Skip to main content

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 - Doing what it does best!




It was 6:30 a.m. and I was already up and getting ready to leave. It wasn't for work - I'm usually not awake until 7:30 a.m. on workdays. I also didn't need to grab or prepare lunch. I did grab a couple of items, though, my helmet and my second car key - the track key (TracKey), for the first day at the track this summer. The local track - Atlantic Motorsport Park (AMP) - is about an hour away. I filled up the car and a 10 litre gas tank and headed to the track.

I arrived shortly after 8:00. The last time I was at the track before then was the last weekend of August, 2012, and I have been counting down the weekends since then. Once I arrived at the track, saw the line up of cars and heard a few idling engines, it seemed like it was only last weekend that I had been there last.

Now let's get to the important stuff - the car. I've had the car on the track before. Initial impressions were excellent. I bought my car "used" with 230 miles on the clock, so I had no say in the options and, unfortunately, it didn't come with the Recaro seats and Torsen differential. Nonetheless, the Boss 302 is excellent on the track. It's one of those cars that shrink around you when you push it. It feels eager and willing. The car I had before was a less powerful, lighter car (under 3,000 lb). Once I strapped into the Boss, I felt the extra heft and wondered if suspension wizardry could make up for it and did it ever! Unlike my last car, which was a light car (good) and felt like it on the track and on the road, the Boss feels like a great GT car on the road, especially in the price range, but it's a different story once you take it to the track.




When I took it to the track last summer for the first time, I started slow. The first few laps, I decided to take my time to learn the car and get comfortable with it.. but the car kept asking for more at every corner, turning in and pulling out of corners with ease. The more I pushed, the lighter it felt. Lap after lap, I started getting quicker and more impressed with the car. Understeer is practically non-existent. Turn in is impressive and unless you are trying to come into a corner too fast, you won't miss an apex by going wide. When you do go wide, it's simply the momentum of the car carrying it through the corner, not the front tires losing traction and dreadfully screeching for mercy. The back end can come out but it's very easy to catch. The excellent Alcantara wrapped steering wheel gives you plenty of information about what the tires are doing, especially for a car with electric power steering. It's neutral and well balanced. It has little body movement and plenty of grip and power plus good manners at the limit. What more could you ask for?




Plenty, as it turns out. As is the case with any automotive enthusiast who likes to modify, reasons that, to you, are logical and justifiable will always pop up in your head as to why you should modify. When I bought the car, I told my wife "Honey, this is more expensive than our previous car but I won't spend any money on modifications like I did with the other car. This is set up perfectly." I was wrong. I meant it at the time, but I should have known better. This wasn't my only mistake, though. Unfortunately, I did what I always advise people not to do - I made more than one modification at a time.

Firstly, the differential. I figured I would make it as good as it could have been straight from Ford before I change anything else. The standard Traction-Lok limited slip differential (LSD) is a great unit and it comes with carbon fibre clutch plates for added durability but the performance of the Torsen is on a different level. The same stands for the seats. The standard seats have great support and comfort but they are no Recaros (I don't know how good the Recaros are on long trips, though). I haven't got to upgrading the seats because they cost nearly $3,000 new and I am willing to buy used but I haven't been able to find a good used set. I did upgrade the differential, though, and decided on the OEM Torsen - the same unit that comes standard on the Boss 302 Laguna Seca and is optional on the Boss 302. It has a torque bias ratio (TBR) of 2.7 which puts it mid-way of gear-based limited slip differentials. I picked it because:

1- I was assured by Ford Racing and Torsen that the unit was developed with the Boss in mind and durability was a huge factor (you actually can't order that unit from Torsen, only Ford Racing or Ford Racing vendors)

2- Too high a TBR, and the car would start to push/understeer and I don't want that, especially for a short, technical track like AMP. Too low a TBR would make a small difference over the standard differential. 2.7 seemed just right.




Next on the list came a Watt's link. I went with the Fays2 Watt's link because, at $650 (from Strano Parts), it was several hundred dollars less expensive than alternatives, quality was top notch and it had the widest range of rear roll centre adjustability (7-positions). I also heard great things about support from Strano with parts installation and adjustment so I figured I couldn't go wrong. Unfortunately, I did have some installation hiccups along the way but they were quick to respond and get the issue resolved.

I installed it with a lower rear roll centre position (3rd from the bottom). The closer the rear centre is to the car's centre of gravity (in this case, higher upwards), the less roll the car will have. With no change to the front roll stiffness, less rear end roll means better turn in - the same effect as going with a stiffer anti-roll bar. While that's great (and it is something that I want), I'm not a professional race car driver so I wanted to make sure the car won't be too tail happy before I move the roll centre further up. After a few trials, I ended up 2 positions higher, 3rd from the top.

Last but certainly not least came wheels and tires. They actually came first in terms of order of installation. Some of you may remember my first post (An unfortunate first post.. or is it?) where I was (happily) forced to upgrade wheels and tires earlier than I had planned. The car comes stock with 19" x 9" wheels in the front and 19" x 9.5" wheels in the back wrapped in Pirelli PZero tires - 255/40/19 in the front and 285/35/19 in the back. The wheels weigh about 32/33 lb. each. I bought 18" x 9.5" TSW Nurburgring wheels in gunmetal grey shod in 285/35/18 tires all around.

I wanted to go with lighter wheels all around and wider in the front for a little more rubber to improve (the already excellent) turn in. The new wheels weigh about 22 lb. each so they save about 10/11 lb. per corner. Additionally, the drop in wheel diameter from 19" to 18" means two things; a whole car and centre of gravity drop of 1/2" and the effect of gearing up the rear end by 3.9%. I.e. the drop in wheel size, from the drivetrain's perspective, is equivalent to going from the stock 3.73 gears to 3.87 gears. There are no gears that I know of that are available in this ratio but if there were, they would have the same effect. Now, I was told by many that there's no way I could feel the difference from the drop in weight or diameter but I actually noticed some improvement. But then again, it could all be in my head!




Track impressions this year after the modifications were even better. The Torsen provided a huge traction advantage coming out of corners. I was able to come back on the power a lot sooner and roll into the throttle more quickly than last year. It was appreciated the most at the corner exit of corner 2. As you can probably figure out from the track map, corner 2 is the slowest corner on the track. If you're in a hurry coming out of it (as you should be) in a car with any appreciable amount of power, you get nothing but spinning if you can't modulate the throttle. In a car like the Boss with the standard LSD, you can use very little throttle, which can be frustrating after a few laps. With the Torsen, speed starts to build up a lot more quickly while exiting a corner. You still can't go full throttle past the apex at every corner, but it is a whole lot better.

And thanks to the Watt's link, it takes more to upset the rear axle now. The track is on the bumpy side so it makes an even better case for itself on this track. Although you can notice and appreciate the Watt's link on the road, it's a whole other level on the track, especially on the back "straight" (between turns 6 and 7) were bumps were very unsettling at higher speeds. Between the lighter wheels and decreasing rear end roll, the car feels much lighter on its feet, even more willing and eager to slow down or change direction. I can carry more speed going in and around corners, which is even more impressive when considering what tires I ended up buying.

The tires I bought - Continental ExtremeContact DW's - are actually supposed to be slightly less sticky than the stock Pirelli PZero's. Since I daily drive my car as long as the weather allows (about 8 months out of the year), I went with the Continentals because they have much better tread rating and they are better in the wet (it rains often here) and in cooler temperatures. The Michelin Pilot Super Sports give up a little tread life and comfort to the Continentals but they are still a lot better than the Pirelli's and are supposed be best in class in terms of performance. They are a lot more expensive than the Continentals, though, so I couldn't afford to buy them at the time since I was buying wheels along with them. When it's time to replace the Continentals, I will be trying the Michelins.

Despite the slight drop in ultimate tire grip, the car had better turn in and braking, higher corner speed and more rear traction, all point to the improvements that the modifications made. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the outcome and I'm looking forward to the next weekend at the track, which will be with the local BMW club - BMW Club Atlantic. Make sure to check back for updates!

Note: The pictures were taken last year at the track so they show the stock wheels and tires. I apologize that they're low res - the gentleman who takes pictures at the track posts low res versions on his website for free and I couldn't buy the high res pictures because I had spent all my money on the car!


