So good it hurts.
The Boss 302 is not really a standalone model; it’s a trim package for the Mustang GT Coupe. Nevertheless, the transformation is such that it can feel like a very different animal when pushed. Not to mention that some all-time classics like the 1968 Chevy Camaro Z28 started life as “just a trim package” themselves, and are now being traded, celebrated and coveted by collectors throughout North America and beyond.
For 2013, the numbers for the Boss 302 don‘t change at all from 2012; you still get 444 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque (that’s not a typo; it makes less twist than the GT) but that doesn’t matter, because with the Boss, you may very well have one of the best Mustangs ever to roll off the assembly line in Flat Rock, MI.
After the hp hike, chief among the enhancements over the GT is the car’s adjustable suspension and optional ($300) TracKey—if you go this route, you’ll get two different keys when you take delivery of the car, one standard black one, and one with a red and black “Boss 302” logo inscribed on it.
Far from being just an extra key for your car, the TracKey will actually change the way your car behaves on the racetrack. Over 600 parameters are taken into account when you fire the car up with that key in the ignition, so everything from variable cam timing to fuel mixtures to throttle mapping are changed. You’ll also notice the car gently lolling to and fro at idle—just like classic hopped-up muscle cars did back in the day—which serves as a hint at what’s to come.
It’s a real barnstormer, this car. Clutch take-up is a little heavier (a short-throw six-speed manual is your only option) than what you’ll find in the GT, but once you get everything lined up—made easier with the standard launch control system—and the fat 285-section tires (GTs get 235-section rears) sink their teeth into the pavement, you’ll be shot down the road at a positively alarming rate. How alarming, you ask? How does 0-100 in 4.2 seconds sound?
So the power’s there, no doubt, but the curves are where this gnarliest ’Stang is meant to shine, and it does.
We tried the Boss on the same track we did the GT and the Shelby GT500 (see that report here) and of all three, there’s no question that the Boss is the one I’d have for track work, even though it gives up over 200 horses to the Shelby and 10 torques to the GT. I would never have guessed how light a car this big (1,647 kilos, to be exact) could feel but thanks to a smart chassis set-up, near 50/50 weight distribution and all manner of sport-tuned dampers, steering and throttle mapping, this is one agile 1.5-plus tonner.
If you want to keep track of just how agile it is, then you might want to make use of the Track Apps that comes as standard on the car. They track everything from how quickly you accelerate from 0-100 km/h (well, 0-60 miles-per-hour, as it only tracks US numbers), how many Gs you endure on the track, and even provides a “countdown” for your launch with a graphic depicting a drag racing Christmas Tree. Very cool, and very 21st Century.
To ensure that occupants are kept in place though the bends, elevation changes and negative camber angles that race courses can throw at you, our 302 had optional Recaro race seats, similar to what we saw in thew GT we tested. However, in the Boss, the leather is ditched for a grippier Alcantara suede trim to keep your butt in place—the material can also be found on the steering wheel to ensure that it doesn’t get away from you as you saw away through the bends. The bottom line is a much racier feel to the car as a whole. I’m glad, however, that they didn’t ditch the classic cue ball shift knob (well, “8 ball”, as ours was black as opposed to white), as it is one of the all-time classic Mustang touches that I would hate to see go.
On the aesthetic front, the Boss gets new HID headlights, new splitter, new special black wheels and new colours for 2013—ours was finished in “Gotta Have it Green”, which was definitely eye-catching, if not the one I’d choose; I’ll have “Grabber Blue” with white “hockey stick” graphics, thank you very much–oh, wait. I can’t. Black graphics only for 2013. Pity.
No matter the colour, the Boss’ low, purposeful stance, blacked-out rear fascia and big front splitter make for an imposing sight. Still, it will please many to find that the car doesn’t require the skill of Michael Schumacher to pilot, and it even has creature comforts like Microsoift Sync infotainment (Bluetooth, iPod integration) and heated seats.
So even the Boss, arguably the most hard-core of all Mustangs, is attainable to more than just a select few well-heeled clients; our car’s MSRP came in at only couple of grand more than our GT tester.
All of this just goes to show you how well thought-out, how perfectly sorted and utterly fantastic the Mustang has become. It has grown since the ’60s both in size and power outputs, has added features and has diversified as a model line to the point that you’d be hard-pressed to find two ‘Stangs that are exactly the same.
But throughout all that, it has stayed true to its “sports car for the everyman” mantra and celebrated its roots as a rear-drive eight-banger that aims to please.
It is so refreshing to know that cars like the ‘Stang still exist. Let’s hope they don’t blow it in 2015, when the next-gen Mustang is rumoured to debut.
Back Seat Drivin’
Adam Allen is featured in our Back Seat Drivin’ road test feature, whereby a second Carpages.ca writer gives their opinion on the vehicle being discussed.
I read somewhere that the Boss is a car that shouldn’t have happened. From a business standpoint where economies of scale and platform engineering are held in high regard, how is it possible that you could make a viable case to the bean counters that a car like this should be built? I don’t have that answer, but a team of enthusiastic engineers and project managers toiling away at Ford do; to them, and on behalf of all the car guys and gals out there: thank you.
Perhaps even more interesting is that in these times of hyper litigiousness and warranty claims you can buy a car that allows you to dial in whatever chassis behavior you have in mind through the adjustable suspension. That opens the door for some pretty hairy handling Mustangs, but lo and behold, they pushed it through the pipeline.
Same goes for the launch control, which will allow you to set your engine speed all the way to the redline (7,500 screaming r.p.m.) as the default launch setting. You may shake your head, but I think that’s freaking cool.
How’s it otherwise? Well, lets just say the Boss 302 is the best, as in Best. Mustang. EVER. Like epically, stupendously, brilliantly good. They don’t make cars like this very often, and I suspect we’ll be talking about this one with reverence for a long time to come. I have to think damn hard to come up with a car that has the mix of straight-line speed, handling pedigree and track day cohesiveness that the Boss possesses–the fact that any cars on that short list wouldn’t have the day-to-day usability or as (relatively) a bargain price tag as the Boss does, just makes it even more special. I want one. –Adam Allen
2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 — Specifications
Price as tested: $51,929
Body Type: 2-door, 2+2 passenger coupe
Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
Engine: 5.0-litre V8, DOHC, 32 valves w/variable intake and camshaft timing
Horsepower: 444 @ 7,400 r.p.m.
Torque (lb-ft): 380 @ 4,500 r.p.m.
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb weight, manual transmission: 1,647 kg (3,632 lb)
Claimed Fuel consumption:
City: 15.7L/100 km (15 US mpg)
Highway: 9L/100 km (26 US mpg)
Observed Combined Fuel Consumption:
14.5L/100 km (16.2 US mpg)
Dan Heyman is featured in episode four of our new road test feature, whereby a second Carpages.ca writer gives their opinion on the vehicle being discussed.