Vital Stats

Engine:
5.0L V8
Power:
444 HP / 380 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
4.4 Seconds
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,483 LBS
Seating:
2+2
Cargo:
13.4 CU-FT
MPG:
17 City / 26 HWY
The Pony Car's Best Ambassador



Despite extolling their many carnal virtues for years, we know that there's still a sizable group of enthusiasts who have never managed to wrap their heads around the idea of owning a pony car. We've heard all the excuses before, from complaints about refinement, Jurassic underpinnings and muscle-straining inputs to shopworn stereotypes about the people who drive them. Thing is, if we're being honest, many of these same notions have troubled us as well – even those of us who have triumphed over our prejudices and actually bought one of the things.

Well, boys and girls, Ford finally has a four-wheeled answer for the naysayers and skeptics: The Mustang Boss 302. Just as bacon is the gateway meat for wayward vegetarians, the orange crush seen here is the four-wheeled, applewood-smoked come-on for pony car doubters. Better still, unlike that tasty bit of swine dining, it's nearly guilt-free.

The 2012 Boss 302 may carry the namesake of Ford's legendary 1969 competition car, and it might work a treat on racetracks, but Ford has made sure it's an honest-to-Detroit everyday proposition, not just a weekend warrior for waxing overconfident BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG preeners.
2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 side view2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 front view2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 rear view

There was never going to be a problem with power. The 412-horsepower 5.0-liter engine in the Mustang GT is a corker on its own, but Ford has gone to a lot of trouble to extract 444 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque for this car. They could've simply bolted on a blower and called it a day, but in order to maximize reliability and stay true to the legacy of the original Boss, natural aspiration was called for. To that end, the 5.0-liter has been treated to CNC-machined aluminum heads, special pistons and sinter-forged con rods, sodium-filled exhaust valves and an uprated crankshaft. Other key changes include a 3.73 final drive ratio, reworked 1.0g-approved oil pan, a composite short-run intake and a unique quad-outlet exhaust system.

The Boss offers one of the best soundtracks we've ever heard on a mass-production car.

It's those last two bits that will have you seriously considering sending fawning holiday cards to Dearborn before you even leave the driveway. Without them, you wouldn't have the glorious aural feedback that accompanies the Boss' sky-high 7,500-rpm redline runs. Most pony cars make their power in the low and lumpy realm of the revband. That's long been part of their charm, but it's also been something of a turnoff for highbrow European buyers who like their V8s to be quick-revving screamers. The Boss 302 satisfies both sets of tough customers.

There's plenty of torque down low, but it's the aforementioned trick exhaust setup that adds the wow factor. By employing two conventional rear outlets and a smaller pair of all-but-hidden pipes that exit from the crossover and dump in front of the rear wheels, sidepipe-style through a pair of disc-shaped resonators, the Boss offers one of the best soundtracks we've ever heard on a mass-production car. The system delivers both racecar yowls and workable everyday refinement depending on whether the driver is wearing his Jeckyl or Hyde cap. We've seen dual-mode systems like this before, on the Chevrolet Corvette, for example, but the General Motors system transitions poorly, going from muted to cacophonous in a non-linear, on-off manner. The Boss system is far more organic – you never get the sense that a computer is moderating your car's soundtrack... because it isn't.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 engine

Speaking of organic, the Boss' suspension system isn't a rat's nest of gee-whizzery, either. You won't find any iron-filing-filled magnetic dampers or active anything. Heck, you won't even find an independent rear suspension. What you will find are manually adjustable shocks and struts, along with a lower ride height (11 mm up front and 1 mm out back compared to the GT) and a fatter rear sway bar. The shocks offer five settings, and if you want to tweak them, there's no knob on the dashboard, you'll need a screwdriver. Don't worry – any excuse to open your toolbox is good for your newfound muscle car credibility.

You won't find any iron-filing-filled magnetic dampers or active anything.

The Boss arrives on level two of five from the factory, and it's an excellent setup for the street, one that's compliant enough to deal with potholes without turning into a lugubrious mess in the twisties. It's amazingly well tuned – you still know there's a live axle out back when you encounter a mid-corner bump, but the experience isn't unnerving or seemingly even unanticipated – it's just dispatched with a minimum of drama, to the point where the sensation is almost part of the fun, not behavior you need to make excuses for.

When it comes time to slow down this 3,632-pound party, the Boss' 14-inch four-piston Brembo front brakes are happy to soak up the abuse, so much so that all that's called for out back are a set of high-performance pads. More rigid brake lines ensure that modulation is easy and direct, and we noticed no untoward noises when the brakes were cold.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 adjustable suspension2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 wheel detail

If there's an area where the Boss offers a concessionary handshake to those looking for more electronic intervention, it's the steering. Connected to the meaty Alcantara-covered three-spoker is a speed-sensitive electric power assisted setup with a trio of settings to alter weighting: Comfort, Normal and Sport, selectable through a switch near the headlight controls on the dash. We selected Sport most of the time. It's not a Nautilus-level workout and the added heft is in keeping with the rest of the experience. Normal is just fine, too, and even Comfort isn't off-puttingly fingertip light. Even if the multiple-setting thing is a shade gimmicky, it works well because the staggered 19-inch Pirelli P-Zeros proffer a surprising amount of feedback for an EPAS arrangement.

Like the less powerful GT, the Boss' clutch is a model of progression, and you don't need Vin Diesel calves to actuate its carbon fiber plates. For a muscle car with so much racetrack potential, the Boss is surprisingly easy to drive – the short-throw six-speed manual gearbox finds cogs faithfully and doesn't mind being rushed, and the limited-slip 3.73 rear axle puts the V8's power to the ground with a minimum of drama. It's far easier to drive than the more powerful yet cruder Shelby GT500, particularly with our tester's optional Torsen limited-slip differential (part of a $1,995 options pack that includes Recaro seats). Of course, if it's drama you want, you can have it, from smoky burnouts to predictable, laugh out loud tail-wagging antics in any corner, thanks to the healthy leash provided by the Boss-specific stability and traction control systems.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 headlight2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 grille2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 graphics2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 taillights

If there's a single area that will give European buyers real pause, it's the cabin. While the aforementioned Recaros are grippy yet surprisingly cushy and the main controls (wheel, pedals and shifter) offer no cause for complaint, the rest of the interior is standard-issue Mustang, which is to say that it's the best of an uninspiring class of vehicles. The rumormill suggests that Ford will grace the Boss with SYNC connectivity for 2013 – a welcome upgrade – but this is clearly a humdrum interior that's not really even up to the levels of Ford's newer subcompact and compact offerings, let alone its more continental rivals.

Even without our car's Competition Orange paint, the Boss 302 aesthetic is clearly not for shrinking violets. The standard Mustang GT is aggressive enough, but the Boss brings with it an all-business front splitter and a pair of blocked-off fog lamp openings. There's even a Boss-specific rear spoiler out back to manage drag. The blacked-out roof and hood bulge adds a touch of menace, tying in with the coupe's look-at-me boomerang striping along the bodysides. We could do with a different pattern than the polished-lip wagon wheel alloys, but that's what the aftermarket is for.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 interior2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 seats2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 steering wheel2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 shifter

Speaking of the aftermarket, it's a time-honored tradition to seek out high-performance tidbits from non-OEM parts bins to better one's chances at the racetrack, but Ford is clearly keen on keeping some of that action for itself. The standard Boss 302 is a fine piece for weekend circuit work, but if it's still not enough, Dearborn will be happy to outfit you with a Laguna Seca edition instead. For a few more shekels, Ford will fit your Boss with R-compound tires, a different front splitter, brake ducts and a larger rear spoiler. More substantive changes take place inside, where Ford rips out the rear seat and installs an x-brace stiffener, along with substituting firmer springs, shock absorbers and a larger rear anti-roll bar. Officials say these changes should be good for a second or two a lap compared to the base Boss, but we're guessing that if you plan on using your car a lot on the street, it's the standard model you want.

Ford has also thrown in a launch control system derived from the one on the Cobra Jet drag car.

Whether you select the regular Boss or plump for the Laguna Seca, the Blue Oval still has your on-track performance in mind. Ford's optional TracKey is a novel way to set up your car for circuit use. Basically, it's a red key that optimizes the drivetrain for racing ("TracMode"). Something like the secondary key on a Bugatti Veyron that liberates the supercar's top speed mode (albeit without the seven-figure price tag), TracKey alters over 200 engine computer functions, including things like spark mapping, variable cam timing, engine braking and fuel delivery. The result? Improved low-end torque and a suitably lumpy idle. Ford has also thrown in a launch control system derived from the one on the Cobra Jet drag car, a nice addition.

While this feature was announced at launch, Boss owners were been unable to secure their TracKeys until recently, as the technology was caught out by the hand-wringers at the California Air Resources Board who dragged their heels on the now-completed certification process. Not surprisingly, then, the magic red key was not provided for our week-long over-the-road testing. As it is, Ford will not allow Boss 302 drivers to purchase a TracKey until their vehicle is paid and the title is in hand.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 rear 3/4 view

The Boss' rarity should appeal to image-driven consumers as well – just 4,000 models will be built this year – 3,250 standard models and 750 Laguna Seca editions. Pricing is a fair shake for this sort of exclusivity, as well. A standard Boss starts at $40,310 (plus $795 destination), while the Laguna Seca commands an extra $6,995. For the base car, that's more than eight grand cheaper than the GT500 for a more tractable and well-rounded car. The capper? With city/highway EPA fuel economy figures of 17/26, the miles per gallon figures are the same as normal GT.

