New Mustang requires second key to unlock secret race car mode

Ford's Mustang Boss 302 can be turned into a competition-ready track car with the turn of a second, red key.

ANDRE J. JACKSON/Detroit Free Press/Newscom/File
Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Company stands in front of the 2011 Ford Mustang Boss 302 on Aug. 20.

Some cars just have a little too much power for the daily commute, and there's no point in driving a 444 horsepower machine through stop-and-go traffic. Ford's new Mustang Boss 302 allows drivers to switch from a pedestrian muscle car to a race-ready beast with only the turn of a key. For daily drives, a black key engages the car's basic settings, while a red key unlocks the car's secret, next-level specs for drivers who are ready to open it up in an empty track.

A joint project between Mustang engineers and Ford Racing, TracKey adds a second set of powertrain control module (PCM) software to a customer's Mustang Boss 302, activated by a specially programmed vehicle key. When invoked by TracKey, the new TracMode software alters more than 200 engine management parameters, increasing low-end torque and turning the potent but well-mannered stock Boss into a competition-ready track car. Remove TracKey and start Boss with the standard key, and all factory engine settings are restored for a comfortable drive home from the course.

"From an engine management standpoint, we've done just about everything possible to give TracKey users a full race car experience," said Jeff Seaman, Mustang powertrain engineer. "It's not for use on the street – for example, the deceleration is set up to preserve the brakes, and the throttle response is very aggressive. A skilled driver on a closed course will really appreciate the benefits."

As part of the TracKey software package, Ford engineers also devised a two-stage launch control feature similar to that used on the Cobra Jet race car. Using a combination of steering wheel buttons, drivers can set the tach needle to a desired launch rpm. Floor the throttle and the engine will rev to the preset rpm until the clutch is released, helping aid acceleration and vehicle control from a standing start.

The TracKey PCM software – installed by an authorized Ford dealer after a customer takes delivery of the car – adjusts variable cam timing, spark maps, engine braking, fuel control and other engine parameters (more than 200 in total) to provide a complete race car calibration. The result is an aggressive, race-bred driving experience all the way down to the lopey idle rumbling through the Boss quad exhaust.

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