Bark's Bites: Two Years With the Boss
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sirbunz on Jul 09, 2014
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.
DFV on Jul 13, 2014
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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