Photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company.
The same thought kept going through my head as I lapped Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in a "Gotta Have It Green" 2013 Boss 302; "this is a bone stock car, there is no way it can be this good." But I was wrong, it was that good. And it was running the stock tires and brakes. Later in the day I took a few laps behind the wheel of a brand spanking new Laguna Seca edition. For those who do not know, the Laguna Seca version take the standard Boss and turns it up to 11. That car had been delivered to Hallett with 20 miles on the clock, the only prep work done was having hot shoe Steve McCarley bed in the brakes. More on the Laguna Seca later though. Let's get back to the Boss first.
The 2013 Boss 302 is largely a carryover from the 2012 version with most changes being cosmetic. I'm not going to bore you with specs and figures; you can read about all that here. What I am going to tell you about is how a perfectly mild mannered Mustang turns into a capable track machine with a few simple steps.
Getting behind the wheel of the Boss feels just like any other Mustang, no intimidating race car flair in sight. The transformation to Mr. Hyde begins with the second ignition key, the "Track Key" that unlocks a myriad of tweaked settings within the engine management computer. For everyday use the standard ignition key still provides plenty of kicks, but the Track Key gives the driver a much more aggressive experience.
Like almost every other car on the road the Boss comes equipped with stability control. That is great for keeping you from wrapping your new Mustang around a light pole, but on the race track it can be pretty distracting. That is why Ford gives you the option to turn it off. This is no simple dash button mash but a defined procedure that ensures that you are aware of what you are doing. While not for everyone, running the Boss on a proper race course "au natural" is a beautiful experience. The car is just "right there" the whole time. Sure you can push any car past its limits, but the Boss is so predictable and planted that most people will be just fine with not pushing all the way to the edge.
On the other hand, put veteran racer Steve McCarley behind the wheel and you will experience a whole other world. While only admitting to driving the Boss at 60% of its potential the performance was jaw dropping. From the passenger seat I experienced G-forces I normally only associate with fully prepped track day cars. At no point though did the car become unsettled or feel out of control. Steve kept asking more from it and it kept delivering. Corner speeds I thought for sure would have induced understeer were met with neck wrenching changes in direction as the car bit the track and held firm.
For those who want to put a high polish on their Boss experience there is the Laguna Seca. The Laguna Seca takes the standard Boss 302 and turns it up to 11. While not a night and day difference, the Laguna Seca lets you go in deeper, turn in harder and really get the most from the Mustang chassis. A true street legal race car.
The Boss 302 isn't for everyone. Ford has done a fantastic job with the entire 2013 Mustang lineup. Even the base V6 model deserves to wear the Mustang badge just as much as its V8 brethren, something that could not always be said in the past. But for a car that can be bought off the showroom floor, raced hard with no modifications, and driven to the grocery store on the way home there's just no equal to the Boss.
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Published Dec 31st, 1969