By on July 8, 2014

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My first contribution to TTAC was the purchase story of my 2013 Ford Boss 302 Mustang. To be honest, it could have easily ended up being a Corvette Grand Sport or something else entirely; I wasn’t a “Mustang collector” in the traditional sense. You know: when the Boss was announced by Ford, shouts were heard far and wide across the internet about the collectors who would end up purchasing the cars and that they would “stay in the garages forever” or something like that. Those guys. The ones who still have 2,000-mile Mystichrome Terminators or green ’93 Cobras with plastic on the seats.

I had a different plan. Mine was going to be a daily driver, and not only that, it was going to be a daily driver for a guy who had been averaging about 25K miles a year on his outgoing vehicle. Not only that, but it was going to be daily driven in Lexington, KY, where, despite being considered “the South” by much of the country, there are about 15-20 days of serious snowfall a year. Not only THAT, I also have two young children in car seats who were going to have to be taken to school, soccer, ballet, etc. And, of course, I bought it for sporting purposes, too, hoping to participate in the occasional autocross or track day. Seems like pure folly, no?

Well, thanks to the marvelous app Timehop, I was reminded recently that over two years have now passed since that glorious day when I said goodbye to my Pontiac G8 GT (at what has proven to be a stupid, ridiculously low price—G8s are still fetching more than that on the open market two years later) and drove home my Boss. How has it fared in all the categories in which I needed it to be excellent? Well, there’s no shortage of track reviews for the Boss, most of which contain superfluous superlatives. But as a DD? Let’s judge for ourselves and see if you, too, can daily drive a pony.
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Luckily, my day job changed from one where there was a considerable amount of driving to one where there was a considerable amount of flying, which means that the number of miles on the Boss after 25 months of so is just south of 27K. In mixed driving, I average right around 20 MPG, and on long highway trips, I have been able to get over 23 MPG. Of course, the Boss requires 91+ octane, so fuel costs are significantly higher than they were with the G8, which averaged right around 25 MPG on 87 octane. However, it’s not BAD—we’re not talking Range Rover numbers here. If I didn’t enjoy the occasional take off from red lights or hard charges through the hills of Appalachia, I’m sure it would be higher—but that’s not really the point of this car, is it? Bottom line, I drive it the way I like to drive it and it doesn’t murder me at the pumps.

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Nor has it been particularly tough on tires. I’m still on my original set of OEM Pirelli P-Zeroes (with the exception of one that was replaced at about 2K miles due to an uncompromising nail), and there’s a few thousand miles of treadwear remaining. I will likely NOT replace them with Pirellis, however—there are better performing BF-Goodrich and/or Hankooks to be had that don’t cost $500-600 each. DO NOT drive the Boss 302 in the snow, or at least not on the OEM tires—apparently stupid summer tire driving choices (All-seasons! — JB) run in the family, as my excursion in the snow one day led to a miraculous save from a ditch that scraped my right rear rim significantly. I’m sure the car would be acceptable on snow tires, but I chose to buy a used Subaru for less than a set of wheels and tires would run.

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The trunk has proven to be large enough for just about anything. I can easily fit a 27” suitcase, a duffle carry on, and a tenor saxophone case in it with a little bit of room to spare. A week’s worth of groceries for a family of four presents no challenge to the Boss, as it will easily accommodate the cargo in the trunk. However, a weeklong vacation for the family requires us to take our Flex, as two adults and two children plus luggage is just too much.

As far as the actual daily driving dynamics? Purely delightful. The Boss’ adjustable shocks with five different settings can take the car from harsh and uncompromising on the track to tolerable comfort levels on the street. I’ve never set the shocks to anything other than full soft (street) or full stiff (track/autocross), nor have I felt the need to. The steering rack has three speeds, from Comfort to Sport, and I have found that Comfort is more than enough agility for even spirited street driving, whereas Sport transforms it into an AP1 S2000-like rack. It can get you into trouble pretty quickly, but it can also get you out of it.

