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2012 and 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 and Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition Track Capable Muscle Car Review

The 2012 and 2013 second generation Boss 302 Mustangs pay homage to the fearsome 1969 and 1970 first generation Boss 302 Mustang muscle cars while modernizing the track capabilities of the Stang to be competitive against todays track stars, and it accomplishes these gymnastics with a classic solid rear axle like those found on the muscle cars of the 1960's and 1970's or on todays drag cars. There is no 2014 Boss 302 and the upcoming new design 2015 Mustang switch to IRS or independent rear suspensions will make these 302's instant classics! Ford claims the Boss will do 155 mph and pull over 1g (1.03g for the Laguna Seca package) of lateral acceleration, though road testers are seeing more like .95 to .98 lateral G's of road holding force.

Low angle front view picture of the Ford Boss 302 Mustang
Check the Ford Boss 302 Mustang's aggressive and muscular track stance

These Boss 302 Mustangs may not be the fastest cars on the planet, but sometimes sports cars are designed to simply bring pleasure to high performance drivers seeking classic all-American muscle car power in a safe and modern platform that handles well and is fun as hell to drive to boot. Not that it's slow mind you, the Boss 302 books! As far as collectability, the Boss 302 is a semi-limited edition model with 4,000 units manufactured per year (for 2 years, just like the original); 750 of these included the Laguna Seca package option. These Boss 302's were only built as 2012's and 2013's.

Also, the price of admission is not necessarily out in the stratosphere with a decked out 2013 Boss 302 Mustang equipped with the Laguna Seca Package hitting right at the $50,000 dollar mark (MSRP), subtract roughly $7,000 for a Boss 302 without the Laguna Seca pack (and subtract another 2k if it's not equipped with the Torsen limited-slip diff and Recaro seating pack). For the old timers that remember the early muscle car days (late 60's, early 70's), this is your second chance (or first chance if you missed it) to live the American dream if your finances allow it! There will always be bigger badder cars out there, but without a doubt you are styling it to the max in the Boss 302 muscle car.

Drivers side front view of the Ford Boss 302 Mustang
The 2nd gen Boss 302 Mustang with the radical race track front splitter or spoiler

History and design: The second generation Boss 302 is one of the few new retro styled modern muscle cars that's actually a masterpiece in emulating the classic muscle car from which it evolved, which, in this case was the Trans-Am style 1969 and 1970 Boss 302 Mustangs. Compare the new car above with its classic counterpart below. From my perspective, cheers and high fives go out to the Ford design team for accomplishing such a faithful and functional yet modernized reproduction of an extremely capable road and track car that we can enjoy while also getting a second shot at a hot handling platform that just gets things right.

Drivers front view picture of 1969 Ford Boss 302 Mustang
The 1st gen 1969 Boss 302 Mustang track capable muscle car

Nearly everyone has heard of the Laguna Seca or Mazda raceway which is located in California. In the United States this track is a performance car testers favorite that has evolved into America's little spot to compare track times on when they don't have the resources, or they know it won't play out as well, on the more demanding and world favorite Nürburgring test and race track in Germany. The Boss 302 legitimately breaks this rule though because it was designed to emulate the Boss 302's of yesteryear like the one Parnelli Jones drove to a win in the 1970 Trans-Am (a type of stock-car racing) season opener at Laguna Seca, hence the "Laguna Seca" Boss 302 option package which is basically a tighter suspended and aerodynamically tuned standard Boss 302 w/ the rear seat removed (for added weight reduction). Ford says the Laguna Seca package equipped Boss 302's are near replicas of the modern Ford Racing Boss 302R. The Boss 302R is the racing Mustang Ford built for the Grand-Am Sports Car Challenge Series.[pagebreak]

Passenger side front view of the Ford Boss 302 5.0-liter engine
Ford Boss 302 444-hp Hi-Po 302 4V Ti-VCT V8 track tuned 5.0 engine

Engine (Hi-Po 302 4V Ti-VCT V8): ​Ford has a much more powerful engine in its Mustang stable (like the supercharged 5.8-liter 662-horsepower GT500 V8 engine), but the high revving (7,500-rpm redline) 444-horsepower 5.0 motor in the Boss 302 is eager to please and places a premium on easy to manage power (via a wide powerband) for fast and furious racetrack excitement. Also, remember the GT500 engine's supercharger and intercooler make the front end way heavy for ultimate Boss 302 type handling on the track. The 444-hp Boss 302 all aluminum (block and heads) V8 is 32 horsepower stronger than the 2011 Mustang GT's 412-hp 5.0 mill.

Power gets routed to the solid rear axle via a short throw 6-speed manual transmission with hill start assist.

View of the Ford Boss 302 Mustang engine bay
 444-hp / 380 lb.-ft. of torque Boss 302 5.0-liter engine

​The trick tuned intake manifolds are one of the key elements that make this high revving 5.0 run like a bat out of hell. The Ford development team refers to their intake manifold design as a runners-in-the-box plenum and velocity stack combination. The 302 cylinder heads are custom built from a higher strength aluminum alloy and are polished and ported and also designed to make room for larger (over the GT) sodium filled intake valves. The pistons are forged. Add a more aggressive high-lift camshaft grind to complement the tuned intake and exhaust and you have the basic elements that set the Boss engine performance (and sound) apart from the regular production GT. Heavy duty bearings are also incorporated into the Boss 302 build. Of course an engine oil cooler is standard. There is no dry sump oil sytem, but a modified 8.5 qt baffled oil pan helps to keep the synthetic oil in play during hard cornering. The engine on the Laguna Seca Edtion Boss 302 is the same as that of the standard Boss.

Bad-ass Boss exhaust: The custom Boss 302 quad exhaust has dual pipes exiting the rear of the vehicle as usual but adds another two exhaust outlets which exit in front of the rear wheels. These side mounted outlets do very little, if anything at all, to increase the performance but add the custom "to die for" Boss 302 sound; even at idle it sounds wicked! These side pipes are connected via the exhaust system crossover and incorporate metal plates that help turn the exhaust sound into modern muscle car music. Though not a street legal move, one could very simply remove these metal plates or baffles if they wanted to crank up the volume. Audio clip w/ restrictors removed. In the past few years the automobile manufacturers are building exhaust systems that, in many cases, are far superior to any aftermarket system you could come up with unless you just want to make it loud as living hell, and if you regularly want to put your foot into this 5.0 on the street a certain amount of the "silence is golden" rule is wise unless you're the outlaw type that's ready, willing, and able to raise hell while imposing your wrath of vengeance against the average peace and quiet loving citizens.

Ford Boss 302 undercarriage highlights solid rear axle and dual exhausts
Note the split dual (quad) exhaust and solid rear axle on the Boss 302 [pagebreak]

Suspension and drivetrain: Many solid axles spend their lifetime banging around in heavy duty pickup trucks for a living, but test drivers report the Boss 302 solid rear axle is tuned to perfection and is an absolute pleasure on either the street or track. The solid rear axle wouldn't work like this if the entire Boss 302 package wasn't an extremely tight, tossable, and well engineered platform where the various systems all work in harmony with no glaring weaknesses what-so-ever.

Compared to the Mustang GT, the Boss 302 includes stiffer coil springs and suspension bushings, a larger rear anti-roll or stabilizer bar (or an even bigger one w/ the Laguna Seca pack), and adjustable shocks and struts. The shocks have 5 settings with 1 the softest, 5 the firmest, and 2 the factory setting. The shocks are adjusted by hand (not with electronics) and are dialed in via the top of the shock towers (with a flathead screwdriver) which are easily accessible by popping the hood for the fronts and the trunk for the rears. The Boss also includes a reduction in ride heights of 11mm for the front and 1mm for the rear in comparison to the GT model.

The steering includes a 3 mode adjustable electric power assist setup. Drivers claim the standard setting is all you need, but, never-the-less, there is a comfort and sport mode to play around with too.

The 3.73 limited slip rear differential on the Boss employs trick carbon-fiber plates which add durability and more precise traction control. There is also an optional torque-sensing (Torsen) limited-slip differential that, on this car, is combined with a Recaro front seat option that's part of a package. Electronic stability control (ESC) is also included but it, and the traction control system (TCS), can be switched off or turned to a special sport-mode for aggressive style track driving.

Wheels, tires, and brakes: The Boss 302 rides on 19-inch by 9" in the front and 9.5" in the rear (or 10" on the Laguna Seca) alloy wheels. The rims are connected to Pirelli PZero tires with 255/40ZR-19 up front and 285/35ZR-19 in the rear. The Laguna Seca Edition swaps the tires out for more aggressive and sticky race type, or R-compound, Pirelli Corsas. All Boss 302 front brakes are upgraded to Brembo four-piston calipers with 14-inch vented rotors (also a GT option) but include trick cooling ductwork with the Laguna Seca package to help reduce fade. View photo gallery for visuals. The rear brakes remain the same as those on the GT but use a more track capable brake pad compound. The brake lines have also been replaced with heavy duty versions which make for a slightly tighter feel. Ford Racing went over every inch of this car with a fine toothed comb.

Interior cockpit drivers side view of Ford's Boss 302 Mustang
Ford Boss 302 Mustang interior view via drivers side door opening

Exterior: From the side, the main visual cues that distinguish the Boss 302 apart from its brethren are the stripes that have Boss 302 lettering imprinted on them behind the front wheel wells on each side. Front end visual clues include a grill with blacked-out fog lamp openings and a semi-radical front splitter hugging the pavement. The Laguna Seca edition ups the ante with a truly radical race track front splitter that can be easily turned into mincemeat if you don't watch out for concrete parking bumpers (curb blocks or wheel stops), speed bumps, drainage ways, truck tire treads (Gators) on the interstates, and what have you. On top of that, it's not legal everywhere and must be installed by the customer. Ouch! Also, the Laguna Seca pack includes a much more aggressive rear pedestal spoiler that when combined with the custom front splitter offer superior downforce for the track. Oh, don't expect to readily notice (visually) the bad-ass sound enhancing secondary side pipes you hear so much about because they're tucked underneath the body in front of the rear tires.

