Wow, this is the best muscle car I’ve ever driven. It’s seriously fast, the engine sounds great, and it changes direction willingly. Finally, a muscle car that’s good for more than cruising around town or heading to a drag strip.
I really like the cloth Recaro bucket seats that manage to hold your body during aggressive driving without giving up all the padding. I’m not totally comfortable inside the Boss because it doesn’t have a telescoping steering column. I have never been able to get comfortable in a current Mustang because of the relationship of the seat to the dashboard and steering wheel. If I sit close enough to get a good grip on the oversized steering wheel, my knees contact the dashboard. Having a solid grip on the wheel is pretty important in a 444-hp car with a live rear axle that likes to buck over broken pavement. I’d be very tempted to buy a Mustang if Ford ever offers a telescoping steering column.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Boss experience is how livable the package is. I don’t get out of a GT500 thinking I could daily drive it for years. Other than my issues with the steering wheel location, I could easily see myself living with the Boss. There’s no massive wing, the exhaust sounds great without being obnoxious, and the price is high enough to ensure there’s not a Boss on every corner and yet it’s not totally unattainable. I also prefer the Boss’s normally aspirated 5.0-liter engine to the supercharged 5.4-liter truck engine found in the GT500.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Like Phil Floraday, I cannot quite get situated correctly behind the wheel of this Mustang, but it wasn’t a deal breaker, and the seats themselves are fantastic. For its looks and the sound of its V-8 alone, the Boss 302 is worth its $43K sticker price, but there’s a seriously well-tuned chassis here, too, despite the live rear axle. I appreciated the direct steering, the Brembo brakes, and the car’s willingness to change direction quickly and crisply. The six-speed manual is a charmer.
We had the Boss on the west side of Michigan at GingerMan Raceway, but I didn’t get a chance to drive it on the track because I was busy driving a Ferrari 458 Italia. (I know, life is rough.) So I seized the opportunity to drive it partway back to Ann Arbor, with road test editor Chris Nelson riding shotgun and assistant editor David Zenlea and editorial intern Greg Fink squeezed into the back seat. There was some traffic on Michigan State Highway 43 from Bangor back to Kalamazoo, but the Boss is an impressive passing machine and dispensed with it easily. As we exited 131 southbound to join I-94 eastbound, I had to maneuver through some more slow-moving vehicles to set myself up properly for the big sweeping lefthand ramp that would dump us onto I-94. You know how it is when you’re on the freeway: often the only real excitement you’re going to get is in one of these big cloverleaf intersections. The Boss was unflappable as I weaved through the lanes and accelerated hard onto the ramp and exploded out onto I-94. My rear-seat passengers, rather than complaining of being cramped, were cheering me on. It was a good night.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Yes, the backseat of the Boss is surprisingly livable (for this five-foot five-inch editor, at least), but I obviously prefer the driver’s seat. I did get to drive it on the track. What a beast. As with any muscle car, there’s more power than you could ever possibly need. Uphill, out of a corner in the wrong gear, it doesn’t matter — you’re going fast, my friend. Thankfully, there’s also a pretty good suspension to keep the 444 horses between the lines. Steering, as in all Mustangs, is light but very accurate. The Brembo front brakes aren’t always a match for the power, but they put up a good fight. I left stability control enabled because it’s very clear the tail can get loose, even with the adjustable dampers set to “2” (4 being the stiffest) in back to keep things somewhat planted. My only real frustration on the track is with the manual shifter. Much as I like its close gate and stiff action for stoplight bursts, I’d prefer more precision and lighter shift action on the track. Not that you really have to shift much when you have 380 lb-ft of torque.
What impresses me most about the Boss — the best Mustang you can buy — is that is a relatively affordable car. The base price of $40,995 isn’t all that out of reach for the GT buyer willing to skimp on a few luxury options like HID headlamps and navigation. That said, a smart buyer can order a base Mustang GT and add a 3.73 axle, Brembo front brakes, and nineteen-inch wheels a la carte for a total of $32,195.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I’m happy to hear that my colleagues had such a good time on the track with the Boss 302 Mustang. My experience with this car, on the other hand, was limited to my evening commute of only a little longer than 10 miles. What I can say is that the seats are very comfortable and quite supportive. The inside the cabin features surfaces that are all kind of vertical and very angular – there’s nothing soft about this car, either aethestically or performance-wise. The sound the engine makes is great – a deep, throaty V-8 rumble that doesn’t let you forget that you’re in an American muscle car. Unfortunately, when I got home and pulled into my garage, I noticed that it had leaked oil onto my driveway. I was unable to locate where the oil was coming from, so it remained parked for the night and I drove it very prudently back to work in the morning. Oh, one other thing, the mpg readout read that the Boss 302 was averaging only 12.6 mpg – not good, but more than likely a result of spending the previous evening at the track.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302
Base price (with destination): $ 40,995
Price as tested: $ 43,485
5.0-liter high-output V-8
6-speed manual transmission
3.73 rear axle ratio
Electronic power assist steering
Side and rear exit quad exhaust
Manually adjustable suspension
Advancetrac w/electronic stability control
Black rear decklid spoiler
Tire pressure monitoring system
“Boss” logo embroidered on seats
Unique hood stripe and reverse “c” side stripe
255/40R-9 Pirelli PZero max performance rear, 285/35R19 Pirelli PZero max performance front; 19 x 9-in., 19 x 9.5-in. wide-spoke painted aluminum wheels
Four-piston Brembo aluminum calipers front, single-piston floating iron calipers rear
Options on this vehicle:
3.73 Torsen helical limited slip differential and Recaro cloth sport seats – $1995
Yellow Blaze metallic tricoat – $495
Key options not on vehicle:
Horsepower: 444 hp @ 7500 rpm
Torque: 380 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
6-speed manual transmission
Curb weight: 3632 lb
19 x 9-in., 19 x 9.5-in. wide-spoke painted aluminum wheels
255/40ZR19 front tires
285/35ZR19 rear tires
Competitors: Chevrolet Camaro SS