The Getrag transmission is the part of the car that probably gets the most flak on the intarwebz, but I’ve never found it to be a problem. If you want a car that’s easy to drive, the Boss just isn’t for you, anyway. I fully admit that I opt not to drive it when there are more mundane tasks to be done—I find my Flex to be a much more mindless drive. The Boss requires engagement of all the senses. If the government really wanted to stop texting and driving, they’d just give everyone a Boss 302—I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you really wouldn’t want to. It doesn’t like being cruised around the neighborhood in first gear. The clutch is still incredibly light and sensitive after two years, and the tires will still easily chirp in third gear. Our noted and prolific commentator, BigTruckSeriesReview, will be either pleased or saddened to know that virtually nothing non-exotic will beat the Boss off the line, especially with Trackey Launch Control— even after 27K miles, 4 seconds flat from 0-60 is a cakewalk. This is a car that demands to be driven, not simply pointed and steered.

The Recaro seats are not the most comfortable things in the world for longer commutes, especially for those who have the misfortune of being in the passenger seat. As the driver, I find them to be tolerable, but all who have endured more than an hour in the passenger’s chair complain of back pain and stiffness. There’s also not really a comfortable position for your passenger to take a nap or relax, as the Recaros are designed for total engagement. But who cares when you’re romping down I-40 from Tennessee into North Carolina, handling curves at breakneck speeds? You and your passenger will be thankful for the lateral support.

The back seats? Quite good for youngsters, and sufficient for short distances for adults. My six-year-old son and three-year-old daughter fit entirely comfortably in their forward-facing child seats, and the seats are surprisingly easy to remove and install, provided that you’re able to climb in and out of the back yourself. Not too hard for me at 5’9”, 175, but for somebody over 6’, it might be a challenge. Also, if either the passenger’s or driver’s seats are being occupied by somebody over 5’9”, then legroom begins to be somewhat compromised. Again, not a problem for me (my most frequent passenger is about 5’5”), but it could be for others.

The interior shows no wear or tear at all—everything still looks brand new when I take the time to vacuum out the cracker crumbs and pick up the toys. Ford put their best people on this one. While it may not have the refinement of a German or Japanese interior, it has been every bit as durable.

On that note—it probably has fewer interior bells and whistles than any $30K car on the market…heck, maybe even any $20K car on the market, but you know that going in. If you want a big navigation screen, leather seats, and a powerful stereo, Ford will happily sell you a Mustang GT for less money (or a Shelby GT500 for much, much more), and you’ll be happier. However, if you want the snarl and handling of the Boss, you’re likely not that interested. Bluetooth and SYNC work perfectly well, although the Bluetooth handsfree phone usage is totally useless once you decide to open up the side exhaust—nobody will be able to understand a word you say. Spotify streams delightfully well through SYNC. Although the stereo won’t inspire any audiophiles, it is more or less sufficient…but who would want to drown out that Coyote engine noise (not that you could)?

Which leads me to this—the Boss is loud, and when you remove the restrictors from the side exhaust and put in the Trackey, it’s LOUD. The rumble under acceleration is heavenly, and the lopey tone at idle is intentionally reminiscent of the original Boss 302. Don’t drive this car unless you like being noticed—everywhere I’ve driven it, whether it’s Chicago, Charlotte, or Charleston, people look at the car (yes, I know—you live in an incredibly wealthy city where nobody would look twice at a Boss 302). I wouldn’t recommend trying to commit any crimes in it. It’s a brash, bold car, both visually and aurally. I suppose that my School Bus Yellow color choice doesn’t help there, either, but none of the Boss colors are particularly bland. Even the Performance White stands out due to the black striping.

Maintenance has been worry-free, with the exception that 5W-50 oil is not easy to find, so you can’t just go to Jiffy Lube or Valvoline for oil changes (not that you’d want to, anyway). Either do it yourself or take it to a dealership, and even they will likely have to run to O’Reilly (as mine does every time). I do have an annoying fan sound coming from the passenger vent, so I’ll likely have to take it in for that when I just can’t tolerate it anymore. Boss 302 forums are totally devoid of “known issues,” and I certainly haven’t experienced anything problematic.