Of course, the hard truth is that even if the Boss 302's visuals were tempered, Ford dealers still probably wouldn't see a lot of cross-shopping from buyers of premium European and Japanese performance iron – the decades-old perception gap just runs too deep. Still, open-minded enthusiasts who give the Boss a chance will like what they find – it's more than good enough to stand fender-to-fender with the globe's finest big-engined coupes. We reckon the best chance that Ford has of winning uppercrust converts is a good old-fashioned game of put-up-or-shut-up. After all, getting shown up at their local track day by a box-stock pony car is bound to make a few believers.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 92 Comments
      Scarboy6693
      • 3 Years Ago
      Now this is the Mustang for Real Drivers. I don't care that the GT500 is more powerful, this is better IMO. Now if only I could afford it..
        ryanandrewmartin
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Scarboy6693
        Absolute agree. The GT500 may be the top-of-the-line but it certainly is NOT the more driver-focused of the Mustang line.
          Krishan Mistry
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ryanandrewmartin
          The GT500 might be faster, but you will enjoy yourself more of the time in the Boss.
      johnb
      • 3 Years Ago
      Open-Minded people would be smart to cross-shop this and it's "Competitors" in it's price range, and even a few price ranges above it. The BOSS 302 is amazing! Love this car.
        Jim
        • 3 Years Ago
        @johnb
        this isn't the type of car which is typically cross-shopped.
          Krishan Mistry
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jim
          Only because the other cars in its class are completely uncompetitive (ZL1 is a GT500 comp). If you go with a sporty coupe class, you get the same amenities similar price, but less performance. If you go with a car that is just as fast, it will likely be a very expensive super sedan with a lot of luxury and refinement but 2x the cost. Or a sportscar like a Vette with 2 seats, worse interior quality and refinement, but faster and 1.5x the cost.
      Hotsuye
      • 3 Years Ago
      Woo at $40,310 this car is one the best buys out there for this price range.
      Turbo 4
      • 3 Years Ago
      I saw it at my local car show last Friday and its sick. The pics dont do the front splitter justice. Its massive.
        Krishan Mistry
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Turbo 4
        Was it a black or silver one with red stripes? Because in that case the HUUGEE splitter is from the Laguna Seca variant.
      Ana Carolina
      • 1 Month Ago
      http://www.eteamz.com/brasil4/
      Ana Carolina
      • 1 Month Ago
      http://www.eteamz.com/brasil4/


