DEARBORN, Mich. -- The high-speed track at Dearborn Proving Ground, historic vehicle test facility for Ford Motor Company in Michigan, runs for 2.8 miles in a loop around the park.
Pulling onto the two-lane track to burn some fast laps is a high-powered rendition of Ford's classic pony car, the fabled Mustang. It's the limited-production 2012 Mustang Boss 302 based on the 2011 Mustang GT but packing a kick-butt 5.0-liter (302-cubic-inch) V8 tied to a six-speed manual transmission with a 3.73:1 rear-axle ratio, torque-sensing (Torsen) limited-slip differential, Brembo front brake calipers, adjustable shocks, 19-inch speed-rated performance tires and Recaro bolstered front bucket seats.
Holy Seatbelt: This thing, feeling like some vintage rocket-charged racer, rips around Ford's track at triple-digit speed while delivering a deep-bleat blast from quad exhaust pipes at the tail.
How quick is it?
Timed track tests of a new Boss 302 clock the zero to 60 mph stat at four seconds flat as it blows past the quarter-mile post in 12 seconds and change at 115 mph.
And Ford lists the top speed at 155 mph.
Mustang tracks back decades in the history of Ford Motor Company to the original Mustang notchback coupe, which debuted in 1964 to set a generation on edge with envy. It went down as one of the most successful products in automotive history, accounting for over a million units sold in only the first 18 months of production.
Many iterations followed, from the first variation with Mustang Fastback of 1965 and a powerful 1968 GT to muscle machines like the Boss 302 of 1969.
Designed as a road race car that would be unbeatable on SCCA race courses as well as local drag strips, the first Mustang Boss 302 sported front and rear spoilers, a blacked-out hood treatment and racy side stripes.
Under the hood, that '69 Boss 302 carried a small-block V8 engine displacing 302 cubic inches (5.0 liters) and producing 290 hp at 5800 rpm with 290 lb-ft of torque at 4300 rpm.
By comparison, the 2012 Mustang Boss 302 scores a new aluminum-block 5.0-liter (302-cubic-inch) V8 with DOHC (dual overhead camshafts) and four valves in each of eight cylinders with high-tech valve controls -- Ford's Ti-VCT (twin independent variable cam timing) system.
What about horsepower?
The Boss 302 V8 delivers 444 hp at 7400 rpm with big torque of 380 lb-ft at 4500 rpm.
It's easy to detect new iterations of the Boss 302 because each 2012 edition wears either a black or white roof panel, unique front fascia and blocked-off foglamp openings.
An aggressive front splitter and low-drag tail spoiler enhance the vehicle's aerodynamics.
Five exterior paint colors apply to the new Boss 302: Competition Orange, Performance White, Kona Blue Metallic, Yellow Blaze Tri-Coat Metallic and Race Red.
In the cockpit, there's a unique steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara suede and sport seats trimmed in cloth with suede-like center inserts designed to hold riders in place during racy maneuvers.
Optional are the Recaro front buckets off the GT500.
A black pool-cue ball mounts atop the shifter stick.
Equipment promoting active safety includes speed-sensitive electronic steering and big disc brakes tied to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and traction control system (TCS) coupled with Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control (ESC) device.
The Brembo four-piston aluminum front brake calipers work on huge 14-inch vented discs.
In the suspension department, Boss models are lowered by 11-mm at the front and by 1-mm at the rear compared to a Mustang GT.
Front suspension components include independent MacPherson struts with reverse-L lower control arms, a 34.6-mm tubular stabilizer bar, strut-tower brace and manual adjustable strut damping.
At the rear the suspension is a three-link solid axle with the limited-slip differential, performance coil springs, Panhard bar, 25-mm stabilizer bar and manual adjustable strut damping.
Special 19-inch wide-spoke black alloy racing wheels apply in staggered widths of 9.0 inches up front and 9.5 inches in back.
The wheels are capped by speed-rated Pirelli PZero performance tires -- 255/40ZR19 front and 285/35ZR19 rear.
A limited-production Boss 302 Laguna Seca track-oriented model adds race gear by deleting the rear seat and installing a race-ready suspension and aerodynamic components.
Named for the California race track where Parnelli Jones won the 1970 Trans-Am season opener in a Boss 302, the 2012 Boss 302 Laguna Seca has increased body stiffness, a firmer chassis and an aero package borrowed from the Ford Racing Boss 302R.
The MSRP chart for Ford's 2012 Mustang Boss 302 begins at $40,310.