FROM THE FLEET: 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302
FROM THE FLEET are brief synopses of manufacturer-supplied rides that happen to end up in my laneway – JL
You only have to look at the front end of the new-for-2012 Mustang Boss 302 to know this is NOT your everyday stripes-n-spoilers special. Grille-in driving lights have been blanked-over. An air-dam-cum-spoiler-cum-quasi-air splitter hangs off the front end like fangs off a sabre tooth tiger. Under the Boss’s gratuitously-striped hood, the reworked Five-Point-Oh eight delivers 444 hp—effectively splitting the Mustang GT’s 412 and the Shelby GT500’s 550. No doubt, the latest, limited edition (only 300 examples coming to Canada) Mustang isn’t just another overpriced nostalgia machine.
Oldies out there may remember the original Boss 302 Mustang. The 1969 and ’70 iterations were created to homologate Ford’s Trans Am Mustang race cars. Today’s version’s street-legal race car modus operandi is similar. That said, Ford Canada peeps were adamant about not taking their Michigan-plated press car anywhere near a race track. But over the course of a few days of street driving—including the obligatory highway on/off ramp attacks—all-in-all, it’s easy to call the new Boss 302 the best driver’s Mustang ever.
Well, yeah. There’s still a live-axle hanging out back. But compared to a $38,699 GT Coupe, the $48,199 Boss 302 (there will be no convertible) sports stiffer springs, a thicker rear stabilizer bar, screwdriver-adjustable-to-five-settings shocks, new bushings, and 19-inch Pirelli P Zeros that at the rear are mounted on 9.5-inch-wide wheels. And, surprisingly, the car is amazingly agile. The Boss turns into corners shaper than any modern Mustang I’ve ever driven. And a balanced handling setup nearly negates understeer, with overseer occurring only in the tightest of corners when I was on the gas too hard. Why you would waste your $58,999 on the nose-heavy, ill-handling GT500, only Carroll Shelby knows…
Even if you never take your Boss 302 on the track, its exhaust note is something you could enjoy on a daily basis. Dig out your Bullitt DVD. Fast forward to the legendary car chase scene where Mc Queen in his ’69 Mustang is chasing the bad guys in their contemporary Dodge Charger along the Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, just outside of San Francisco. The new Boss 302’s four-way exhaust (two rear pipes and two on either side of the car just in front of the rear wheels) make the same sound when rowing through the close-ratio six-speed stick’s gears. Aurally awesome.
I was loaned the “base” model to drive. But of the 300 Boss 302s coming to Canada, 35 will be the track-day special Laguna Seca (named after the California track) version. For an additional $8,500, you’ll get an adjustable front splitter, even stiffer springs, revised bushings, street-legal R-compound Pirelli Corsas (with wider rear wheels), ducts to cool the brakes, an underbody duct to cool the transmissions, the thickest rear anti-sway bar ever found on a Mustang and a tubular-steel X brace that replaces the pair of rear seats. If you’re thinking “track car”, you’d better get inline.
The Boss 302’s Not So Hot list is short. Its steering wheel only tilts. And it’s covered in Alcantara, that, while grippier than traditional cowhide, will more than likely wear before you’ve made the requisite 48 moths of payments. Oh yeah: Despite the optional sport seats wearing predominant R-E-C-A-R-O labels, I could have used more supports when hurtling through said on/off ramps.
Even so, the Boss 302 is a performance car bargain. It thoroughly spanks anything wearing a Chevy Camaro or Dodge Challenger badge. In fact, I dare say it’s the closest thing to an American BMW M3 you can buy.