Popular posts from this blog

550 hp V8 Cadillac CT6 V Coming in 2019

Cadillac's largest car - the not-quite-a-flagship CT6 - is becoming a little more flagship-y by getting the full V treatment like you can get on the CTS and ATS (for just one more year before they're axed in anticipation of replacements, so grab them while you can). Cadillac calls the CT6 top-of-the-range but won't call it a flagship, clearly wanting to leave that distinction to a larger and/or more grandiose vehicle in the future. It was previously announced in March earlier this year to be getting a high dose of performance enhancements, the highlight of which is a new twin-turbo V8, and was going to join the line-up as Cadillac's skim-V models called V-sport. Think of it like M-performance packages from BMW vs full fledged M models, the only difference being V-sport models typically get unique (and much more powerful) engines. But just a couple of weeks ago, Cadillac announced that it will make it a full-fledged V line model, making the car inch a bit higher in pre…

2020 Mid-engine Corvette C8 - What You Need to Know

Rumours of a mid-engine Corvette have been around basically since the C2 Corvette, the first Stingray. I've heard some people argue that the Corvette is already mid engine because the engine sits almost entirely behind the front axle, making it mounted midship. But everyone knows that the classic definition of a midengined car is that of an engine mounted between the seats and the rear axle, not the front axle. That's what everyone pictures if you say "mid-engine". Worse still (for the Corvette), a true midengined layout has a lot more traction - all else being equal - than a front-midship mounted engine like the current Corvette, no matter how far back it is mounted. Chevy knows this, and there has been no shortage of Corvette mid-engine concepts for decades. This time, however, it's different.

For one, manufacturers these days tend to keep very special/high performance models under wraps for a very long time during development, only revealing them when they a…

2007 Saleen Mustang S281 SC Super Shaker Track Review

"Who's your green student today?" asked a friend and instructor at the BMW Club Atlantic Advanced Driver Training (HPDE) weekend in June this year. I said: "The Saleen." The response was: "Oh, boy." Mustangs, generally, have a reputation for being more power than chassis. Mustang drivers have quite the reputation for.. how to put this nicely? Taking advantage of said power/chassis imbalance. To make matters worse, this particular Mustang was a supercharged Saleen, with a honkin' Shaker scoop sticking out of its hood. Did I mention it was also a convertible? And the owner was someone who's never been on track before but clearly has the speed bug.

Having had a Mustang for years and driven a few on track, they don't scare me - generally speaking - but the combination of being convertible and supercharged with a new and excited owner worried me a little. Nevertheless, I shrugged it off and got excited about chatting with the owner to find out…

Michelin Pilot Super Sports vs Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 - Street Review

I've been a huge fan of Michelin PSS tires and exclusively bought them for the Mustang over the last four years. So how did I end up here? This year, I was hugely interested in trying an "R-comp" tire. I had my eyes set on Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R's for two simple reasons: price and reputation. They seem like they're easily the most affordable (from a big brand) R-comp tire and combine that with a reputation for having tons of grip, it was an easy top contender. I had my concerns, though. For one, I'm told and have read that they are an autox tire, not really designed for high speed, pressure, and temps associated with open track. For another, the Mustang is a heavy car (as far as track cars are concerned) being roughly 3,800 lb. (including driver), which will amplify the unwanted open track loads. Combine that with the fact that I drive a good amount on the street during the summer, and I was very worried that they wouldn't last more than a handful of…

Michelin PSS vs Firestone Indy 500 - Track Review

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my first impressions of Michelin's PSS vs Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tires. I've run PSS's for several years on the Boss, but I'm trying the Indy 500's for the first time. In short, I was worried about the narrower tires (I was running 285/35/18 PSS but could only find the Indy 500 in 275/35/18) and tread squirm, but I was happy with them up to that point just driving on the street. I had the chance to drive on them for three track days now. So what were they like? After my first session, they made an impression that basically persisted for the rest of track sessions on them. Phenomenal, unmatched value. Now, if value is something that stands out above all else, it typically means the compromise between qualities you want and those you don't is less than ideal, but the value is attractive. This is no different. I'll start with the bad, which really boil down to two: ultimate grip and grip longevity.

Grip is noticeably lowe…

2014 BMW 335i xDrive M Sport Review

Post-refresh 2015 F30 3-series pictured. 
Which is better, an F30 3-series or an E46? The F30 has certainly taken its fair share of heat. But if you thought I was going to say the E46, you'd be dead wrong. The F30 3-series is better. Far better. It is quicker, faster, safer, more practical, more efficient, more refined, quieter.. the list goes on. A lot of reviews and people I talk to consider the F30 to be an abomination. Frankly, I don't see it. You'd have to be mad to think the E46 is better. Completely out to lunch. I don't know who in their right mind would prefer the E46..  Trouble is, since when were people buying sports cars in their right minds? Here, lies the real problem.

"Raw rather than refined in its noises, pounding ride, heavy clutch, 50 grand and cloth seats?"
".. and not at all shy about its performance compromises. It always acts like the automotive jock it is, every mile of every day."
"Raw and quite loud.. And sometimes ru…