Car Corner
2012 Mustang Convertible & 2013 Boss 302 Mustang Driving Impressions

November 1, 2012
By Scott Lewis

I took a trip to New York at the end of September and rented a Mustang Convertible. Also a friend of my son got a Boss 302 Mustang. I thought I would share with you some of the things I noticed about these cars. This would be similar to my "review" of the 2010 Camaro I did when I rented one of those in New York three years ago.

Like I did with that previous test drive... I come at this from the point of a Camaro fan. However, over the last couple of years I have come to waiver in my allegiance. For instance, I like the interior more in the Camaro... even looking at it from the outside. I also think the styling of the Camaro is a better "retro" design than the Mustang. Then again, the Mustang is several hundred pounds lighter than the Camaro which has a definite impact on performance (and mileage).

Given all that... the Mustang interior of the car we rented was decidedly low rent. It felt cheap all around. I would never consider getting a base Mustang of my own. If you are reading this looking for advise... here it is... sit in examples of a base Mustang and a "Premium" Mustang. Make sure you really like it. From a comfort standpoint... I really did prefer the seats in the Camaro to the Mustang. But the difference was not enough to swing the vote one way or another. (NOTE: In researching this article, I see on Ford's web site that the Premium version of the Mustang comes with Recaro seats as standard. If these are anything like the Recaros in the Boss 302 I drove -- see below -- the Premium version is a mandatory upgrade.)

As for the Boss 302... it was equipped with Recaro seats. I cannot say enough about these seats. I love them. I want them. These seats hold you in place like no tomorrow. You never have to worry about sliding a single millimeter under the hardest corners in these seats. Granted, they can feel confining. If you are a wide person, you probably will not like them. They are slightly narrow and you do feel like you are getting pressed into them a bit. I also found it a little awkward putting the seatbelt on in these seats.

Overall I found the Mustang Convertible to be a good performer. Road tests of the Mustang put it in the low 5 second range 0-60. It did not feel that way to me. Of course, the rental car was equipped with an automatic. But when I floored it from a stop it did not even chirp the tires. Similar to the Camaro, it was a bit sluggish at low RPMs. However, power does build nicely and the car is more than fast enough for almost all drivers. You can certainly get a lot of tickets in this car... especially in the car I drove which was Grabber Blue, and could be seen by police from a full mile away.

I would highly suggest getting a manual for this car. The automatic was terrible at knowing when to downshift. Give it a little throttle to get a little more acceleration and it doesn't seem like enough. So you give a little more throttle and it thinks for a moment and then finally downshifts with a roar and an abrupt burst of speed and a lot of noise. Overall, this is probably no different than the Camaro. I remember feeling the Camaro's automatic was not responsive enough either. Save the automatics for V-8 engines or for girls. If you want the Mustang as a performance vehicle, get the manual. 300+ hp with a manual will be quite rewarding.

The Boos 302 is a completely different story... with one minor similarity. The Boss has tons of power. It is extremely addictive too. Be careful or you will get more tickets than you can possibly imagine. The Boss 302 only comes with a 6 speed manual transmission (Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus). The throws on this shifter are very short. It is a joy to use, but the gates are pretty close together. I can see missing shifts from time to time. Maybe it just takes some getting used to. The shifter is also a little notchy. This is not a bad thing. With the amount of power on hand it has to be a beefy transmission with beefy controls. I once sat in a Shelby in a dealership and noticed that the shifter was brutally notchy. That is not the case in the Boss 302. It has just enough notchiness to remind you that it is controlling a stout tranny behind a stout engine.

The one area where both Mustangs are the same is in the overall power delivery. The Boss 302 is a bit low on torque (relatively speaking). You may never notice this. If you run through the gears with any gusto you will just get arrested. But at 2000 RPM in 6th gear the Boss is sluggish. It requires a downshift to build speed. So in this regard it is like its slower V-6 counterpart. Both want to be downshifted to get up and go from mild highway speeds.

The steering on the Convertible was quite heavy. Not hard to use, but heavy... and numb. There was very little feedback, and swinging the wheel side to side on the highway gave very little movement. When I do this in my Mini Cooper it is razor sharp and you can feel in complete control. This will not effect this car as a cruiser, but it just dulls the car in a noticeable way. Thankfully the Boss 302 does not suffer the same fate. It is amazing how different these cars are in the steering. The Boss has heavy steering, but the car moves right away when you move the wheels. Not quite as razor sharp and my Mini Cooper, but as good as any other car I have driven in recent years.

In the convertible I was getting right about 31 MPG on the highway when driving at the speed limit. We were a little worried about making it to the airport with enough time, so we started hustling through traffic. My mileage dropped to the 29 MPG range when darting between cars to make up time. Overall, I don't know what my mileage was for the trip, but you can get close enough to the EPA 31 MPG on the highway if you keep your foot out of it. As for the Boss... forgetaboutit.

That's about all there is to tell. I enjoyed the Mustang Convertible overall. I found the interior a little cramped. And since I drive a Mini Cooper daily, being cramped in another car might be a bad thing. My son didn't complain when he had to ride in the back seat of the Boss, so maybe it is not too bad back there. I did not go back there to find out.

I wish I could have spent more time with the top down in the convertible. The day we got the car the weather was perfect top down weather. But I was not about to drive 2.5 - 3 hours with the top down. We pulled over when we got close and pulled up to our destination with the top down. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate the rest of our trip. It was too cold or raining. Maybe next time.

Would I buy one?

I would not buy a base model Mustang Convertible. At $27K+ it is NOT worth it (new that is). A Premium edition V6 Convertible is $31K+ new. I think I could not do that either. I would have to touch and feel the difference. Regardless... when I looked up the prices on Ford's web site I could only see buying a used Mustang. These are getting so expensive. But I am sure the same is true of the Camaro and Challenger as well. As for the Boss 302... well, let's just say I think I found THE Pony Car that will be on my September "Cars Worth Waiting For" column next year. The Boss is so good that I can look past the cheap interior and everything else. I want one... I just have to wait until the day I can afford one.