Go full Mcqueen
2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Review: The Mustang You Really Ought to Want
The Ford Mustang has a timeless charm. Imperative to that charm is how much that car channels coolness — and for buyers of a certain age, the Mustang has never been cooler than when Steve McQueen used it in a car chase in the 1968 film Bullitt. With the Bullitt-idolizing generation at peak disposable income, it’s not surprising Ford tapped that nostalgia well for the third time in less than 20 years for a series of special-edition Mustangs culminating in this one.
Fortunately, the car itself supersedes the nostalgia. Forget the movie: This car is beautiful, powerful and loud in any context. It’s perhaps the purest distillation of the Mustang’s greatness (at least, in terms of versions not made for the track). But keep in mind: Coolness is seldom cheap, comfortable or practical.
The Good: The Bullitt has a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 that produces 480 horsepower and enough exhaust noise to rouse the peacefully interred. It only — only –comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The retro appearance pares down some of the model’s extraneous styling elements, reducing it to what may be the best-looking Mustang on sale.
Who It’s For: Anyone who wants a sharp-looking Mustang. Sure, it could be someone older living out a Steve McQueen fantasy — but this car does not need nostalgia to sell.
Watch Out For: Well, it’s a muscle car, so by average motor vehicle standards, the Bullitt Mustang is not particularly comfortable or practical. At 18 miles per gallon combined, it’s not very fuel-efficient, either. And introverts be warned: you should be prepared for strangers to approach you to talk about your ride.
Alternatives: The Mustang’s major rival is the Chevrolet Camaro, where the closest analog would be the 2SS trim with the 6.2-liter V8 ($42,995). There’s also the Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Wide Body ($47,740).
Review: The Ford Mustang is like a cheeseburger. There are more sophisticated and more expensive menu items out there. You feel like you should like those items more than you do. You might even talk yourself into ordering them. But the cheeseburger is what you want, even if it’s not so great for the environment.
To torture that analogy a little more, the Bullitt Mustang would be a Juicy Lucy. It’s as much of what you want as you can handle.
Spare your more efficient turbochargers. The Bullitt has a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 dubbed “Coyote” by Ford insiders. Thanks to its exhaust headers and some retuning, it cranks out 480 hp — a 20 hp bump over the standard Mustang GT. The Bullitt edition only comes with a six-speed manual. It has a curated rumble, with exhaust settings that can let you be heard blocks away. You only achieve 15 mpg in the city, but fuel efficiency probably does not factor into your fantasy.
An action-film-themed nostalgia package seems like it should be cheesy, but Ford somehow evades the cheese. Instead of adding shlock, the retro-inspired package simplifies and refines the Mustang. It’s a great-looking car, even if you’re far more familiar with Fortnite than Steve McQueen. (The Highland Green paint in particular looks spectacular.) The Bullitt badging will be a sticking point for some, but it proves unobtrusive if you don’t think about it too hard. My only complaint is the unnecessary odd chrome trim around the side windows and grille.
The Bullitt is a crowd-pleaser, drawing attention and comments wherever you go. That said, expect more construction workers to roll up to you at stoplights than Jacqueline Bisset look-a-likes.
The Bullitt is meant to bridge the gap between the Mustang GT and the more track-oriented Shelby models, a task at which it largely succeeds. It has Brembo brakes, the mechanical bits from the GT’s Performance Package,and some parts from the Shelby models, automatic rev-matching, and a ton of power and grip. If you have the space to push the Bullitt, it’s brilliant.
That’s not saying it would make for a great daily driver. It can feel tepid under low-speed driving in urban areas; you have to go high on the revs to get to the real power, higher than most will go making a run to the drug store. On the other hand, my tester came equipped with the $1,695 MagneRide suspension, which should be considered a must-have. It handled Michigan’s rocky roads fairly well, though I did encounter some mild bump steer on egregious lumps in the road.
No one buys a Mustang primarily because it’s practical or comfortable. That’s good, because the Bullitt is neither. The trunk is surprisingly spacious, but the back seat is an absolute nuisance. There were times I left it in the garage and took my Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen instead because I could not face the task of getting my son in his car seat — a maneuver that required climbing in from the opposite side of the car. Only years of yoga saved me from a pulled groin.
Setting children aside, it’s still not an ergonomically pleasant car. The seat seemed too high. When I entered a parking garage, I had to shift my head to the right, jam it into the top of the window, and thrust out the window blindly with my credit card to access the reader. I’m 5’11”; a car should be able to accommodate me. Plus, the cupholders were also a couple of inches away from the gear shifter and right in the driver’s arm line, rendering them useless.
With the Bullitt edition, Ford made what may be the best-looking and best-all-around Mustang on sale today. But you do have to pay for it. It starts at more than $8,000 above the GT Premium Fastback. Add in the necessary options like the magnetic ride suspension, and you’re looking at a car coming in significantly above $50,000. That’s a lot for a “regular” Mustang. Indeed, my kitted-out tester priced at $52,885 — not that much less than the base model GT350, which has 50-plus more horsepower and an even bigger V8.
Verdict: Owning a Mustang is primarily about having a cool-looking, cool-sounding car. For the buyer who just wants to cruise and have some old-school muscle car fun, the Bullitt may be the optimal choice.
2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt: Key Specs
MSRP as Tested: $52,885
Torque: 420 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 4.6 seconds
Top Speed: 163 mph
Ford provided this product for review.
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