      http://www.eteamz.com/brasil4/


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      m5nm3
      • 3 Years Ago
      you're not gonna wax me in my M3
        Jim
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        thank you for reaffirming the stereotypical German car owner mentality.
          ryanandrewmartin
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jim
          He has the "No mustang or ANY car, will ever be faster than my M3, shnarf" opinion regardless of the fact that a Mustang IS in fact, faster than an M3. I do believe that that is what Jim is referring to.
          PatrickH
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jim
          what's so stereotypical about him replying to other comments?
        Tiberius1701
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        Yes it will...
        johnb
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        Sorry, m3 will only see the Boss 302's tail lights. drivers being equal of course.
        SheldonRoss
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxEhnugwzCc
        Jon Bowen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        wanna bet?
        jawnath1n
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        Despite what you think, there are plenty of cars faster than an M3 below or at its price range. Its a fine car to drive every day with a bit of extra spunk over the standard 3, but its by no means any sort of track monster.
        ryanandrewmartin
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        Faster than an M3 around Laguna Seca blah, blah...
        XJ Yamaha
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        Wrong.
        djuhuh
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m5nm3
        I said in MY M3 with me Driving. I'm not speaking for other M3s and their owners. LOL f@ggots. Are you guys butt hurt because you can't afford one? SHITSTANG SRA FTMFL
          Jim
          • 3 Years Ago
          @djuhuh
          no, but you're acting like other BMW owners.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
        Krishan Mistry
        • 3 Years Ago
        If you want to make GM and camaro fans all look like morons, you are bang on. You should stop bitching about Ford, we get it, you are supposed to hate Ford if you love GM. You need to defend even GM's worst cars and tear down Ford's best. You know more than all of the unbiased thorough reviewers and journalists out there because they must all be paid by Ford, and GM gets all their tax money (oh, wait...). And we must all be blind fools, because only True Voice, The Great, can see how a Mustang is in fact a Camry. And everyone who disagrees with you must be a dirty Ford paid troll for you are True. /sarcasm
        XJ Yamaha
        • 3 Years Ago
        You get that joke from Stevie Wonder? You sure as hell didn't come up with it.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @XJ Yamaha
          [blocked]
        Roush
        • 3 Years Ago
        Hey True Voice guess what this car is better than what you're driving. I own a Mustang and when the time comes I'm going to get another Mustang and the same after that. No one cares about what you have to say. It's one thing to like something different but it's another to to be a d'bag about it.
        Roush
        • 3 Years Ago
        Hey True Voice guess what this car is better than what you're driving. I own a Mustang and when the time comes I'm going to get another Mustang and the same after that. No one cares about what you have to say. It's one thing to like something different but it's another to to be a d'bag about it.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ryanandrewmartin
          [blocked]
          ryanandrewmartin
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ryanandrewmartin
          Aw c'mon guys. It was a joke! :*(
      snap_understeer_ftw
      • 3 Years Ago
      I was faster around a race track than a Boss 302 (he couldn t keep up with me)......it was probably all driver since i was in a 220whp, 3200lbs car
      PatrickH
      • 3 Years Ago
      This car has definitely caught my attention (more than any Mustang ever), but when I see a curb weight of 3600+ lbs my interest wanes.
        Krishan Mistry
        • 3 Years Ago
        @PatrickH
        Weighs same as the M3, less than a C63, Camaro, Challenger, RS5, and set up to handle lighter than its mass suggests. I see no problem.
        Jon Bowen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @PatrickH
        look at its performance and your interest should come back.
      AcidTonic
      • 3 Years Ago
      I drove one last year. Stepped out of my "Japanese Iron" 3100lb 400hp Evo IX AWD 5spd to test drive a Boss 302. The Boss owner got to drive an Evo for the first time as well. Honest unbiased review below. Impressions of the Boss.... Nice torque, long powerband, superb engine. Sounds great. Looks great. Tied to a flimsy chassis, with more NVH over bumps than my IRS, imprecise steering that needs tighter ratio. Hints of bump-induced understeer from the solid rear when trying to pull tight corners on anything but smooth road. Driven with out track key as the owner was still paying his car. Responsive throttle, lot's of power but it still needs to rev to come into power. This thing feels like it really needs a tune. Feels like it's running too rich. Needless to say as part of the deal the Boss 302 driver got to drive my Evo and this is what he had to say about the Evo. A little more rough in power delivery, surprisingly more torque than I expected down low, this thing has *grunt*! It's so smooth in the corners, everything is really stiff, this thing would be a blast on a race track. I'm glad you removed the wing, it looks good without it. I still don't like the sound of the motor though. Shifter isn't as smooth as the Boss302, I really like these seats though! If I ever buy a dedicated track car I'm buying one of these!! I never seen one before and they are quite rare around here. The AWD makes the car feel like it just starts moving almost unnaturally, you can't feel where power comes from like you can with the Boss. It feels really stable rotating and I just want to turn while going fast. --------- So all in all I was open minded. I drove one. Still keeping my Evo but this Boss302 was a breath of fresh air compared to my 97 Cobra. The steering felt much better and the tighter stock suspension is also a breath of fresh air. The Boss guy never drove an Evo and he agreed it was a bit harsher for day to day driving but he said it would be a blast to drive it year round which he can't do with the Boss. He's keeping his Boss. Two fun cars, finally a Mustang that can handle. I don't like the solid rear still and it skips around on anything but smooth pavement. I'm keeping my Evo and he's keeping his Boss. We both felt like we learned something about each others' car.
        AcidTonic
        • 3 Years Ago
        @AcidTonic
        If I got into another Mustang it would probably be one of these. Should have said that above :) Also thanks for not instantly down ranking me since I mentioned an Evo. I'm trying to clear up this image that I'm some kind of troll. I'm just a somewhat obsessive enthusiast who is taken the wrong way most of the time.
        snap_understeer_ftw
        • 3 Years Ago
        @AcidTonic
        and that's what it's all about /hokeypokey :thumbsup:
      Northern Light
      • 3 Years Ago
      Did I just fall asleep and end up in a 1975 edition of Starsky and Hutch? Little wonder the Euro car fans want little to do with the redneck styling. Muscle is one thing, style is another. Nice price tag, nice power undoubtedly, but dang, this is 2011 and paint, bodywork and interior need to be a million times better than this to persuade anyone but toothless trailer trash into parting with their hard-earned, surely?
        Worx2749
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Northern Light
        Well, I agree with you on the teenage fanboy graphics. I drove my friend's 69 Boss when it was new, and it wasn't as loud (appearance) as today's cars. I could live with the white/black though. The '13's are looking better, with new wheels. Your 'trash' comment was too over the top.
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