When it comes to its most celebrated and revered name plate of all, Ford has never been slow to sweat the brand. Over years the Mustang has been available in a dizzying number of shapes, sizes, specification and variants. The previous sixth generation car alone could be bought as an EcoBoost, GT, Bullitt, Mach-1, Shelby GT350 and GT500. The one prior to that as a Boss Mustang, too.
Well now there’s another new arrival in the stable of the original pony car, freshly minted with this new, seventh gen car, which will also be the last Mustang ever built in classic, front-engine, rear drive, V8-powered configuration. It’s called the ‘Dark Horse’, and those wondering why on earth yet another name was needed when Ford already had so many to draw upon, the official line is that it wanted something that, a generation from now, people would come to idolise like those of a certain age today might drool over, say, the Mach-1 seen two-wheeling its way through James Bond’s 1971 caper Diamonds Are Forever. As for all those other Mustangs, who’s multiplicity within the range can cause even grizzled motoring journalists to scratch their heads, the good news for those seeking to understand what goes where in the seventh generation is that none of them exists, at least for now. The bad news is that the Dark Horse and how it related to the standard Mustang GT is hard enough to understand all by itself, particularly when the differences between US and European specifications are taken into account.
But it’s important that we do, so I shall put it as simply as possible. If you’re reading this in Europe you can, for starters, forget the 2.3-litre EcoBoost Mustang you may remember from the previous car: it’s not coming here. The only cars that are coming (at least to which Ford is currently owning up) and will be on sale early next year are the Mustang GT and its Dark Horse variant, both available with either a six speed manual, or 10-speed automatic transmissions. So far, so very simple.
As we shall see in the next section there is a ‘Performance Pack’ available as an option in the US, but its standard on all cars crossing the Atlantic. However the ‘Handling Pack’ that’s also available over there is not coming here at all. Which, as we shall also see, is a shame. Still with me? Excellent. So the last thing you need to know is that while all Dark Horses are a little more powerful than all GTs wherever they are sold, all Mustangs – Dark Horse or otherwise – sold in Europe are required to meet more stringent emissions legislation and are therefore significantly less powerful than those sold in the US. This means that, despite its higher specification engine, a Euro-spec Dark Horse is actually quite a lot less potent than a bog standard US-spec Mustang GT. The final final thing you need to know is that there were only US-spec cars available at the launch in Charlotte, North Carolina, so all comments below relating to performance are based on assessments of US cars. No journalist has yet driven a European specification Mustang, Dark Horse or otherwise.