I raced the Ford Mustang Dark Horse 2024 and this car is seriously fast

Ford Mustang Dark Horse 2024
(Image credit: Future)

I grew up with dreams of driving a racecar, as any child does. Watching NASCAR on Sundays was (and is) sacred in my household, yet I never actually got to live out my racing fantasies — well, outside Mario Kart of course. 

So you can imagine my excitement upon receiving an invitation to test-drive the Ford Mustang Dark Horse 2024 with Ford Performance Racing School based at North Carolina’s Charlotte Motor Speedway. While I wasn’t going to zip around the same track that hosts the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race, the infectious NASCAR energy was certainly with me as I got fitted for a helmet and briefed on the course.

My mission? Out-race one of the automatic Dark Horse cars in the racing school’s modernized fleet against other participants. In case I need to clarify, the racing takes place under professional supervision in a private parking lot littered with cones. Said cones outline a series of slaloms, big bends and straightaways meant to demonstrate what a racing-grade car can manage.

After a demo lap with a racing instructor, I was left to push the Dark Horse’s 5L V8 engine with 500 horsepower and 418 pounds of torque to the limits. Each participant runs the course one at a time, with motion-sensing timers at the start and finish lines. We were allotted 3 practice laps ahead of our final timed lap, which would award the fastest driver with a plastic trophy and priceless bragging rights.


♬ original sound - Tom’s Guide

New to this style of driving, I definitely needed the practice runs to feel out how to complete the course with an ultra-powerful car. This meant conceding more confidence in the Dark Horse with every curve and turn. As I learned, the four-wheel vented Brembro brake system is designed for precision handling, though looking ahead to your next move is a must to navigate efficiently. I also came to appreciate the MagneRide suspension system for making the ride feel as smooth as It possibly can when rapidly accelerating and decelerating at racing speeds. 

As I grew more comfortable with the car, my practice laps picked up pace. Ready for my final lap, I double-checked that the exhaust’s full track mode was enabled, ensuring the car would roar as loud as possible. I floored it, going 0-60 in less than 5 seconds before slowing slightly for the first slalom. I pushed into a U-shaped turn, careful to stay tight as I headed into a snaking stretch with thrilling drifts. I came up to the last straight away and gave the gas pedal everything I had, flying through the finish line before coming to a dead halt in the stop box. 

41.6 seconds — not too shabby considering the professional Ford Performance Racing School coach completed the course in just over 38 seconds. But unfortunately, my driving wasn’t quite fast enough. Another participant beat me by less than 1.5 seconds, taking home the cup. At least the lingering adrenaline prevented my spirit from being wholly crushed. 

Now, I have no reason to buy a Ford Mustang Dark Horse 2024. Though it starts at around $58,000, all the add-ons can push the price to over $78,000. The handling package that’s a must for the full experience is a $4,500 premium alone. That said, the Dark Horse is tailor-made just as well for those who dabble in racing or are as enticed by a speedy, sinister-looking car that lets you live out your NASCAR dreams. Who knows? After my test drive, I might be considering a career change myself. 

More from Tom's Guide

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.