2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 - FROM $40,310
In any of its iterations, the 2012 Ford Mustang lineup represents the best pony car you can buy today.
What's New for 2012
The big news for the 2012 Ford Mustang is the revival of the storied high-performance Boss 302 model. Also notable is the introduction of adjustable effort settings for the power steering effort on GT models.
After numerous improvements to the Mustang lineup last year, we wouldn't have been surprised this year to see Ford's engineers just sit back and watch their winning horse run circles around its competition. As it turns out, though, they've been busily creating yet another highly desirable model to join the stable.
For 2012, Ford reintroduces the Mustang Boss 302, a nameplate that recalls the Boss 302 of 1969. Just as before, the new Boss 302 is a track-tuned beast, and it should also be both great to drive and even potentially collectible. Numerous engine enhancements kick output up to 444 horsepower, and the Boss receives a host of other hardware upgrades to handle the extra fury under the hood.
Supporting the new Boss 302 are two Mustangs that are capable in their own right. The entry-level Mustang's V6 engine churns out an impressive 305 hp and earns a laudable 31 mpg on the EPA highway cycle. The V8-powered GT brings even more power into the mix. For both models Ford offers an impressive array of options, including suspension and brake upgrades and the innovative Sync electronics system.
As good as the Mustang is, there are a few minor faults. The interior still has its share of cheap plastic, while the lack of a telescoping steering wheel means a compromised driving position for some. The new-generation Mustang is also a victim of its own success when it comes to styling, because there are too many on the road to turn heads.
The 2012 Ford Mustang isn't the only horse in the race, either. The Dodge Challenger provides a more spacious interior, while the more dramatically styled Chevrolet Camaro will likely collect a lot more attention. The Mustang pulls away in the home stretch, however, as it presents the most complete package overall.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Ford Mustang is available as a coupe or convertible and is offered in five trim levels: V6, V6 Premium, GT, GT Premium and Boss 302. (The Shelby GT500 is reviewed separately.)
The base V6 starts with 17-inch alloy wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, keyless entry, integrated blind-spot mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-only steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
The V6 Premium adds upgraded 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, Ford's Sync system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, color-adjustable gauges, ambient lighting, upgraded interior trim and an upgraded eight-speaker sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface. The V8-powered GT comes with the base V6's features plus 18-inch alloys, automatic headlights, a rear spoiler, adjustable steering effort and foglamps. The GT Premium is essentially a GT with different 18-inch wheels and the V6 Premium's roster of features.
Options on Mustang V6 models include an exterior appearance package that adds bodywork graphics and a rear spoiler. Bundled with the optional rear parking sensors are an anti-theft system and wheel locks. Also available is a V6 Performance package (for coupes with manual transmissions) that includes 19-inch wheels with summer tires, numerous suspension and brake upgrades, a recalibrated stability control system and a 3.31 rear axle ratio.
The V6 Premium unlocks a slew of packages and options in addition to those available on the base model. These include: the Pony package and the Mustang Club of America Special Edition (both consist of 18-inch wheels and various exterior styling enhancements); the Comfort Group package (a power passenger seat and heated front seats); and the Electronics package (automatic climate control, HD radio and a voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic and other information). Also available are remote ignition, xenon headlamps, a glass roof, a tonneau cover for convertible models and a back-up camera.
The Mustang GT can be outfitted with upgraded Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels, summer tires and the recalibrated stability control system. Two performance axles for quicker acceleration are available: 3.55:1 and 3.73:1. The GT Premium can be had with all the options of the V6 Premium and GT packages plus a selection from an array of 18-inch and 19-inch wheels, the California Special package (more exterior styling variations) and a more powerful 10-speaker sound system (not available with the Electronics package).
The new high-performance Boss 302 is only available as a coupe and adds a more powerful V8 engine, 19-inch wheels, quad exhaust tips, special exterior trim and aerodynamic elements, a 3.73:1 rear-axle ratio, Brembo brakes, adjustable shock absorbers, unique interior trim, a suede-wrapped steering wheel, alloy pedals, cloth seats and the base audio system. Recaro front seats (from the GT500) and a Torsen limited-slip rear differential are optional.
The limited-edition Boss 302 Laguna Seca model goes even further with track-ready aerodynamic enhancements, race-compound tires, a stiffer suspension, unique gauges and standardization of the Recaro seats and Torsen differential, plus the deletion of the rear seat.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Ford Mustang V6 is powered by a 3.7-liter engine producing 305 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque. The Mustang GT steps up to a 5.0-liter V8 good for 412 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. Both have a standard six-speed manual transmission, while a six-speed automatic is optional. As if this isn't enough, the Boss 302's 5.0-liter V8 ups power output to 444 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. (An automatic transmission is not available for the Boss 302, however.)
The Mustang V6 coupe earns an EPA fuel economy estimate of 19 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 23 mpg in combined driving with the automatic transmission, while the manual is estimated at 19/29/22 mpg. The GT has an 18/25/21 mpg rating with the automatic, and 17/26/20 mpg with the manual. Opting for more aggressive rear differential gear ratios will further drop fuel economy.
In recent Edmunds testing, a V6 Mustang loaded with the Performance package and 3.31 gear ratios accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. A V8 Mustang with 3.73 gears managed the same run in only 4.8 seconds.
Standard safety features for all 2012 Ford Mustangs include antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags (chest and head protection), traction control and stability control. Also standard is Ford's MyKey system, which allows owners to limit speed and audio volume levels for young drivers.
In government crash tests, the Mustang earned an overall safety rating of four stars (out of a possible five), with four stars for overall front crash protection and four stars for side crash protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Mustang coupe earned a top score of "Good" for frontal-offset collision protection and a second-best "Acceptable" for side-impact protection.
In Edmunds brake testing, the V6 and V8 Mustangs turned in impressive stopping distances. The V6 stopped from 60 mph in only 103 feet, while the V8 needed only 109. It is important to note, however, that both vehicles benefited from the optional performance packages.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mustang's interior can be appointed with all of the modern conveniences we've come to expect, while also paying homage to its rich history. Sync's voice-activation features greatly simplify operation of audio, phone and navigation systems. The buttons themselves don't have a particularly solid feel, though, and a large percentage of door panel and center console real estate is taken up by hard plastic.
The Mustang also lacks a telescoping steering wheel, though thankfully most drivers should be able to find a comfortable seating position. Both coupe and convertible body styles can accommodate four adults, but rear passengers will be cramped; if you regularly carry around more than two people, the Challenger is a better bet. The coupe's trunk can hold a decent 12.3 cubic feet, while the convertible's space drops to 9.7 cubes.
Boss 302 variants get the added bonus of Ford's new TracKey technology. Owners receive a standard black key as well as a red key. The red key is intended for use on racetracks only, as it increases low-end torque, sharpens throttle response, increases off-throttle deceleration and unlocks launch control.
Regardless of which 2012 Ford Mustang you choose, you're in for a wild ride. The base V6 makes more than enough power for the average driver and plenty of oomph to satisfy a majority of driving enthusiasts as well. The V8 engines take performance up a few notches with gobs of torque and a glorious exhaust note. Driving enthusiasts will naturally want to select the manual transmission, though the automatic isn't a bad choice; it's prone to early upshifts in order to maximize fuel economy, but there's enough torque to keep the Mustang ably motivated.
Within the pony car triumvirate of the Camaro, Challenger and Mustang, the Ford is lightest on its feet. On a curvy road, the Mustang responds eagerly to steering inputs and feels controlled and manageable. Due to the Mustang's solid rear axle design, though, the rear of the car can get a bit twitchy when encountering midcorner bumps.