2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Review

Down 110-hp on the Shelby, this Mustang is still the Boss

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Review

Ford has done an admirable job of building cars that can appeal to buyers of the Hyundai Sonata and the Toyota Corolla, while also infusing them with the divine spark that is present in fun-to-drive cars, the one characteristic that elevates them from being merely as good as the rest of the pack, to truly great. Cars like the Fiesta and Focus can be filed under that category, and have the added bonus of 40-mpg capability.


1. Powering the Boss 302 is a modified version of Ford’s 5.0L V8 making 440-hp and 390 lb-ft of torque.

2. Look for a 0-60 time in the mid to low four second range; even lower when using launch control.

3. Adjustable shocks and 4-piston front Brembo calipers with 14-inch rotors come standard, although you’ll have to pay $1,950 extra for the Recaro seats and LSD.

4. Optional for the boss 302 is a $6,995 Laguna Seca package with a new front splitter, rear spoiler, rear seat delete and rear chassis brace to cut a tenth of a second to 60 mph, drop braking distances and shed a second or two per lap at the track.

5. The Boss 302 is priced from $40,310.

For those with a bit more disposable income and less of a social conscience, Ford has something to offer in the form of the Mustang. Hell, even the base model V6 puts down 307 horsepower and is capable of over 30-mpg on the highway, but let’s be real here – the V6 Mustang suffers from the paralyzing stigma of being a girl’s car. Like the Mazda MX-5, you can advocate for its competency for as long as you want, but most humans with an XY chromosome won’t buy your logic.


I was lucky to drive the Ford Shelby GT500 last fall, the top dog, 550 horsepower Mustang with a supercharged V8, Brembo brakes and a bright red paintjob with white racing stripes. It was brilliant, and I pronounced it the last great muscle car. I was wrong. Ford still had something up its sleeve.

While the big dogs of automotive journalism got to spend extended time with the Boss on various race tracks (including Laguna Seca) I was limited to one day – less than 24 hours in reality – and decided to guzzle down a succession of 5-Hour Energy beverages and drive as long as possible before the car had to be returned.

The Mustang Boss 302 is actually down 110 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque from the Shelby, by nature of its 5.0L V8, which displaces a mere 440 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque (the 5.0 V8 model uses a similar engine, but with different internals that restrict it to 412 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque). For number’s geeks with little experience behind the wheel, the deficit between the Boss and the Shelby is appalling, but in the real world, the 302 is much better to drive.

The weight difference between the two is not drastic, with the Boss weighing 189 lbs less than the Shelby, but the way that power is put down makes the Boss much more appealing, with its smooth, steady climb up to a 7,500 rpm redline providing a glorious NASCAR-like soundtrack from inside the cabin (and, I was assured by some friends, a deafening roar from the outside).

The Shelby, saddled with 550 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque, has trouble actually putting the power down to the ground – hit the gas in third, and the rear end bucks from side to side like a drunken spring break reveler as the car scrambles for traction. With the Boss, there’s comparatively little drama, the short 3.73 rear end making for wickedly fast acceleration to 60 mph, while the optional limited slip differential keeps the traction. The Boss 302’s 6-speed manual is also much better to operate that the Shelby’s, which requires a good deal of effort.


Where the Shelby does win out is inside, where it gets a full suite of Ford features like a touch-screen navigation system with SYNC, a Shaker 1000 stereo, leather trim and less black grainy plastic. The Boss 302 is very Spartan, something we can live with, but might be off-putting to those who can actually afford this car. The optional Recaro seats deserve mention for being both comfortable and extremely supportive, and come with holes for shoulder harnesses, although using them with a non-fixed back seat seems like a poor idea. They’re a $1,995 option and come paired with a limited slip differential. That’s not a bad price, but on a vehicle like this an LSD really should be standard.

The stereo is a real piece of crap that wouldn’t be fit for a base Fiesta, and let’s be honest here – a great deal of the whole muscle car experience is blasting loud music while cruising the main drag. Would it kill Ford to put something half-decent in a car that costs more than $40,000?

The exterior, however, is the exact opposite of the de-contended cockpit. Up front there’s a whole new grille and fascia with an integrated splitter. Out back are two absolutely massive rear exhaust pipes. Plus, the Boss 302 gets the GT’s power dome hood and rear decklid spoiler and when paired with the custom graphics and wheels looks 100 percent the track machine that it is.


That detail aside, the Boss is astonishingly easy to live with in every-day situations. The trunk is fairly spacious, the ride quality is excellent except over the worst pavement (where it really does fall apart, though we did have the adjustable shocks cranked up the full stiffness), the seats are comfortable and the clutch is easy to use. Driving it in urban rush hour traffic left us no more exhausted than driving a family sedan, though its physical heft and less than optimal rear visibility made lane changes and shoulder-checking a bit more complicated than it would be in a Taurus.

Another nice feature if you do want to drive your Boss every day is the adjustable steering settings, with Comfort, Normal and Sport mode for different assist settings. We could see using the lower two for a highway cruise, but anyone with a Boss personality is going to want to stick it in Sport and keep it that way.


Given the hype that tends to surround any muscle car, managing expectations is key for a car like the Boss 302. The new Camaro debuted with all the praises and hallelujahs the automotive press could muster, but it turned out to be a dud, while the Challenger was a neat but dynamically flawed vehicle. The Boss 302 manages to deliver on its promises, a more focused, refined Mustang that transcends the typical “weekend toy” status that most high-performance cars (let alone track day special editions) tend to be.

It’s a shame that the time spent with the Boss was so limited, barely allowing for time to dig into the supposed handling prowess of the chassis, the 4-piston Brembo brakes (which worked very well during a triple digit panic stop) and the chance to wind out the big 5.0L V8 on the track, letting us explore all 7500 rpm. We’ll be eagerly awaiting a proper week-long drive with the Boss, but for now it’s safe to say that the Boss is the real deal, the apex muscle car that can also give foreign rivals reason to stay awake at night.


2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Review 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review 2011 Dodge Challenger Review 2011 Mazda 2 Review

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked