2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 first drive review Page 3

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Flip the black, regular key and the Boss Mustang already feels strong enough to tackle the red stripes and blue-and-white curbs at Laguna.

Holding back is your toughest choice. The Boss' four exhaust outlets bellow out an earthy mating call, even through nearly a dozen additional pounds of sound deadening. The ball shifter begs you either to grab it or to aim it for a bank shot into a corner pocket. The optional Recaro seats bear-hug you into a confident driving pose and the steering-wheel switches let you choose calmer steering when you're stopped. But even with the suspension screws set to a moderate 2, the Boss jiggles and pistons with the rigid compliance of an ISO 9000 officer, even on smooth California tarmac.

Swap out the black key for the red key, and it's like sampling pure oxygen for the first time. Step into the ring, blast out of the pit lane at Laguna, and the Boss shows you who's really in charge. This must be what it's like getting your ass kicked in a cage match with the Michelin man. It's a powerlifter of a race car, always ready to summon another huge load of torque where a stock GT would be gasping for air, ripping off redline runs like it's tearing a telephone book in half.

Grip the sueded steering wheel and hang on as the Boss pulls through Laguna's steep uphills, and you'll swear you'll never drive a hybrid car again, not even on a dare. The intoxication that comes from a big American V-8 is pure drunken ecstasy here--minus all the stumbling you'd do in an ancient Mustang. This one knows its moves better than you do. Add a little throttle here, dive into the brakes there, and the Boss sits and behaves. Stab at the gas and the suspension takes a reassuring set, the massive tires hang on for a little more than 1g of ultimate grip, and even the electric power steering overachieves with decent weighting and quick-release cornering.

Within a couple of laps--like the three banged off in the video up over these words--you'll feel somewhat invincible. A dangerous thing on the track, but massively rewarding at a hormonal level.

Is it the kind of Mustang you can live with every day, and still get a few thrills of a lifetime? You'll have to do it without the niceties of a USB port for your cell phone, with just a single-CD slot, and in the special Laguna edition, without those token rear seats. And only you can tell if the telltale signs of a barely disguised race-car ride are tolerable on the days of the week that don't start with an S.

But if there's a deep-seated need in your soul to own a Mustang, at some time in your life, and you have any secret dreams of driving balls-out in the only socially acceptable way we know of, the Boss is it. It's Americana of the most undiluted kind.

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