Best of the Best 2012: Coupes & GTs: Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca

In an age of paddle-shift automatics, button-controlled suspension modes, shift-mapping software, and driver-tuned exhausts, the Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca (www.ford.com) is a welcome throwback to the get-in-and-drive days of its progenitor.

 

The original 1969 Mustang Boss 302 was a race-bred machine developed by Ford for the hotly contested Trans-Am series. Today’s Boss is a bare-bones GT built for performance-minded drivers who appreciate American muscle. At the heart of the car is a 302 cu in V-8 engine that develops 444 hp and spools up to 7,500 rpm. Shifts are performed by that rare species of transmission known as a 6-speed manual. With the cue ball–shaped shift knob in hand, you can engage a real clutch pedal, stir the gearbox, and experience a satisfaction unknown to practitioners of fingertip shifting. The center pedal operates the Boss’s capable Brembo brakes.

 

The Laguna Seca edition, priced at about $48,000, delivers less content (no rear seats) than the standard version but more performance. The track-oriented package includes a front splitter, sport seats, and other features that make this car the best-handling Mustang in the pony car’s nearly 50-year history.

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