I really want to be “objective” and write some bad things about the car…but I just can’t. It’s been damned near perfect. I have never regretted the decision to buy it once, not even when I write my monthly payment check for it. If you never intend to drive it on the track or autocross, then a GT Premium probably makes more sense, or perhaps a SRT-8 Challenger…but neither of those say BOSS 302 on the side. Used Boss 302s are still commanding near-new money on the used market, but I am guessing that they will start to slide a bit when the new Mustang hits showrooms, and probably further when the GT 350 arrives. Snatch one up, and I guarantee you’ll love yours just as much as I love mine.

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47 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: Two Years with the Boss...”


  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    But, but, but it has a Solid Rear Axle; it just CAN’T be a good car!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    +1 to Sky-Render’s comment.

    Now, how does the Boss compare to the G8.

    G8’s are now getting a lot of love are they easier to live with than the Boss?

    • 0 avatar

      Two totally different cars. I loved the G8 and would have gladly kept it but for all the mechanical issues it had—broken camshaft, lost a cylinder—and parts took forever to get. I had an HHR for a month as a rental because of that. NEVAR AGAIN

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    For a once active SCCA/track junkie I expected something of more of a techy review. You could have bought the V6 and did the review. Part ll jn the works?

    We have half dozen Mustang fans at work. For a $30K a used. C6 is a better deal or even a used C5 for around $20K.

    No manual trasnmisson for the SLO-PAR.

    • 0 avatar

      No part II. I am not the person to write a “techy” review. I’m more interested in how livable a car is from day to day.

      • 0 avatar
        patman

        I like this review – there’s a million and one articles praising the Boss 302’s track abilities but this is the sort of info I need to make a informed decision about whether or not to consider a Boss 302 as a daily driver. Which is something I would totally consider. The thing about the Recaros is very useful information.

        It’s sometimes hard to get real world info about cars with any sort of sporting pretension because people talk about them in the context of what they picture themselves doing with them – drag racing, road racing, flying sideways down a mountain in Japan, etc. – instead of what most people actually do with them which is get in them in the morning and drive to work and make trips to the grocery store.

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          agree 100% nice job Bark M.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          +1 For a car like this, unless the buyer is going to let it sit in the garage except on “special days” the information that Bark supplies is crucial, IMHO. I specifically rejected buying an S2000 because I just couldn’t see being happy with it as a DD, which is what I needed.

    • 0 avatar
      Sky_Render

      “For a $30K a used. C6 is a better deal or even a used C5 for around $20K.”

      Hardly. The author has two kids. Ever try fitting two kids in the Corvette’s trunk? You can do it, but the damn kids keep screaming and whining about being “uncomfortable” and “not having any air.”

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      “For a once active SCCA/track junkie I expected something of more of a techy review. You could have bought the V6 and did the review.”
      You’ve said some stupid shat for years but this took the cake. The writer is writing an interesting take: sports car as daily driver, with fitting kids in the back seat to boot. Anyone can write some sort of Track-Day-Diary with a hot car but the mundane experience of daily ownership differentiates between the car that is fun vs. the car that we love. Of course the C6 is an awesome car! But your kids don’t in the back. Sheesh.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    Love it!

    Nice to see a real life example of my beliefs. You can actually function as a parent with a sporty (in this case super duper sporty) two door car and live happily ever after. Who says you need two minivan’s to have a full and rewarding life for your family.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      The Mustang is not Bark M’s only car. The review mentions he has a Ford Flex as well.

      But I agree with the sentiment of your comment…

      • 0 avatar
        PonchoIndian

        spreadsheet…I know

        With the way some of the guys on here talk you’d think everyone needs two minivans once they have a kid or two.

        One completely “practical” car and one awesome ride is the way to go in my book if you can only have two. My parents had two doors my entire childhood (well, at least until they couldn’t buy a new Regal T-type or GN ever other year).

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      I have three kids in the back of the Buick Regal. For me, my theory is that if teach your children not to be a$$#oles they can live happily side by side – and frankly I wouldn’t like them in a minivan as we’d miss out on all the amusing conversations.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Nice review. That car has got to put a smile on your face every time you walk into the garage to drive it anywhere.

