The 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 is already equipped with a 444-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8; adjustable race-tuned suspension; and a host of impressive go-fast goodies from the factory. To make the most of it all, however, drivers may need one simple tool: a proper key.
When buyers take delivery of their new Boss, they may notice they receive two different styles of ignition keys. A stylish touch, perhaps, but the discrete keys are actually part of Ford’s new TracKey system, which allows drivers to unlock powertrain calibrations designed to improve performance — especially on the track.
“The idea came into play within our team when we were talking about how to do this car right,” says Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak. “One of the ideas that came up was ‘hey, why don’t we try to put a track-specific engine calibration in this car?’ We put it to the side, but came back to it eventually, especially when [Ford] began talking about MyKey.”
In some ways, TracKey uses the same principle and hardware behind the nanny-state MyKey system. Each road-going Boss 302 rolls off the assembly line with an engine computer capable of housing two different personalities, each unlocked by a specific key. In stock form, the ECM carries a single program, but buyers who desire a little something extra aren’t left in the cold. For a nominal fee, dealers can reflash the ECM to add a performance-driven configuration that’s activated by using the red ignition key.
Developed in partnership with Ford Racing, the TracKey’s performance mode doesn’t increase peak horsepower, but it can completely modify the 5.0-liter V-8’s demeanor. Throttle tip-in becomes lightning-quick, while valve and cam timing is adjusted to deliver 10 additional pound-feet of low-end torque, along with a racer-like lumpy camp sensation. The fuel-saving skip-shift feature in the six-speed manual transmission is disabled, and fuel and spark are aggressively cut to help improve engine braking.
The performance calibration also blesses the Boss with another feature: two-stage launch control, which is controlled through the cruise control buttons mounted on the steering wheel. Drivers simply hold the on/off switch for five seconds, wait for the tach needle to sweep, and dial in a precise launch RPM with the accel and decel buttons. Once an engine speed is set, users simply mash the accelerator pedal, side-step the clutch, and they’re off.
Despite its race course aspirations, the TracKey programming is still usable on the street. Although the calibrations are based off those used for the race-spec Boss 302R, Pericak notes both engine settings are emissions compliant — although the quick throttle and menacing rumble of the track tuning “leaves refinement at the door.” Better yet, Ford’s factory warranty is unaffected by prolonged use of both the TracKey and the launch control system.
Like the Boss 302 itself, Ford has yet to announce a specific price for the TracKey system, but seeing as installation involves software, not hardware, Pericak belives the add-on will carry a nominal fee, and possibly resonate with Boss buyers.
“We know this is something our customers want, and given the pricing of the Boss, this will be extremely affordable,” Pericak says. “I would be surprised, given the price and who I think will purchase the Boss, if most customers didn’t spring for it. I know my [Boss 302] will certainly have it.”
Those who do will certainly have at least one chance to exercise a Boss on a proper track. Ford announced today that every Boss 302 buyer will also be treated to a full day of driving instruction at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. Owners will need to cover travel and lodging costs, but Ford covers the remainder of the track experience — including providing instruction cars.