Animosity exists everywhere. In the real world, not everyone is able to get along and rivalries seem to sprout up everyday. One rivalry in particular has been heated since the beginning and doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing. Two automakers have built cars with one main purpose: beat the other guy down in every dynamic aspect a car can possess. The war began in 1964 when Ford introduced an icon so powerful that it spawned an entirely new segment. After the Mustang was born, 1967 rolled around and Chevrolet introduced their pony car, the Camaro. That was enough to start an all out war and even to this day, Ford and Chevrolet are scrambling to put out a better Camaro to beat the Mustang and vice-versa. Case in point, the 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302.
Based around the fifth generation Mustang that was born in 2005, the current ‘Stang’ was heavily massaged for 2010. The same, retro styling that made the 2005 edition so popular was overall kept but things seem more chiseled and sharper. The rear lights hold more angles and the front appears just ever so more honed than before. The interior was revised to include more up-scale features such as Sync, the engines (excluding the 2010’s) are all new and matched to new transmissions. The suspension has been revised to make the absolute most out of a live rear axle. These rehashes have allowed Ford to celebrate the Mustang’s long line of racing history and renew a former idol. The Boss 302 is a 2012 model year exclusive as the last time the words “Mustang”, “Boss” and “302” were brought together on a factory car was in the early 1970s. The blue oval has repeated history once again to make another, purpose-built racing hero.
Underneath our Race Red Boss test car, the 302 starts out as 2012 GT. Under the hood is the new-for-2011 5.0 liter, 302 cubic inch DOHC V8 with variable cam timing. Slightly absolved from the standard GT’s 5.0, the Boss redlines higher (7,500 rpms compared to 7,000) and thus makes more power. Putting down 444 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, the high output V8 runs through a Getrag MT82 six speed manual transmission. Base MSRP for all this thrust is $40,145. Options on our tester were limited to the Recaro sport seats and 3.73 geared Torson limited slip rear differential which came to $1,995. Including destination charge, our tester carried a total MSRP of $42,990.
Granted, $42,000 for a Mustang is quite a bit, but not to many vehicles can be raced this hard right off the showroom floor. Ford engineers were given the go-ahead to throw caution to the wind and make the Boss as raw as possible. The springs have been stiffened compared to the standard GT, the rear anti-sway bar is larger, bushings are all-new and stiffer and the dampers offer the kind of adjusting usually only offered on race cars. Instead of an electric knob inside mounted on the dash, a driver of the Boss can adjust the damping stiffness using a screwdriver. Inside the engine, everything down to the rod bearings have been altered to make sure the Boss can rev to its high-for-a V8 7,500 redline multiple times a day and do it without worry about disaster. Once you realize this, $42 grand isn’t that much considering the peace of mind a driver has behind the wheel of the Boss 302.
It maybe racy, but inside isn’t as “raw” as one might assume. The Recaro supplied seats are fantastic; offering support and comfort. The alcantra covered steering wheel offers excellent grip and is placed just right for quick inputs. The electric-assisted power steering isn’t as strange as some from certain German vehicles and allows a driver to select from three different feedback settings. In all three, the Mustang was very communicative: always telling a driver what was happening and what might happen. The body stays flat and rotation around corners is just right. Always ready for a fast sweeper or a 90 degree corner sideways, the Boss 302 is the best handling Mustang we have ever sampled.
Once the corners disappear and the road becomes straight, the Boss doesn’t suddenly disappoint. With 444 horsepower on tap, the 5.0 in the Boss is oddly “revvy”. It makes a lot of its power high up, encouraging drivers to ring it out in all six gears. On race tracks, noise levels are not the biggest concern, and the Boss’s follow that philosophy. Simply put, the 302 is loud, even at idle. But no one with a soul will complain as this is the best sounding Ford on the market today. Along with its raw and mean singing voice comes raw acceleration. It pulls hard anywhere in the rev range and never did it run out of breath or seem to stall for power. The Boss 302 can simply not stop pushing its occupants back in their seats and doesn’t seem to mind. And when it is time for the momentum to stop, the massive, 14 inch Brembo supplied brakes will stop the car on a dime every single time.
Dynamic wise, the Boss 302 is the best dancing Mustang of its generation but it isn’t without its negatives. Its biggest downfall isn’t exactly its fault as the Boss fits into a very niche segment. There are only a select few manufactures brave enough to offer this level of track-ready performance from the factory and anyone considering buying this Mustang needs to understand that. The interior, albeit comfortable, is rather bare-bones compared to other Mustangs. Neat options such as Sync and navigation are not offered. To be as light as possible, the materials are somewhat cheap feeling and there isn’t much to entertain a passenger when sitting at a stoplight other than the engine’s idle. But in all honesty, none of those grips truly matter as this is such an endearing vehicle that people utterly adore it.
Whenever it is stopped, pedestrians approach the car to ask questions and to gawk at it with youthful eyes. At stoplights, drivers want to race it and even once, an owner of a 2011 GT mentioned, “If I saw this vehicle 2 months ago then I wouldn’t have purchased my GT.” All-in-all, the Boss 302 is expensive for a Mustang and isn’t the most refined vehicle on the planet but it isn’t trying to be. It is what it is and will never make an excuse otherwise. This is a hero car: the type of vehicle that Bruce Wayne would drive. Chevrolet must now stay on its toes as Ford has managed to actually repeat history by building another icon that will do battle with its rivals and be seen in future automotive books. The 2012 Mustang Boss 302 is, without a doubt, rolling history.
Photos: © Copyright 2011 Ossamah Shabbir