Interior: Inside the Boss 302's simple but classically georgeous interior you'll notice the metallic dash, suede covered steering wheel and cue ball shifter that set it apart from the pack. The standard Boss seats are the same as those found in the GT with the addition of  suede center sections to hold your butt in place during hard cornering (Nissan does the same thing with their GT-R Track Package). Boss 302 buyers also have the option of Recaro seating just like that found in the GT500. If you were lucky enough to score a Laguna Seca package equipped Boss 302 you'll have the Recaros up front and the back seats will be removed and replaced with a chassis stiffening X-brace or stabilizer brace like that pictured below.

Also, that cool 3-gauge pack sitting on the center top of the dashboard in most pictures is part of the Boss 302 Laguna Seca package only. It includes an oil pressure and temperature gauge on the outsides, and a multi-purpose info gauge in the center. The main instrument cluster behind the steering wheel has a track apps readout incorporated into the center area to track g-forces and acceleration times. It also has a countdown and start timer gizmo to play with as well.

Boss 302 Mustang Laguna Seca package rear seat delete picture
The Boss 302 w/ Laguna Seca Pack has the rear seats replaced with a structural X-brace [pagebreak]

Picture of a white Ford Boss 302 Mustang drivers front view
White Ford Boss 302 Mustang ready to rock!

Performance: Car & Driver recorded a 4.3 second 0 to 60 time with the Boss which puts it nipping on the GT500's heels at 2/10ths of a second slower, and it's about an equal amount faster than the Camaro SS. Motor Tend got a 4 second 0 to 60 out of it.

Specs: The 3632 pound 2012 Boss 302 is rated at 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Weight distribution is 55 percent up front and 45 percent in the rear. Factory specs have the Laguna Seca Edition weighing about 5 pounds more, ultimately due to additional track equipment even though the rear seat is removed.

Boss goodies: A few other components that make the Boss 302 Mustang a dream car are the aluminum hood and stainless steel headers linked to that beautiful quad exhaust.

Picture of the Boss 302 Mustang track keys or TracKey. One is red for performance and the other is white.
Boss 302 optional red and black track keys or TracKey as Ford calls it

Bonus - The Boss 302 track key (TracKey): The Boss 302 has one more little trick up its sleeve in the form of the factory dealer activated TracKey which allows you to access a 2nd software tuning parameter which Ford refers to as "Full-Race Calibration" (as opposed to the "stock" Boss 302 tuning). The TracKey lets you switch between the two modes and Ford says you can do this "without compromising the factory warranty". The TracKey, which unlocks the more aggressive tuning code, is purchased from your Ford Racing authorized dealer after you take delivery of your Boss 302. Think it's like 300 bucks. The stock key is black and the track key is red. It's simple, use the red key to start your Boss and it's in race mode tuning, or start it with the black key for stock Boss 302 street parameters. Basically, the track tuning mode is designed to make the linked systems quicker, more aggressive, and more responsive but it's also far less tolerable or maybe even a little jerky on the street when you are trying to be mellow. Horsepower output remains about the same either way; it's more about how it's delivered.

From my perspective, cheers and more high fives go out to the Ford design team for accomplishing such a faithful and functional yet modernized reproduction that gives Ford muscle car fans a chance to own a piece of history in this extremely capable Boss 302 road and track tuned sports car. It is odd that this car actually seems like a reproduction of its former self when "the others" mainly just simply seem retro in nature. Again, kick ass job Ford!

Also, people naturally want to compare the Boss 302 to the new Z/28 Camaro, but in reality these cars are designed for downright driving pleasure and though similar, are totally different animals. Some love the Mustang and some love the Camaro. For the typical track, the Z/28 has an independent rear suspension and the C6 Corvette Z06's race proven 427 500-hp engine (vs the Boss 444-hp) for starters, so if there's room to stretch things out a bit there is not a lot of question as to the ultimate outcome, all drivers being equal, but, which car would you rather have in your garage? Remember that with the Boss's solid rear axle (among other things) you are driving a truer replica of the original 1969 and 1970 muscle cars than you'll likely ever find again in production form, and that's awesome in itself.

That is a very tough question indeed! Boss 302 or Z/28?

It's not too often when it's obvious that a production car is going to become a collectors classic, but the Boss 302 is destined for greatness whether it's used as your daily driver or packed away as an investment. The Blue Oval boys hit the nail on the head with the Boss 302!

View Boss 302 gallery


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