Every few years, the Ford Motor Company partners with Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. to bring a special edition of its Mustang pony car that pays tribute to the car that starred in one of the most iconic car chase scenes in film history, the 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback from the movie Bullitt. While the two models from 2001 and 2008 did not become instant classics, it did not stop Ford from trying again, and this one is a charmer. When Ford asked if we would like to borrow the latest rendition, the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt, for a road test, we accepted without much hesitation.
The look of the Mustang Bullitt is unmistakable. This generation’s Mustang has perfected the art of a modern muscle car. It retains the classic fastback silhouette with proper body proportions, and the LED lighting units and black quad exhaust tips give the Mustang a modern twist. The Bullitt has classic styling cues that pay homage to the original movie car, including dedicated badging inside and out, black 19” five-spoke wheels with machined lip, and rear spoiler delete. With the special Highland Green paint job that moviegoers saw in 1968, the Mustang Bullitt trades a bit of the sportiness found in the Mustang GT Fastback for a dash of elegance and sophistication.
As modest as the Bullitt’s appearance may be, its personality is anything but. This is largely due to the thunderous sounding 5.0L Coyote V8 engine paired with the Active Valve Performance Exhaust system. With the help of a direct injection system and an intake manifold taken from the Shelby GT350, the Mustang Bullitt produces more power than regular Mustang GTs. It produces 480 horsepower at 7,000RPM, and peak torque of 420 lb-ft. at 4,200RPM.
Paired with a precise and notchy six-speed manual transmission (no automatic is available) that has the ability to rev-match on up- and downshifts, driving the Bullitt is a sheer joy on the open road. There is power everywhere and the way the Mustang puts power down to the road is something that will brighten anyone’s day. When the fun needs to stop, the Bullitt is equipped with Brembo six-piston front brake calipers that can halt the car on a dime. City driving the Mustang is less of a chore now than previous generations thanks to the rev-matching system and a clutch that works hard to keep the car from stalling.
As delightful as the Bullitt’s V8 engine is, the Active Valve Performance Exhaust system is absolutely the cherry on top. Throttle input is rewarded with a deep rumble follow by a glorious roar, and it continues singing right up to the 7,400RPM redline. My favourite part of the exhaust system, aside from the beautiful soundtrack, is the fact that driver has the choice of four different volume modes (Quiet/Normal/Sport/Track). Those who do not wish to wake up neighbours can start in Quiet mode between certain hours or all the time. One thing of note is if Quiet Start feature is disabled, the Mustang Bullitt will always start in normal mode regardless of the setting it was in last.
The Mustang Bullitt comes in six distinct driving modes, Normal, Sport+, Track, Snow/Wet, Drag Strip, and MyMode that allows the Mustang to be individualized. There is a high degree of customizability in the way the Bullitt responds thanks to dedicated exhaust and steering settings. Once optimized, the Mustang becomes a competent corner carver and a rewarding back road companion. Steering is direct in any setting with good road feel. The adjustable MagneRide damping system keeps the Mustang planted during hard cornering, and despite the firm suspension, ride quality is not punishing even in its sportiest setting. As good as the suspension is, it is worth a reminder that the Mustang is still a muscle car at heart, meaning that it will oversteer if you are not careful with the accelerator.
Although fuel economy is not the biggest consideration for most who are shopping for a V8 muscle car, we did observe a fair 14.5L/100km fuel consumption figure for our week of mixed spirited driving with the Bullitt. The figure is within our expectation given that the Mustang is rated at 16.1L/100km city and 9.9L/100km on the highway. The Mustang Bullitt will accept 60L of premium grade 93-octane fuel.
Inside the Mustang’s cockpit, we observed an industrial interior design language from the use of brushed metal trim and metallic switches on the centre console. An oversized Bullitt logo in the middle of the leather-wrapped steering wheel reminds you that this is not just another Mustang, and each Bullitt is individually numbered with a plaque on the passenger side. Our tester was equipped with an optional Recaro sport seat that is supportive, holding occupants upright at all times. The optional seats are comfortable for most, but the oversized side bolsters might not fit those who wear size XL t-shirts and above. Buyers should also keep in mind that these optional seats are manually adjusted, and without heat/cool features.
A white cue-ball shift knob, another heritage detail from the 1968, grabs your attention in an otherwise discreet interior. The Mustang Bullitt is equipped with a 12.3” digital instrument cluster that is configurable to display various information, although I think it is a bit of a missed opportunity for not using a retro theme to have its gauges resemble the ones in the original movie car. Infotainment is handled by Ford’s Sync 3 system, a simple touchscreen system that is easy to use and can be integrated with your smartphone using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
While rearward visibility is relatively good in the Mustang, far better than in the Chevrolet Camaro (reviewed here), it does have a large blind spot thanks to the small side windows and the Recaro seats obstructing part of the view. Fortunately, the Bullitt comes standard with a Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, and this helps out tremendously especially in rush hour traffic.
The 2019 Mustang Bullitt starts at $57,525, with the only option being the $1,800 Recaro seats bringing the sticker price to $59,325. At $59,325, the Mustang Bullitt would compete head to head against the Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE (reviewed here). They’re similarly priced and both feature a monstrous V8 engine, Recaro buckets, and Brembo brakes. Both are capable muscle cars, each with their own cult following, along with their own unique charm. The Camaro is a better daily driver with more low-end power output, and the Mustang’s higher redline makes it rewarding for those who like to wring it out. We expect that some will pick the Mustang Bullitt because of its movie car heritage, or for its understated looks.
The 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt is the perfect Mustang that money can buy. Its magnificent soundtrack, all-around performance, and understated looks combine to create a sports car that pays proper tribute to the famous movie car, and it has enough character on its own to potentially become a modern classic too.