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Understanding and Hooning the 2011 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Kamil Kaluski October 12, 2011 Reviews 62 Comments

Yes, that's a ladder next to the Boss.

I never owned a Mustang. There are no specific reasons for it other than perhaps insurance cost or its lack of refinement. I never dismissed the ‘Stang, I simply chose to spend my money on something else. At a recent event, Ford gave me an opportunity to hoon the new Boss, and I came away with a few observations.

Ford realizes that many buyers have been overlooking the Mustang, yet spending more money on less powerful cars, such as Audi’s S4. Over the past few years Ford has been polishing up their iconic car in order to compete with others not only on performance level but curb appeal too. Most notable are interior improvements and options which now appeal to track junkies and casual enthusiasts alike. Ford wants to sell the Mustang to the car-loving yuppies, badly.

The first step in driving the new Boss 302 was appropriately, a drag race. Well, sort off. This was eighth-mile run designed to demonstrate Mustang’s new launch control. The system is rather simple: set the desired launch RPM via steering wheel buttons, hold the clutch, floor the gas, and drop the clutch (just dump it). Bam, you’re taking off like a seasoned pro.

I have never used a launch control system before. In my opinion such system would perform magic to minimize wheel spin to get car off the line as fast as possible on any given surface. The Mustang system does not do that. You dial in the RPM and it just holds it for you, dial in too much and it will smoke ‘em. It’s a cool toy, it allows showing off while reducing the potential for making an ass of one self. However, I doubt that anyone who has been to a drag strip more than once will be using it.

I was impressed with the fact that Ford was using the same Mustang for two days of non-stop drag launches. Unlike some so-called exotic cars which limit the amount hard launches, this thing just kept going and going. Is this a testament to the live axle?

Before heading to the auto-cross section, I took the time to sit in the Laguna Seca, as I like to get familiar with a vehicle before driving it. I did not love the interior; the dash was high, as was the car’s beltline, resulting in somewhat limited visibility. The seat’s headrest was right against my head and it was not adjustable. Suede/Alcantara steering wheel was nice but could be thicker. Shifter was nice, short yet firm (TWSS, ha!). One thing I noticed in the drag race was the tachometer was too far to the right, often obscured by the steering wheel.

I donned a helmet and jumped into a yellow Boss. Even with the Recaro seat to the floor, my helmet was almost touching the roof and the headrest was pushing my head even more foreword. With the seat so low, visibility got worse. After reclining the seat some more, I was off. Funny thing about Mustangs, once moving the interior issues simply disappear.

Being unfamiliar with the car and the road course, I took it easy. I kept recalling driving class instructions from years back, while paying attention to my hand position and where I should be looking. I did well. Not surprisingly the car did well too. Was it good, awesome, or bad? I have no idea, I could not possibly judge it based on that amount of time, but it was fun.

Next up was the Boss Laguna Seca edition. Everything was pretty much the same, except three gauges mounted on top of the dash, further reducing visibility. Instantly noticeable was the increased grip of the border-line R-compound tire. I knew the course now, I knew the car, and I knew what I was doing. Well, I thought I did, right up to the point where I span out. Good thing no one saw that. Oh wait, there is a video.

The price of a full-loaded Boss 302 Laguna Seca is around fifty thousand. That’s right up there with the S4 and 335i. I have a feeling that the Mustang does not lease as well as the Germans either. Fifty grand also buys a base Corvette. While the numbers of the Boss, be it horsepower, acceleration, or track times, are all better than the mentioned cars, is that enough to sell it to a yuppie?

It would also be unfair not to mention that the biggest potential competition to the Boss maybe its little brother, the GT.  With few carefully chosen options and some extra after-market cash thrown at it, it would probably keep up with the Boss when both are in the hands of inexperienced drivers. But then, the whole idea of the Boss is that it comes out of the box with all the goodies many people would bolt-on to it right after driving it off the dealer lot, hell it comes with side pipes!

The base Mustang is now a proper car and not just a Hawaiian rental. The GT is a great value and with options such as the glass roof, fancy audio systems, and attention-getting HID headlamps, it is creeping into the yuppie category. Big car magazines say the Boss can hang with the M3 on the track and the Shelby GT500 can take on some lesser exotics. Good job Ford, keep at it.

  • The opening picture makes it look like a hog. I do love a good Mustang, but we may need to have a conversation about some of those accents…

  • $kaycog

    If I was a yuppie, I'd certainly buy one. Yup, I would.


  • I love it. Especially the yellow plain 302.

    I want to get one (non Laguna: I don't especially care for the colors), and smoke my friend that just bought a 1-Series M Coupe. I suggested he look seriously at the Boss, but he said his wife would not allow him to drive a Mustang. They still have a stigma, sadly.

    • A 1 series M? A rare bird and a lucky friend. Is he a good enough friend to pass the keys?

      • Indeed, the best of friends. It is the whole traversing half the country for a "visit" that is hard to put together. God, I so want to drive that car.

        • Nice, though you can always offer to drive it back home for him if that is for some reason the holdup.

          • I think I have a plan to visit in the next few months. My wife has generously given me her frequent flyer points, so it could be a dirt cheap trip.

    • spatula6554

      It is a difficult stigma to overcome since it is double edged…Mustang stigma of boy-racers or Mustang stigma of American classic pony car…

      I don't think the Mustang will ever sell as well as a S4 or 3 series. I know that I would seriously consider one for the performance at that price point but it is only a 2 door coupe…a 3 series sedan would fit my friends / family needs much better than a Mustang coupe. If there was only a way to sell the Mustang with 4 doors without starting a civil war, Ford would have a complete line on it's hands.

      • Yeah, I could see a civil war start because of that.

        It'd be totally worth it.

      • Ol' Shel'

        Audi would have to sell 74,000 S4s to outsell Mustang.

        • spatula6554

          I misspoke…

          …"Ford realizes that many buyers have been overlooking the Mustang, yet spending more money on less powerful cars, such as Audi’s S4. Over the past few years Ford has been polishing up their iconic car in order to compete with others not only on performance level but curb appeal too. Most notable are interior improvements and options which now appeal to track junkies and casual enthusiasts alike. Ford wants to sell the Mustang to the car-loving yuppies, badly."

          …this is the bit of the market that Ford is trying to capture.

          • Scandinavian Flick

            So rather than "sell as well as the S4 or 3 series", it would be more accurate to say; "steal customers from the S4 and 3 series."

            In that, I agree. It's just a different market. I see that as a good thing, as variety is what breeds innovation.

      • JayP

        A Mustang-based Falcon sedan/wagon would have me all tore up.

    • tiberiusẅisë

      "he said his wife would not allow him to drive a Xxxxxxxx."

      He chose poorly.

      <img src="http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ActorsE/5123-9434.gif&quot; width="400">

  • jarque

    I don't know who would actually buy these except die hard Mustang fans. Maybe that's enough? Someone who is going to spend $50k on a daily driver probably wants more comfort, more gadgets and more cachet than a Mustang has to offer. Someone who is going to spend $50k on a dedicated track car probably wants better performance and bigger bragging rights.

    • McQueen

      I think the "Braging rights" are pretty high up there with the Mustang

  • Scandinavian Flick

    "But then, the whole idea of the Boss is that it comes out of the box with all the goodies many people would bolt-on to it right after driving it off the dealer lot"

    …and a warranty. A lot of those bolt-ons would probably void the warranty on the lesser models. Definitely something to consider.

    It is certainly an intriguing car, especially for someone who lives as close to Laguna as I do. It strikes me as a weekend toy though, and $50k is a lot to spend on a weekend toy Mustang… It's a definite attempt at an image change though, and I respect it.

    • pj134

      The being hideous part doesn't help them though… I mean, when I first saw pictures I though "You know, bold colors look cool on cars. I'm glad to see they have the balls to do it." Then I saw one of these in person this weekend:

      <img src="http://www.thisweekinmotors.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/sema_2010_boss_302_orange.jpg&quot; width=500>

      Too bold, leave orange to tuners and veyrons.

      • Scandinavian Flick

        It's funny you mention this, since last night, on my drive home, I saw one of the black and red ones, (not the first one I'd seen, but it had been a while…) and I actually think it looks better in person… I also think the current subtle restyle is one of the best looking Mustangs in decades, but that's just me…

        • pj134

          Yeah, I saw a lot of the other colors at the local dealership (they get tons of limited edition mustangs and more raptors than I can count) and thought they were ok. The orange was just eye searing though.

          • Scandinavian Flick

            I haven't seen an orange one in person yet, but I can tell I'm probably not going to like it. It's odd, because on some cars, it's one of my favorite options, like the Murcielago and Exige. But then, those are exotic sports cars… So there's that…

  • The Boss is about the furthest from sleeper or practical DD you can get. I like it but would be farther down the list for a buncha reasons, several being all variants of the CTS-V.

    This special edition is a more niche-fied muscle car. One more special edition. What we need is not more niches but cheaper more attainable fun. Stripper muscle cars that came with little to no options and honkin' engines come to mind. It's a losing idea as the mass public is looking for comfort and ease of use, but I'm not opposed to a car with roll down windows, a/c and radio delete, and 8 cylinders of fury on tap. And yeah, 4 or even 5 doors are nice…

    • Lotte

      I still wonder if I can walk into a dealership and say "I want the Hemi/V/Mustang GT/any trim level with the upgraded powertrain, but take out all the included features, please." Don't know if they'd build that.

    • You can get a 300++hp V6 + 6MT + track pack for pretty decent money these days.

      It'll smoke pretty much any sports car from 5 years ago and before. That's about as good as you could hope for, really.

  • sport_wagon

    The Mustang could have 1,000 times the power of the S4 or the 3 series and it still wouldn't matter. It's about driving dynamics, refinement and, mostly, image. Mustang = Mullet. Sad, but true.

    • Lotte

      Well, it's got the first two, and the third just means they have to make the Mustang name 'hip" and "trendy". I guess they could do a "Mustang+H&M" edition (Wait, did the Levi's Gremlin sell well?…) or recognizing some current trends of their target buyer into their design.

  • Well, if it was up to me I'd swap one of these for any number of S4s and 335is, just to get some fricken variety on UK roads.

    The Germans are getting their own way every bloody time.

  • JayP

    At one of the summer's DEs, a pal and I were ogling a 302LagunaSeca. The instructor for the car came over to see what he was getting into and kinda scoffed that it was a Mustang. He runs a modded ZO6 so this ox-cart wasn't gonna do nothin'.

    After the first session I hunted him down to see how he liked the car- and he was thoroughly impressed.

    The 5.0s and the new V6's are nice cars. Interiors are a little hard but for the money, these cars get it done.

  • As ostentatious as it is, I would pick this over anything up to a CTS-VVagon. It is just that damn good.

  • Andrew

    This car possesses insufficient added lightness. If you're going to build a track-biased version of a performance daily driver (Mustang GT), make it truly track-biased, not just a better-performing street car.

    The Laguna Seca's more extreme suspension is a step in the right direction, but please, strip most of the interior and trunk, change steel to aluminum, and replace the body panels with fiberglass (easier to repair/replace after you bounce off a tire wall).

  • Eggwich James Dio

    Besides the price, I don't see how this car compares to the 335i or other German sedans. It is not subtle. It is not about seating four. It is ostentatiously about speed, not refined luxury. I don't think Ford is having a problem selling these cars. I don't think Ford is targeting yuppies in any way with the Boss 302. They'll never sell as many of these as a German sedan, because there aren't that many people that want a performance car taken to this extreme.

    if you want to look respectable or impress clients, this is not the car to buy. If you want to pull up next to other cars and mouth to them, "I'm about to commit rapes upon you and yours," this is the car to buy.

    Sidenote: there are classier cars at the pricepoint, but are there faster cars, even at 10,15,20% above the pricepoint? I could google it, but Tigers are in extra innings. Rangers gonna get raped too (fingers crossed.)

  • sport_wagon

    You guys are changing my mind about the Mustang. Mustang ≠ Mullet

    Now I want to go drive a BOSS. Like a boss, of course.

  • MIke England

    I was 19 when the "New Mustang" came out and I bought one. (In 1979) Wish I still had it.
    I love every Mustang that has been built since. OK, I may be a red neck but I have always liked Mustangs.
    But what IS a Mustang, really? Doesn't it have a bit of a personality problem?
    In 1966 and in 1979 it was an affordable, reliable economy car.
    Both times it evolved into a muscle-ly car.
    I bet I will see one of these new ones this weekend. – I am in fast car heaven right now.
    Charlotte NC, over the next 2-3 days, will be the biggest automotive carnival this side of the Detroit auto show.
    and I'll be right here in the middle of it. Sometimes I love my job.

    • tonyola

      But in 1966 you could get a 271-hp 289 which made it pretty muscle-ly for the time, and if that wasn't enough, there was always Shelby with official Ford backing. As for 1979, that was near the bottom for performance everywhere. The only performance options for the Mustang that year were a low-output 302 and a cranky 2.3 turbo. It was an "economy" car simply because Ford had few alternatives at that time, and they sought to rectify that starting in 1982 and the return of the 5.0 GT.

      • Indeed, the Mustang has been available in economy and performance versions from the beginning. A lot of people tend to forget that quite a few of the '64.5-'65 cars, for example, had what were essentially Falcon straight-six engines. On the other hand, my sister has a stock '66 GT fastback [yeah, the whole family is like this…] which isn't exactly in the economy category.

        Certainly not when driven as she drives it.

  • OA5599

    Mustang has borrowed heavily from Sloan's "A car for every purse and purpose" philosophy.

  • I think Ford's made a pretty legitimate case for the GT, BOSS and Lagunaboss to Vette, S4, M3, and other serious business sports car shoppers.

    …provided they're shopping ~80% on performance.

    Obviously, there's no way a tape-striped bruiser Mustang is going to steal sales from the country club set.

    Also, +1 to the logic that most of the Euro competition is available as a 4 door. "Really fast luxury sedan" is a whole different animal than a gnarly Mustang.

  • dragon951

    Poor Boss. You used to be cheap, dangerous and fantastically insane. Now the bean counters won't let you be cheap, the government won't let you be dangerous and the P.R. department stuffed you in some rented tux and combed your hair. You belong in the back alley with the off duty waiters where you own the dice game.

    • tonyola

      The original Boss wasn't all that cheap. In 1969, a base Mustang cost around $2,700 and a Mach 1 was around $3,200. The Boss 302 was $3,700 (about the price of a 428CJ-equipped Mach I) and add another grand on top of that for the Boss 429, which puts it at the bottom of Corvette territory.

  • mike england

    I just saw a parking-lot full of Mustangs today, with this decade's answer to CArroll Shelby (Mr Roush) – if I wasn't so dumb I would know how to post some pictures here.