The Boss is back – and it is bad***.
The 2012 Mustang Boss 302 is the most fun I have had in a pony car since, well, ever. I even like this new Ford more than my cherished ’69 Camaro with the solid lifter crate motor.
Ford has brought its heritage forward four score as they re-release the Boss 302 on the newest Mustang platform.
Originally released in 1969, the Boss 302 was the first of three Boss factory performance models and was intended to help Ford compete in SCCA racing.
Fast forward to 2011 and the new Boss lives up to every bit of its legacy – and then some. True, I never drove an original but after spending a week behind the wheel of the 2012 I really don’t care to experience the classic version (except perhaps to have it in a collection).
As much as I appreciated Ford’s improvements for the newest Mustang platform, the Boss 302 is even that much better. The 5.0 in the GT with a six-speed manual gearbox was my pick of the litter of new factory fun cars so with the power and handling improvements made in the Boss it puts the Mustang over the top.
The 2012 Boss 302 is still a daily driver but can be taken straight to a track and hold its own quite well, thank you very much. And once owners participate in a Ford track program they receive a coveted red set of “TracKeys” that unlock even more of a beast hidden within, enhancing response and handling characteristics.
If all this were not enough, Ford is building an even more exclusive Laguna Seca version of the new Boss 302 to honor the racing heritage of this great car.
The powerplant of the new Boss is a 5.0-liter V-8 but power has been boosted to 444 ponies and 380 lb. ft. of torque. All Boss 302 models come with a slick close-ratio six-speed manual transmission connected to a limited-slip rear differential with 3.73 rear axle ratio. A race-inspired clutch with upgraded friction materials mated to a short-throw shifter will have just about any driver falling in love with a manual gearbox.
And then there is the sweet, sweet music the engine produces. I don’t think I turned the car stereo on once while I was driving the Boss. Instead I preferred to roll the windows down and let the car entertain my senses.
“With an exhaust system, we have to consider three constraints: legal noise restrictions; backpressure, which can rob power; and ground clearance,” explains Shawn Carney, Mustang NVH engineer. “Since the 2011 Mustang GT exhaust is already so free-flowing – it came in way under our backpressure targets – we already had excellent performance; we were able to tune the exhaust system for a unique sound. Combined with the rush of the intake, the exhaust system really envelops the driver in V-8 sound.”
Unique to the Boss Mustang is the ability for owners to tune their own shock damping based on their driving needs. One is most comfortable while five would be your choice at the track. The Boss gets other suspension and handling enhancements over the GT Mustang with higher-rate coil springs, stiffer bushings, beefier rear stabilizer bar and the Boss 302 sits 11mm lower in the front and 1mm lower at the rear.
And of course there are Boss 302-specific lightweight 19-inch alloy racing wheels with staggered widths front to rear and they sport Pirelli PZero performance rubber.
Braking is world-class thanks to Brembo four-piston calipers on the large 14-inch vented rotors up front and beefier GT gear at the rear and Ford engineers even give the ABS system unique performance tuning.
Inside the neo-classically designed Mustang are a set of Boss 302 Recaro sport buckets that are very supportive while not giving up much on the comfort. Ingress and egress is a bit tighter but that is how things should be given the Boss heritage.
Boss 302 cars get unique front fascia and grille styling with the addition of an aggressive lower splitter and a trunklid spoiler. Finishing the look is the unique Boss 302 body striping on the contrast paint schemes.
What always amazes me is folks asking about fuel economy on performance vehicles I test. Really? OK, to satisfy those requests the 2012 Boss 302 is rated for 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Happy? (And yes, as a matter of fact, my results DID vary.)
Pricing rolls in at around 42 grand for a 2012 Boss 302 so you are paying for the performance but if you are an old gearhead like me the experience will be worth every single penny.