Tom Wilson
March 2, 2012

On the Street

The regular production Boss 302 was provided by Ford Public Affairs, and we admit, having it at our disposal for several days was nearly an out-of-body experience. Our previous Boss flings had been just that—passionate stolen moments, but hardly enough to fully appreciate just how advanced the Boss really is.

On extended drives through hill country and twisting river roads, the Boss proved impossibly perfect. The naturally aspirated power is edgy and daringly eager, the EPAS steering instinctive, and the brakes reassuringly direct. It didn't take long before the Alcantara steering wheel's handshake proved a near subliminal adrenal shot, like a suede-covered grip on a submachine gun.

It's probably a disservice to the Boss 302 to dissect its dynamics because it's the whole of its abilities that set it ahead of all other Mustangs. But your mind wanders from pleasure point to pleasure point, settling first on the impressive steering feel—how do the engineers put an electric motor in the loop and still get such a direct and intuitive feel?--to the seamless power rush, or the comfortable yet supportive Recaro seating.

The first highlight has to be the 7,500 rpm power. Of course, the Shelby GT500 has a more muscular hit, but the Boss 302 thrust is so crisp and remarkably linear, pulling authoritatively from idle to its zinging redline. It's eager, willing power that goads you to rev it again and again, and when you do, there's hardly a sensation you bought the second best.

Sister magazine Motor Trend has proved the Boss turns the quarter at 115 mph in 12.3 seconds, enough to embarrass anything but automotive beefcake. If wind sprints are more your style, the Boss gets to 60 mph in four seconds. Heck, you can do that in your driveway.

It didn't hurt that our test car obviously had the restrictor plates removed from the exhaust sidepipes. These don't slow a stopwatch, but the resulting brrrrrrap sure makes things more exciting. It is loud, proud, and impossible to sneak home at night.

The downside in the powertrain is the six-speed manual's shifter, which remains attached half to the transmission and half on the bodywork. In daily driving or even smoothly hustled along back roads this linkage is quick shifting and pleasantly isolated from the underhood hurly burly, but bang the shift at high rpm and at best you hit a brick wall in the neutral gate, or worse, generate a sickening high-speed grinding. You sure as heck won't grab a gear. This is the Boss 302's weakest feature.

While the shifter is frustrating, the optional Torsen limited-slip differential is brilliant. It's much more than a way to avoid peg-legging—it's the powertrain key to Mustang handling nirvana. Carefully tuned to reduce understeer while laying down as much of the Boss' 444 hp as you need, the Boss' chassis points it with precision, carves a steady arc, responds to mid-corner corrections should you miscalculate, and makes rock-steady power-on corner exits. The characteristic Mustang tail wag and numbing understeer are non-existent. It's this cornering excellence that is the Boss 302's defining characteristic. If you want a number on it, Motor Trend says the Boss does the skidpad at a respectable 0.98g lateral acceleration.