    The Mustang GT is a car I’d own in a second if it were (gasp!) offered in a 5-door hatchback or sport wagon version.

    I know I’m in the vast minority, but if I can’t easily get a full-sized mountain bike in the back of a car, It won’t work, even as a fun, second car.

    And I’m really NOT interested in an FWD hot hatch.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Maybe a 4th-gen Camaro/Firebird for you. The big hatch will swallow a bike easily, they’re fun, and darn cheap these days.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      Why does it have to go inside?

      My mountain biking friend put a trunk rack and then a tow hitch rack on his convertible GT despite having a bike swallowing primary vehicle just because it was so much more fun to drive the Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I’ve taken my Trek Remedy 8 (6″ travel all-mountain bike) to the trailhead in my Miata. It involved roughly 5 minutes of prep in order to do: take out the 4 bolts holding in the passenger seat, put down some blankets and towels to protect the interior, remove seat, wheels and fork. Done.

      My cross-country mountain bike used to happily live in the trunk of my Mk2 Jetta with just the wheels removed.

      You really don’t need a huge car to be able to take your bike with you, and that’s even before realizing that a roof or hitch rack costs nearly nothing within the context of the price of a new car.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I can get my size large Trek Superfly 100 in my Challenger by just pulling the wheels. That was one of my selection criteria too.

      I love Boss’s though. They’re nifty. It does make me laugh when the person who own’s one describes shoving some random adult in the back seat and saying “they fit fine”.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Good review, but is this car really a good AutoX car? I mean, track day yes, but I don’t know if this could take down a Miata on super sticky rubber in AutoX.

    Also, have you ran into the die-hard loyalists who think Ford > * yet? Those marketing teams do wonders…

    • 0 avatar
      Sky_Render

      I have a 2011 GT. I have taken down an M3 on slicks while I was on street tires. That only happened once, though. It is a very fun autocross car and is very competitive in some classes.

      As for FoMoCo being better than everything else, I certainly wouldn’t go that far. Though I have found that they perform an exceptionally high level of quality and durability testing.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. Jadrice Toussaint has proven that this car is incredibly capable in ESP.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      My ’06 Mustang GT is lowered with camber adjustment and has a cold-air intake and (for a while had) wider street tires. I can post better autocross times than stock-class Miatas. Ford did good and built an excellent daily driver with serious racing potential. I will say that I’m not impressed with my local dealer’s lack of willingness to perform warranty work, and the overall quality/reliability is lacking (strut bearing disintegration, door panels peeling, sway bar link not tightened at factory, rollover switch failure). The price is good and the performance is good. You definitely get what you pay for.

  • avatar
    arun

    This is a wonderful review and exactly the kind I am looking for, considering that I am thinking of replacing my VW CC with a Challenger Hellcat in 2 years time! :-)

  • avatar

    I probably wouldn’t have bought a yellow one myself, but I love these cars and I love that you’re daily-driving it with small kids and I love that you wrote this from a real-world-livability perspective rather than just another rehash of “OMG the Boss is nice on a track”. Your kids will grow up having great stories about the crazy cars Dad drove (just like my kids). Good stuff.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I really enjoyed your review. I’m 90% sure I’ll be purchasing a 2012 Mustang V6 in the near future to use as a daily driver. Granted it’s not a Boss, but it should make a nice everyday car.

  • avatar

    Given how you’ve used it, would a GT (+track pack or +mods) have been a better choice?

    • 0 avatar

      I think it would have been a good choice, but I enjoy the uniqueness of the Boss. I have done plenty of track/AX with it, too, but like I said there’s no shortage of track reviews available. I wanted to focus here on the usability of the car, which is quite good and better than most would think. Plus, resale should be better for the limited edition.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s probably an argument to be made that 40k for a Boss that you’ll sell for 38k is a better choice than 35k for a GT that you’ll sell for 28k.

        Besides, if you’ve got the means the Boss is highly recommended.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    What a great review! These are my favorite kind: someone who knows about cars, plunked down his own hard-earned cash, and writes about the actual ownership experience, rather than bizarre metrics no one replicates in real life.

