First Look: 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302

First Look

Take a moment and think of the best Mustangs. SVT Cobra. Shelby. Bullitt. Mach 1. All immediately spring to mind, but the Boss 302, I must admit, is the one I sometimes forget. No particular reason why and my error is rightly criticized. However, everything is different now that Ford has built a new Boss 302 and I highly doubt my poor Mustang memory will let me down again. Many are claiming that it's America's answer to the BMW M3.

More importantly, it's America's proud declaration to the world that its homegrown muscle cars are truly world-class. In an era of hybrids and EVs, some claim we may be entering the final generation of true American muscle. That mentality may be in question now because of Ford's latest and best Mustang ever built. The best? Quite possibly. Ford has made plenty of changes here in order to separate it from the amazing GT and Shelby GT-500. It's a new beast entirely.

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Ford began the transformation by taking their excellent 5.0 liter 412 hp V8 and doing a complete redesign of the intake. Engineers also revised the camshaft with a more aggressive grind that maintains the GT's twin independent variable timing mechanisms. Ford also machined the entire intake, exhaust ports, and combustion chambers of the aluminum heads. This resulted in improved high-rpm airflow without having to sacrifice low-end torque. They also designed a lightweight, high-rpm valvetrain that provides power beyond the engine's indicated redline.

And to give it the required sound, Ford built an all-new quad exhaust system called "exhaust surround sound." All told, power increases to 444 hp and the six-speed manual receives an improved clutch. 0 to 60 mph takes just 4.2 seconds. Fuel economy is also exceptional for a car with this much power, coming in at 17/26 city/highway. With the addition of fully adjustable shocks and struts to the suspension, Ford had to retune the electronic steering system in order to improve feedback and driver feel. Drivers can choose from three different settings: Comfort, Normal, and Sport.

There's also a thicker rear anti-roll bar. And because of the increased power and track abilities, Ford upgraded the brake system from the GT with the optional track package, which has 14-inch Brembo brakes and four piston calipers. It also gets high-performance brake pads and vented brake shields. All told, the Boss 302 requires three less feet of stopping distance from 60 mph over the GT. Ford also came out with a secondary key, called the TracKey, that can be activated only by an authorized Ford Racing dealer.

It changes over 400 parameters through a dual-path Powertrain Control Module (PCM) such as a two-stage launch system and improved low-end torque. The interior is immediately familiar, but with some noticeable changes. Recaro seats are optional, but should be a no-brainer for those checking off the option list. The rear seat is gone and replaced with an X-brace for added rigidity. It's rounded out with special Boss black shift knob, a dark aluminum dash, and unique door scuff plates.

Nearly impossible to miss anywhere, the Boss 302 is offered in five colors: Kona Blue, Performance White, Race Red, Yellow Blaze, and Competition Orange (our favorite). For those who don't feel the "standard" Boss 302 is fast enough, Ford will be offering a limited number of the Laguna Seca models. It has an even more aggressive aerodynamics package and additional goodies such as a massive front splitter, lightweight wheels, a different rear wing, brake-cooling ducts, and a dash-mounted gauge pack.

Pricing has not been officially announced, but expect it to come in somewhere around $40,000. So is the Mustang Boss 302 faster than an M3? Only a direct matchup can decide this. Above all, the Boss 302 is what driving is all about, American style.