Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
April 18, 2011
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Horse Sense: Obviously the Boss 302 is built for the road course, and Ford is well aware that many new owners might need some training to get the most from their new vehicles. As such, all new Boss 302 owners will get free training at Miller Motorsports Park in the form of the Boss 302 Track Attack. The event will feature driving instruction and track time with engineers and racers. For more information, check out www.bosstrackattack.com.

It was the moment I had been waiting for since I laid my hands on the keys to the ’12 Boss 302. After being stuck behind seemingly endless parades of California traffic in and around Monterrey, there was finally a clear stretch of road. I slowed the car to a crawl and banged through a couple gears, taking the revs beyond 7,000 each time. After gaining my composure and temporarily reverting back to a responsible citizen, I was overcome with emotion.

No, I didn’t break down into tears. I just started giggling. Feeling the power come on around 3,500 rpm and charge all the way up to the limiter was intoxicating. Could this really be happening? Just a year after bringing the Coyote into the world, Team Mustang had transformed the new 5.0 into a whole new animal. No need to wait for a full moon in the new Boss 302. It is ready and willing to howl at the limiter.

Of course, there is far more to the story of the ’12 Boss 302 than just a high-revving engine, but it is a major arc in the plot. In fact, a second Boss 302 took 42 years to return because Ford needed the right engine to make it happen. They briefly considered supercharging 4.6s to make it work, but that just isn’t in line with the high-revving Boss 302 legacy. No, it was the advent of the Coyote 5.0 that allowed the legend to return.

“The core group of engineers on the Boss 302 engine understands and respects the heritage of the name and the history behind the original engine,” explains Mike Harrison, Ford V-8 engine program manager. “The first Boss 302 was a specially built, free-breathing, high-revving, small V-8 that gave it certain desirable characteristics on a race course—and we capture that essence in the new engine.”

It was no small challenge to surpass the 83-horsepower-per-liter output of the base Coyote 5.0, however. That was the biggest concern the engineers had going into this project, but it was the advent of the manifold that spur the development of the whole program. After just one ride in a standard Mustang equipped with a prototype Boss manifold, and Chief Mustang Engineer Dave Pericak was ready to take on the challenge.

“In keeping with the spirit of the original, the new Boss 302 engine achieves its maximum power output at speeds at or above 7,500 rpm,” Mike says. “Unlike the original engine, however, low-speed torque and driveability are uncompromised thanks to twin independent variable camshaft timing technology and computer-aided engineering design tools.”

With those tools, the same team that brought us the wonders of the new 5.0 got to tune it up to near race-car levels. Besides the aforementioned short-runner intake, the Boss engine features an all-new cylinder head casting beefed up for CNC porting. It is completed with more aggressive exhaust cams and lighter valves. They top a short-block built with sturdier forged rods and pistons, and a crank riding in race-spec bearings. In total, the results are an impressive 444 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. They achieved their lofty goal with 88 hp per liter.

In practice, the Boss 302 is a marvel. It made me giggle climbing the ladder to 7,500 rpm for the first time, but in spending some time in the car on the street it was impressive that the car acquits itself at low rpm without feeling soggy. Even lugging it in low gear up a hill, the Boss just soldiers on without complaint. When a call to action is heard, then the engine is ready to rev at a moment’s notice. What’s all the more impressive that this engine is tuned like a racer, but behaves like a stocker. Its idle is smooth and locked in, and the car still features all the street amenities.

A race engine tuned for the street is impressive from a major manufacturer, especially when you consider the lengths engineers went to prove out the durability of the concept. Even Ford’s dynos required re-engineering to harness the output and rpm range of the Boss 302. More impressive yet, is that this engine was proven on the track before it ended up in the car. Usually, it’s quite the opposite.

“Ford Racing had challenged the Boss engine team to give them the first available Boss 302 engines,” Mike explained. “They came to us in August 2009 and told us they needed engines as soon as possible to build a limited number of Ford Racing Boss 302R cars for the January (2010) Daytona race. They got the engines 12 weeks later and the team got five Boss 302R cars prepped for the January race. This gave us a fantastic opportunity to be able to get full-on race experience with the engine so early in the program.”