These days you know you’re about to drive an awesome car when it has Ford Performance sill plates and a Ford Performance window sticker. These are not regular Fords, people! From Raptor to Focus RS and Shelby GT350 — these are some of the best-developed speed specials on the road. Regular cars. Made a million times better for enthusiasts.
It is extra gratifying to know that the Bullitt Mustang is not just a badge and stickers job. Gratifying to think about and especially behind the wheel. We’re talking just 20 extra ponies but a very different rev character for the engine and just that little bit of extra speed to keep you ahead of any other GT’s on the road.
Elements of the Performance Packs are also standard on Bullitt including wider rubber all around and the deeper chin spoiler up front. But the most thrilling part of owning the Bullitt is just being a part of the Steve McQueen legend.
Not sure if you have watched the car chase in its 30-min glory recently but it is definitely worth your time. This chase has none of the hokey fakeness of the 1960s-1980s Bond chases — all sped up film and camera tricks. Nope. This is the real deal. Cars at full throttle, pushed to the max.
You feel like you know McQueen’s Bullitt Mustang by heart after hearing it hit its redline over and over again.
As we tapped Record on the GoPros for the video below, we couldn’t help but notice just how similar the modern Bullitt sounds to the original. But more than anything, you come away amazed at how fun and capable the car is in max-attack high-performance driving.
Kick things off hearing the beast in action in the below video.
The Bullitt makeover is pretty awesome in the flesh. Certainly cooler than it sounds just describing it. First things first are the colors: only jet black or Dark Highland Green.
Complete debadging means there are no blue ovals anywhere on the car. No GT or 5.0 badges either. Not even the rear spoiler out back — that’s a delete for the Bullitt pack too. Gloss-black for the upper and lower grilles in front is unique versus other Mustangs. Brembo calipers in front are extra visible through these alloys – but so are the rears that are just red-painted GT calipers. Loses some magic there but not a big deal.
Gloss black mag wheels with a polished lip are unique as well. This polished element matches the brightwork around the windows and upper front grille — the only Mustang with these in chrome. Chrome is definitely out of style right now but the Bullitt does it proud. It gives the car a nice uniqueness and retro appeal that is hard to describe, but a sure-thing in the flesh.
In place of the GT circular element on the rear end, you have the Bullitt logo with its target lines and menacing all-caps glory. Gloss black for the quad pipes down below is also unique to Bullitt and looks macho but subtle at same time.
There is a slight risk that in turning the Mustang GT into a q-car that people might think this is just a base Mustang in green. That might be true — until you hear it rumble up or roar away on full throttle. Then there’s no doubt at all that this is a top-dog performance model.
Bullitt cabin is less special than the exterior, bottom line, and might be the area where Mustang is showing its age versus other $50k sports cars. More on this in a moment.
Unique details for Bullitt include green (faux) stitching for the upper dash, a plastic machined-metal effect for the accents and a Bullitt badge in the center of the wheel where a pony would typically live. A dash plaque with part of the VIN serial in front of passengers also confirms we’re in something special. Green gauges in the MyColor settings also light up the cabin in green to match the whole ethos of the Bullitt green. Too bad it is a neon green and not the right emerald shade.
That being said, the start-up sequence is really cool and these configurable gauges are still great. We like it in the below setting because it is such a high revving V8 that you need to know instantly if you’re at 5500 rpm or 7500 sometimes. Gauges like this make that easy.
Options on our tester were the big electronics package that brings the thumping B&O 1000-watt stereo system and various active safety features.
A cue-ball style shift knob is sexy and feels giant at first in your palm but soon becomes second-nature. No automatic available on the Bullitt is a cool detail that keeps Bullitt exclusive to hard-core performance dudes and dudettes like us.
The only option our tester was missing inside are the Recaro buckets. Those are definitely great seats and much more comfortable than the stock units, but these base seats are pretty grippy if just slightly not-perfect after many hours in the seat. The Recaro seats do make it harder to get in and out in tight parking lots. This is not great for oversized individuals who already might emit a few groans folding themselves inside.
Thrilled the Bullitt had cooled seats (the special is based on Mustang GT Premium) because this black cabin without tinted glass gets very hot in the South Carolina sun. Black leather doesn’t help — and definitely not this icky vinyl-feeling leather.
