Even though the cosmetically-upgraded 2013 model of the Ford Mustang Boss 302 was unveiled last week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2012 model remains a great choice for the sports car or muscle car enthusiast. It's powerful but not insanely so, affordable, and track-ready from the factory.

The 2012 Mustang Boss 302 is so affordable, in fact, that it falls below our $50,000 cut-off for the Best Car To Buy award, but it's so good despite its price that we felt compelled to make an exception. With the Laguna Seca package equipped, the price rises from $40,995 to $47,990, putting it just below the cusp.

With or without the Laguna Seca package (though we'd prefer it with), the 440-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 under the hood delivers serious acceleration. With the power routed through a race-duty clutch and limited-slip rear differential, it's usable, long-term power, too. A special intake and exhaust helps the Boss reach its power goal, while also livening up the sound to just-barely-street-legal levels, too.

With the optional TracKey system, you can make the idle even lopier, enable two-stage launch control, and put the engine into full race calibration--all within the warranty. It does all of this by adjusting more than 200 engine management parameters, effectively storing two entirely different tunes inside the stock PCM. That two-stage launch control is borrowed from the Cobra Jet drag race car, by the way.

Lest you think the 2012 Boss 302 is just a straight-line special, however, consider the Ford Racing suspension it rides on, with higher spring rates, a lower ride height, larger anti-roll bars, and adjustable shocks.

With all of this racing goodness, you might think the Boss 302 isn't really a street car anymore, but it's still every bit as useful a daily coupe as the standard Mustang GT--just better. And that's why it's on our list of nominees for Motor Authority's 2012 Best Car To Buy award.


Follow Motor Authority on Facebook and Twitter.