Modern vehicle development puts a great emphasis on improving efficiency because it can improve fuel economy. However, honing aerodynamics can also improve performance. That’s just what Ford did while developing the 2024 Mustang on its Rolling Road Wind Tunnel.
The aerodynamics of Mustang Dark Horse, along with several other factors, have created the most track- and street-capable 5.0-liter Mustang to date. Jonathan Gesek, Ford
This high-tech tunnel can simulate real-world conditions that the car will see on the street and the race track. This allows engineers to balance how efficiently it slips through the air with how much downforce is generated to help it plant the power at speed.
“We spent approximately 250 hours in the wind tunnel developing the 2024 Ford Mustang which includes Dark Horse,” says Program Aerodynamicist for Mustang and Bronco, Jonathan Gesek. “The aerodynamics of Mustang Dark Horse, along with several other factors, have created the most track- and street-capable 5.0-liter Mustang to date.”
Dark Horse, in particular, benefitted from this development, as its front end is not only sleek but optimized to deliver sufficient airflow for engine and brake cooling along with engine induction, by which the dual inlet intake is fed by two grille openings. Out back a Gurney flap on the rear wing improves downforce, which is further enhanced by three vertical plates, or strakes, under the car near the wheel opening as well as the unique lower air spoiler and splitter. Adding the Handling Package option further improves aerodynamic performance thanks to the addition of a unique splitter and spoiler.
“The closer we can get to reality in the lab, the better and faster we can create more energy-efficient vehicles with great on-road and track stability,” says John Toth, North America Wind Tunnels Engineering Supervisor. “Testing while the wheels and tires move is instrumental to improving aerodynamics for track-ready vehicles, like Mustang Dark Horse which has to balance both aerodynamic drags and downforce.”
By closely replicating real-world conditions in the Rolling Road Wind Tunnel, engineers can more quickly tweak what designers draw to reduce drag and improve downforce. The RRWT utilizes a five-belt rolling road system that replicates real-world drag in the rolling-road tunnel, and the system can switch to a single-belt system for high-speed testing up to 200 mph. Paired with a massive airflow generated by the tunnel, the testing is incredibly accurate.
“The amount of air moved by our wind tunnel is enough to fill a K-Class blimp in just over 5 seconds,” says Toth.
With that sort of effort put into developing the seventh-generation Mustangs, particularly the new Dark Horse, we can’t wait to see what these cars feel like at speed in the real world.