Ford Motor Company
August 9, 2011

Moments after cracking the key in the '12 Boss 302 Mustang at the famed Laguna Seca (Mazda Raceway) in Monterey, California, I recognized the potential of this specialty Mustang.

It melds Ford's muscle car and racing heritage with a slathering of high-performance technology rarely seen in a production vehicle. I desperately wanted to dive in to the potential, and I soon had my chance.

That first meeting between Boss and I was fantastic ("Boss Therapy," June '11). I exercised the Pony's corner-cutting abilities and fantastic braking, but I really wanted more seat time on the street and strip. The green light came as Ford delivered the first Competition Orange tester to our Tampa facility.

While boost is cool, I have a thing for naturally aspirated power, and Mike Harrison, V-8 engine program manager at Ford, and his crew gave the Boss the heart of a lion. It has 444 glorious horsepower, endless revs, and with the sidepipe baffles removed, there isn't a better sounding new car on the road. (If technical data is what you're after, please refer to the aforementioned June issue of MM&FF. This story is about emotion and feel.)

The Boss Mustang plays to all your senses. It makes the right sounds, has the right feel, and you can almost taste the high level of cornering grip and braking power, as well as the smoothness. If you're not at redline, you want to be there. The Recaro front buckets cradle you, and the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel has the softness of a beautiful woman. The pedals are placed nicely and have a smooth, perfectly modulated feel, and the steering is the best Ford has offered. You feel connected on many levels. Yes, I've become one with the Boss.

But I digress. The new Boss 302 is fashioned after the original, a special package sold in 1969-1970, with enormous Cleveland heads installed to provide homologation for the Boss 302-powered Mustangs used in Trans Am racing. Parnelli Jones piloted a Boss 302 to the '70 Trans Am championship, a series that carried massive weight for the time. His win in 1970 remains a milestone achievement in American racing history.

Point being, the Boss 302 was never designed as a straight-line shooter-but don't be fooled. The engineers at Ford care greatly about acceleration. And while they secretly crave hardcore strip numbers from their Mustangs, they prefer to build all-around performance Stangs with a balance between cornering, acceleration, braking, and ride quality. Harrison and his team have masterfully crafted a fantastic engine that screams like an all-out racer, yet is docile and ready for the daily shuttle about town.

Drag racing can be raw, but it's extremely accessible, safe, often affordable, and a great way to enjoy your Mustang or fast Ford. You can't beat the instant gratification gained from seeing your results in a matter of seconds-especially after you make some mods. Throw a clutch and shifter into the mix and the driver becomes a direct link to the acceleration process, one that can make a difference when you're jammin' gears at 7,500 rpm!

Our task was to cover the 1,320 as quickly as possible, utilizing each of the 444 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. But before hitting the strip, we removed the exhaust baffles on each side. According to Ford, ditching the baffles does nothing for performance, but it does everything for the driver's ego. It's raspy growl is nothing short of magical.

Back behind the wheel, we were southbound on I-75 heading to Bradenton Motorsport Park in Florida for an open track night. The air was thick (89 degrees and 85-plus percent humidity) and there was a slight headwind, but we didn't care. BMP's staff prepped the track, while we traded the stock Goodyear rubber for our Mickey Thompson 275 ET Street Radials. Our anticipation was high as we all wondered what the Boss could do. Associate Editor Marc Christ handled the tire swap, while I set up the cooling fans and we also prepared our video gear.

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