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

With a durable, race-proven engine between the shock towers, it was a matter of creating a car worthy of backing up the Boss name. That meant revamping the car from front to back. Improving the aerodynamics, cooling system, exhaust, interior, and differential. Of course, when it comes to a Boss Mustang, the suspension gets the most attention. This led to higher spring rates, larger sway bars, and stiffer bushings. Adding control to that package is a quartet of five-way adjustable dampers.

“The team at Ford wanted to offer fellow Mustang enthusiasts something really special—a beautifully balanced factory-built race car that they could drive on the street,” explains David Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. “The Boss 302 isn’t something a Mustang GT owner can buy all the parts for out of a catalog or that a tuner can get by adding a chip. This is a front-to-back re-engineered Mustang with every system designed to make a good driver great and a great driver even better.”

That’s a great sound bite, but in practice the Boss really is a reassuring partner on the road. Prowling the streets of California it proved a well-mannered escort. The suspension was a bit more communicative than a GT’s, but with the dampers dialed back to the number-two setting, it was perfectly pliable. You knew it was tauter, but that’s what a Boss is all about, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

On the curvy Cali hills, the car simply did what you wanted it to. It was a driver/car union somewhat dampened by traffic and speed limits. The track was what the Boss was born for, so the concept of unleashing it on the legendary Laguna Seca was titillating. After a couple of recon laps with a qualified, skilled driver, it was my turn. Clearly Ford has never seen me drive, but they gave me a helmet and a Boss Mustang and said, “Have fun.” Indeed, on certain days, this job really is the best.

The protocol was to make one warm-up lap, one rager, and one cool-down lap. So it was a tentative start on an unfamiliar track, but as I gained confidence, the Boss became my best friend. I’m no race-car driver, but the car made me feel like one for brief moments. The Boss 302 is such a superb balance of power, handling, and braking that while on track the car’s Pirellis just seemed to dig into the pavement and put the car right where you wanted it. You can feel the car’s center of gravity right in the middle of the car where it’s easy to control. When, not if, I made a false move, the Boss was there to forgive, pat me on the shoulder, and start hauling again.

As I started to pick up the pace, the car was right there with me. Its limits were well beyond mine, especially the brakes. Quite often I was braking before I needed to, as I wasn’t used to brakes that good. Not only does the car have the familiar Brembo calipers, but low-expansion brake lines and a track friendly pad material. These things flat out worked, and unlike many press drives, where cars fell by the wayside for maintenance, the Boss only needed to stop for fuel and it was ready for more abuse.

It turns out that proving a combination on the track is exactly the proper way to prove out a track-capable production car. In fact, while discussing the car in the pits it was posed to me that this car is most reminiscent of the fabled Cobra R. The last R-model has long been one of my favorite Mustangs for its ripping, high-rpm power and made-for-the track persona. However, the ’12 Boss 302 is a much better car in nearly all respects. It revs higher, goes faster, rides better, and it still has a full interior and a radio—and that’s just the base Boss with the street tuning.

Looks like it’s time to rearrange that list.

5.0 Tech Specs

’12 Boss 302

Engine and Drivetrain

Block Coyote aluminum
Crankshaft Forged steel
Rods Forged steel
Pistons Forged aluminum
Camshafts DOHC w/Ti-VCT operating range of 50 degrees for intake and exhaust
Cylinder Heads DOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake, variable camshaft timing
Intake Manifold Composite shell-welded with runner pack
Fuel System Sequential mechanical returnless
Exhaust Stainless steel tubular headers, quad exhaust tips
Transmission Getrag MT82 six-speed manual
Rearend 8.8 w/3.73 gears (optional Torsen differential)

Electronics

Engine Management Spanish Oak (optional TracKey)
Ignition High-energy coil-on-plug
Gauges MyColor

Chassis and Suspension

Front Suspension
Independent MacPherson strut with reverse-L lower control arm, 34.6mm tubular stabilizer bar, strut tower brace, and manual adjustable strut damping
Brakes 355mm (14-in) x 32mm vented discs, and four-piston Brembo 40/44mm fixed aluminum calipers
Wheels 19x9-in wide-spoke, painted aluminum wheels
Tires 255/40R-19 Pirelli PZero max performance

Rear Suspension
Three-link solid axle with limited-slip differential, performance coilsprings, Panhard bar, 25mm stabilizer bar, and manual adjustable shock damping
Brakes 300mm (11.8-in) x 19mm vented discs, single-piston 43mm floating-iron calipers, and Performance Friction pads
Wheels 19x9.5-in wide-spoke, painted aluminum wheels
Tires 285/35R-19 Pirelli PZero Max Performance