exhaust systems, it’s clear that the Dark Horse and Mach 1 are meant to explore the top end of their power range, frequently.
Mach 1, Shelby, Dark Horses, and More
What about the Mustang Shelby GT500? That particular Mustang offered a life-changing 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque in its 2022 model year, so how can we even pretend that the 2024 Dark Horse even stacks up to it?
We can’t. We also can’t exclude the fact that the 2022 Mustang Shelby also came equipped with a supercharged 5.2L V8 engine that went by the charming nickname “Predator.” Unlike Ford’s other 5.2L V8 engine known as “Voodoo,” Predator lacks a flat plane crankshaft, allowing the natural power bumps to do the work instead. Predator is also exclusively a Shelby GT500 engine. The Coyote, on the other hand, can be found in the Mustang GT trims, the Mach 1 editions, and the 2024 Dark Horse.
But these special trims are much more than a super-powered engine. Long-time Mustang enthusiasts know that the Mach 1 and Shelby GT500 trims come with special features in every possible aspect: interior, exterior, performance, and appearance. From sport seats sculpted to help drivers absorb the massive Gs that come from putting a Mustang through its paces, to MagnaRide damping technology, these models are distinct from the EcoBoosts and GTs that stampede the streets.
The 2024 Mustang Dark Horse stands out with titanium, Indigo Blue accents, and performance suede touch surfaces. Dressed in a brand new color known as Blue Ember metallic paint, its appearance changes and shifts with changes in light and motion, reminiscent of the SN95 Mustang Cobra’s rare “Mystichrome” paint that did the same. The overall aesthetic is athletic, stealthy, and assertive.
Today and Yesterday: Mustang Style
Each generation, style, and even year of the Mustang has its own devoted throngs of enthusiasts. That means that Ford has managed to design and engineer a vehicle that a widely diverse number of people can enjoy, collect, and appreciate. Some are devotees to the classically-styled early Mustang, while others like the cubist approach of the third generation.
None of these fans are wrong. Whether you’re drawn to the metallic visage and newly improved horsepower of the 2024 Dark Horse, the dark aluminum and ebony racing stripe of the Mach 1, or the carbon fiber and performance leather looks of the Shelby GT500 versions from earlier years, you’re not alone in your preferences.
Is the Dark Horse version of the Coyote engine the most powerful in a Mustang today? Yes. Is it the most powerful Mustang engine ever? No. Is the 2024 Ford Mustang still a very exciting car that is coveted by drivers around the world? Absolutely. Part of the reason why everybody loves Mustangs is because there is a Mustang for everybody. You don’t have to love this year’s special edition, or ever slip behind the wheel of a model more powerful than the earliest EcoBoost. The Mustang was created for the driving experience, and in its wisdom, Ford acknowledges that is different for each individual.