    Thanks, Bark!

  • avatar
    raph

    Hmmmm… I can’t remember if BF Goodrich has a fitment in the right stagger for the Boss?

    500-600 per tire for Pirelli’s???? Ouch, do yourself a favor, skip the Hankooks and go get a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sports, you might have to step up to a 295/35R19 in the rear but you can, get that tire at half the cost of the Pirelli and end up with a better tire in most if not all respects

    • 0 avatar

      They do, designed specifically for the Boss. Miller Motorsports Park uses them for their Boss Track Attack cars.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        I see the G Force Sport Comp II is available in the 255/40R19 and 285/35R19 sizing although the G Force Rival isn’t available yet in those sizes and the G Force KDW is only available for the rears (hah, oddly enough BFG Goodrich doesn’t make a 285/40R18 KDW for the Shelby anymore much to my chagrin yet they have the fronts in a KDW).

        I might have to check the Rival out if it becomes available in the Boss sizing.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    “Luckily, my day job changed from one where there was a considerable amount of driving to one where there was a considerable amount of flying”

    Sorry…I don’t see this as a plus. I’d much rather drive a car I love than have to fly…unless the aircraft in question is a private jet.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    This was a really excellent review as it gave useful information to readers (who may really be considering the purchase of such a type of vehicle) regarding the practicality of such a vehicle as a daily driver, in a two vehicle household, with kids.

    Few, if any, reviewers do these types of assessments, which makes it all the more useful for those who’ve always wondered if they could rationally justify the purchase of such a car as the current gen Mustang as a daily driver given their current circumstances.

    A typical review of the Boss Mustang would have been 98.7% centered around how it braked, scooted, cornered & sounded, which would have not helped real people with real lives who want such a car as a daily driver with a purchase decision.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Great article and a great perspective. I have long ago decided that my next car is either going to be a 2015 Mustang with the track pack (or performance pack or whatever they call it) or a 2012 Boss 302.(I happen to like the nose on the 2012 more than the 2013 and they are easy to find with super low miles). I want to see the 2015 in the flesh before deciding, but it is good to hear you are happy with your Boss as your daily driver.

    But what is this GT350 version you mentioned? I haven’t heard of that one, I only heard that 2016 they will be bringing out a new Mach, priced much higher than the regular GT. Or are those one in the same?

  • avatar
    gosteelerz

    Just about at my first anniversary with my base V6 car which I am using as a daily driver. Sounds like the cheapo bucket seats are the way to go. They are super comfy seats, which passed the ultimate test by not giving my dad back pains on a road trip. For some reason my 6′ 1″ tall son likes sitting in the back, can’t explain that one. I had no problems dealing with the Polar Vortex laden winter, love the turning radius in the snow.
    My only complaint is the crappy stereo which sounded worse than the one in a Lowe’s rental pickup.
    I’m with you on fuel economy, which is to say, I don’t care. I only have to fill it up twice a month through the magic of a short commute.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I like this kind of story.

    It provides information that one never gets from a track based or performance based test.

    Most of us do not have the luxury of owning track day cars or sunny Sunday cars.

  • avatar
    sirbunz

    I am thoroughly impressed by the Boss 302, coming from someone who has raced S2000s in my spare time going on a decade. I drove this one in stock for on an auto-x course, and a Laguna Seca Edition in full “ESP” prep for fun runs. I have also been passenger while someone else has thrashed this car on various tracks and courses. While its not to be confused with a C5Z, the power is there and feedback to the driver is more on par with a Corvette compared to the older Mustangs. I can wait to drive the newer Mustangs with IRS.

  • avatar
    DFV

    Great review. I too use my Boss 302, a 2012, as a DD (at least from April through November). I agree with the vast majority of your positive impressions of this car being a superb, high performance vehicle but am fortunate in that I did not opt for the Recaros, thus making longer cruises more comfortable on myself and my passengers. Try Michelin Pilot Super Sports in original staggered size when you have to replace your Pirellis. They’re less expensive and IMO much better tires.

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