And here we have the main gripe inside. On first sitting after this car was in the hot sun, all you smell inside here is glue that is re-melting itself in the summer heat. The car had 10k miles so very unlikely this was new-car-smell. We only got that powerful whiff of glue the first day so perhaps it was a fluke, or perhaps we went nose-blind to it. Either way, it speaks to a larger problem.
Mustang cabin is usable and the CarPlay works flawlessly. Love it. But all the plastics are lousy, the fit and finish is below-average and visibility has that supreme darkness of many muscle-cars. Not as bad as Camaro but Mustang is pretty cramped with big blind spots around rear pillars and the front ones, frankly.
That darkness of the cabin is not helped by the cool-looking black headliner, either. A moonroof or even fixed glass roof with interior sunshade would go a long way to lightening up the cabin.
Let’s just say that this cabin probably looked a lot better in the designer’s computer modelling than it does in real life. It is clearly a remnant of pre-2017 Ford, before they discovered soft-touch and quality materials. (The steering wheel is wrapped in very-soft semi-anliline leather – which is an improvement over original Mustangs from this generation.
On the plus side of things, the adjustable steering and exhaust are as cool as ever. It is pretty menu intensive to futz with the exhaust modes — a rocker switch would be a lot faster and easier to use.
20 extra ponies for the Bullitt come from the plasma-coated piston liners from the 5.2L GT350, a different alloy casting technique for the engine block (also from GT350), and a larger-diameter throttle body that that ups the max fuel flow speed.
Is it noticeable? It might be psychosomatic because you know the extra power is there. But yes, the Bullitt does feel like it will spin up to high revs with less resistance. Revving faster equals a more thrilling drive character, and that is true here for Bullitt.
This engine is a gem of smoothness but not exactly a paragon of low-end torque, which can be surprising when driving any Mustang GT. All these turbos and automatics have made us all torque snobs. You do have to downshift and kick Bullitt up a few thousand revs to get it really roaring. This means that it is pretty easy to botch the launch start. As before, the launch control is not easy to use properly either. It is just a tricky car to launch, at least for non-professionals.
But once in gear and revving to the heavens of its near-8000-rpm fuel cutoff, the Bullitt is heaven. This is a seriously, seriously fast machine when all is on full boil. The sprint pace for 5-60-mph starts is damn close to 4.0-seconds. Bullitt is perhaps two tenths quicker than GT on its best day. But in practice, with two ‘Stangs leaving the lights, 480HP beats 460HP and the Bullitt will pull away from about 40-mph upward.
The exhaust sonics are said to be what sells Mustangs, and we really really believe it. This car has one of the most intoxicating engine notes on sale today. Adjusting it to the softest setting is nice for bumper-to-bumper traffic or early-AM starts, but even in quiet mode this V8 roars like a mad locomotive on full throttle.
Bullitt is around $1000 pricier than Mustang GT Premiums to start, but like all of them, the price rises from about $46k fairly quickly. Our example was about $52k. That money feels like the deal of a lifetime on full throttle and when you feel how incredibly agile the car is, even taking corners above 60 or 70-mph. This is a truly incredible performance car that proves how well the Mustang keeps evolving for the better.
Besides the electronics pack our tester had the $1500 magentic dampers — which are as good as the hype. Very excellent body control at all times but without the jittery, jolting ride that usually brings on the highway for stiff cars.
But sometimes that feels like a lot of cash versus the cheapest GT V8 Mustangs at around $38k. And on paper the Bullitt is only $5k cheaper than my beloved GT350. Bullitt might not have same dealer markups or availability issues as the Shelby GT350 – but then again, it is nowhere near as special (to this driver.)
Back to the Bullitt chase scene. Think about it, if the baddies got away today you have infinite tech to find them. But back in the late 1960s if they got away, they might be gone forever. So the motivation to do all those jumps in San Fran and those tail-out corners throughout the Bay Area was real. And you know that the bad guys in the Dodge are indeed bad mo-fo’s when they start firing a sawed-off shotgun at our Bullitt hero car… just moments before they crash off the side of the road in flames.
As authentic and genuinely exciting as Bullitt the movie was, it might not speak to current-gen shoppers. For that, Ford made sure that this is the furthest thing from a badge/stickers special. This is the real deal. McQueen would approve.
Bullitt in 2019 has awesome tech, amazing character on throttle, and a cool f- all y’all attitude on the road. All that makes this Highland Green ponycar one of the coolest street cars available.
Thankyou, Ford Performance, for making these amazing vehicles. Keep’em comin!
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.