Breaking up is hard to do.
But sometimes, we have to. We have to let go in order to find ourselves. So it's with my deepest regrets, my most sincerest sympathies, that I must tell the 2009 Mustang Bullitt that I think it's time we take different turns. For three fabulous years, you were my most favorite Mustang out of the herd of high-powered steeds. You were the inspiration for the current generation of GTs, but that was then. Trust me, it's not you, it's me.
Me and that 2012 Mustang Boss 302.
It didn't start as an adulterous affair. It was just supposed to be a good time. A lap around the track and then back to the familiar, the Bullitt -- the Mustang I declared the best ever. But the more you stomp down on the accelerator of this newly improved muscle car -- and with 444 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque -- the more you realize who really is Boss.
No matter how much I drove the 2012 Mustang Boss 302, I was never satisfied. I only wanted more. This is more than a Mustang designed to pay tribute to the 1969 Mustang Boss 302, a limited-edition beast of a machine. This honors all Mustangs. It's simply a phenomenal piece of machinery that combines seat-of-your-pants driving with performance upgrades throughout.
Mustangs have never been Euro-racers with absolute precision, carving through corners as if they're on rails. No, Mustangs tend to beat their own path down the mountain. It's the bulldozer of race cars. But Ford has installed, or should I say, instilled, a lot more confidence into this particular Mustang.
Engineers refined the suspension, adding higher-rate coil springs, stiffer suspension bushings and a bigger rear stabilizer bar. The front end is 11 mm lower and the rear is 1 mm shorter than typical Mustang GTs. Then engineers added adjustable shocks and struts to help keep the car moving over any bumpy road.
These all help limit the Mustang's famous axle hop, something that may be exhilarating at moments and pants-changing at others.
The lower center of gravity also means this car can just go faster. The electric-assist rack-and-pinion steering helps a driver hold the line through corners, even at higher-than-legal speeds. It may take some of the car's challenges away, but it doesn't limit its fun.
Hear this V-8 roar
Then there's the revised 5-liter engine. Engineers boosted its power to 444 horses and tuned its sound to echo some massive beast's mating call. It grunts and burbles like few V-8s left on the road. It's not only worthy of the 302 badge, it's better than the original.
The Bullitt was nice, but the Boss is just better.
It even comes with its specially tuned stability control package. Through electronics and sensors, the new system will allow for three settings: everything on; most things off; and everything off, which will leave the traction control to a driver's skill.
Ford also offers something called TracKey, which an owner can only get once the car is paid off.
There's a reason for this. TracKey allows the driver to put the car in full track-ready form. It will give the car racer calibrations and a launch control system that won't void the manufacturer's warranty. The launch control will allow you to preset an RPM limit, mash the accelerator to the floor and then launch like a space shuttle.
And when you want to stop, the 14-inch vented rotors in the front will be clamped down by Brembo four-piston calipers.
Nothing has been overlooked when it comes to enhancing performance. Where this Mustang excels, however, is that it still feels pretty normal when you're not pressing it through turns or on the highway.
It gets 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, while providing a fairly smooth ride. While some prefer stiff rides to remind them they're in a performance vehicle, I don't like spilling my coffee on my shirt on the way to work. The Boss lets you live in both worlds -- daily driving and track superstar.
Of course, Ford added more than a few cosmetic features to this Boss -- to help make it look more aggressive and add a few spoilers to keep it stable at high speeds. If it's functional, I approve. But the exterior would be the only thing that seems a little over the top. Yes, it's fast; yes, it's mean. But let it prove that on the road, not in the parking lot with bright colors and mismatched roofs that make you want to sing "better get Maaco." (Ford is using black or white roofs on the Boss to help it stand out. I would think 444 horsepower would help it stand out.)
All Mustangs continue to have exceptional interiors that provide luxurious comfort as well as sports car utility.
The Alcantara suede-covered steering wheel adds an elegant look, though it may lack the practical approach for a road trip and a bucket of chicken. The Recaro bucket seats are a pleasure to sit in and even better to drive from. They hold you snuggly into place, even when the back end of the Boss is wiggling around a little through the corner. (And it will wiggle around.)
Throughout the cabin there are those nicely placed touches that enhance the driving experience, and that's why this Mustang stands out so much.
It's the complete package of performance, comfort and power.
Sadly, it's better than the Bullitt, a Mustang that I adored for such a short time. And it's not like I can't remember it fondly as I use voice-activated commands on the Boss 302 to operate my phone or stereo through Sync.
Really, for the Bullitt, this will be better for you in the long run. And we can still be friends.
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Exterior: Good. Bold new fascia makes the Boss even more aggressive than most Mustangs.
Interior: Excellent. Comfortable and complete. Ricaro racing seats are a must-have for high-speed turns.
Performance: Excellent. More powerful and enhanced in almost every way, the Boss is truly the boss of the road.
Pros: Fun to drive to work and on weekends, all around the best Mustang currently made.
Cons: Can be a lot to handle for some drivers. Price gets steep.
**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor