Ford Fortified The 500HP Dark Horse Coyote With GT500 Strength

Initially, Ford was coy about just how potent the Gen 4 Coyote 5.0-liter engine between the shock towers of the 2024 Mustang GT might be. Then the company teased that it would exceed 480 horsepower, making the base GT more potent than the outgoing Mach 1. That was impressive, but when they pulled back the curtain on the new Dark Horse performance model promising more than 500 ponies, enthusiasts were thrilled.

For us, 500 horsepower was non-negotiable.  Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang Chief Nameplate Engineer

Dark Horse Mustang

The 5.0-liter engine in the 2024 Mustang Dark Horse will deliver more power but isn’t that much different from the engine in its Mustang GT cousin. (Image Credit: Ford Motor Company)

“We were developing the engine on it with the capability for 500 horsepower, specifically when it made it to the active exhaust, so there was always going to be some non-active-exhaust variants below 500,” Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang Chief Nameplate Engineer, told us. “For us, 500 horsepower was non-negotiable. We had to go to extraordinary measures including driving some relatively expensive Ford Performance bits in the end to make our target that would seem to make sense at that point and we make that special to the Dark Horse.”

While there may only be a 20 horsepower or so swing between the base Coyote and the sinister Dark Horse variant, we have seen more radical engine upgrades for similar differences in the past, such as back in 2013 when the Mustang GT Coyote delivered 420 horsepower, but the Boss 302 powered by its RoadRunner cousin stepped up with 24 additional horsepower, courtesy of ported heads, a unique intake, better cams, and more.

Despite the modest increase in power for Dark Horse, achieving more than 100 horsepower per liter in naturally aspirated form is an impressive feat, but achieved with far fewer modifications than past performance variants. It will be the most potent non-boosted Mustang powerplant to date, but to pass Ford’s durability tests, engineers needed more strength. It turned out that the company’s measurement tools sensed some “bending moments” in the standard, powdered-metal rods when the engine was run at full tilt.

Dark Horse Mustang

To ensure durability beyond 500 horsepower, Ford engineers lifted the rods used in the Shelby GT500’s 5.2-liter Predator engine and tweaked them to work in this application. (Photo Credit: Steve Turner)

As you might know, these engines endure lengthy tests in the car and on the engine dyno where they are subjected to extreme temperatures and other variables. They also run for hours upon hours at various loads and throttle positions, including long stretches at wide-open throttle. Rather than going to the expense and effort of creating a new part to endure these rigors, engineers opted to go with proven hardware from the most powerful Mustang engine to date — the 5.2-liter Predator engine in the Shelby GT500.

“The engines if you go back to the current generation, and you look at performance series — Mach 1s, Bullitts, etc. — they’ll have relatively unique engine hardware specifically on the intake manifold sometimes on the headers. And they achieve differentiation in performance through unique engines,” Krenz explained. “On this program, the engines are far more common between the GT and the Dark Horse. Literally, the only difference at the end of the day is we ported over the forged connecting rods from the Predator engine.”

Both engines benefit from dual 80mm throttle bodies, steel oil pans that reduce windage, lefthand exhaust manifolds with improved flow, and camshafts with more exhaust duration to make the most of the extra plenum volume available via the Gen 4 intake manifold. (Photo Credit: Mike Levine/Ford)

The Shelby rods imbue the Dark Horse Coyote with more than enough brawn to exceed 500 horsepower. Their presence also opens the door to the tantalizing prospect of huge power with a factory engine once aftermarket boost is applied, so stay tuned…

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Steve Turner

Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge in the world of Ford performance, having covered it for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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