Bullitt Makes A Joyful Noise
Roughly two decades since it last made its appearance in Ford’s long-running pony car lineup, the Bullitt is back and ready to rumble. And I mean that quite literally. Ford’s rep for crafting an intoxicating V-8 exhaust howl finds its latest manifestation in the 2019 Mustang Bullitt, which rolled into showrooms to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic Steve McQueen flick of the same name. As someone who’s old enough to have seen the film in its original theatrical release, I vividly recall the dizzying chase scenes through the streets of San Francisco, McQueen gunning his 1968 Mustang GT 390 Fastback over hill crests, catching air as he went, while chasing down and eventually forcing the baddie’s Dodge Charger to a fiery demise. So we were pumped to hear that Ford was sending the 2019 sample our way for a week of testing. And although the local terrain shares San Fran’s hilly profile, I resolved to keep all four wheels firmly on the pavement, if only for the sake of my license and personal well-being. This isn’t to say the newest Bullitt couldn’t pull an airborne stunt if pressed sufficiently. Powered by a tuned version of the Mustang GT’s already stout 5.0-liter V-8, the 480 horsepower (20 more than the GT’s) and 420 foot-pounds of torque on tap make the Bullitt a serious stoplight drag racer. Adding to the fun is a standard six-speed manual transmission system (there’s no automatic offered, so don’t ask) that’s nicely mated to the burly V-8 via automatic rev-matching. So accoutered, the Bullitt is capable of some seriously grin-inducing performance, with quick-thinking handling, 0-to-60 mph times in the mid-four-second range, and, of course, that exhaust rumble. The Bullitt sits atop the 2019 Mustang trim levels, which include the turbocharged, V-6-powered Eco-Boost (310 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds torque) and aforementioned GT models. For those with clinically indicated needs for accelerative thrust, there’s the Shelby GT350 and its 526-horsepower 5.2-liter V-8, and the upcoming Shelby GT500, which will reportedly get a supercharged version of the same engine cranking out roughly 700 horses. That being written, I suspect the Bullitt’s 480 ponies will be all the herd most muscle-car maniacs will need. Aside from the engine, tastefully restrained exterior touches and a choice of either black or trim-specific Dark Highland Green paint, the Bullitt shares much with the GT. Pricing starts at $46,595 and includes special painted 19-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport or an optional (and stickier) Pilot Sport 2 tires, leather upholstery, driver-selectable performance modes from “normal” to “drag race,” keyless entry and ignition, automatic headlamps, quad-tip dual exhaust, heated and ventilated front seats, and more. Our pre-production Bullitt came swathed in Highland Green and wearing a $51,290 price tag. Additional kit included the $2,100 Bullitt Electronics Package (blind-spot warning and cross-traffic alert systems, premium 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio, and enhanced, voice-activated touch-screen infotainment and sat-nav system), $1,695 Magne-Ride Damping system (designed to deliver a comfortable ride without sacrificing handling and performance) and a $900 delivery tab. Like its slightly down-market GT sibling, the Bullitt moves with a sense of purpose, the big V-8 delivering 0-to-60 mph acceleration in roughly 4.5 seconds. The cue-ball-gripped six-speed shifter is clearly gated and, thanks to rev-matching, surprisingly easy to row. The power curve allows for tractable in-town driving but really lets the ponies run once the revs build past 3,000. At this point the Bullitt starts reeling in the highway at an amusing clip, all to the accompaniment of God’s own exhaust note. Handling is very precise with right-now steering input response, although there are times when the vehicle’s nearly 2-ton curb weight becomes apparent. Ride quality is only so-so for those who prize Lexus-like smoothness, and road and engine noise are constant companions. Ford’s emphasis on sophisticated exterior decoration extends to the cabin, as well. Dark tones are accented by brushed aluminum inserts. The riding position is appropriate for such a vehicle, which is to say low and close to the road. The front sport seats are well bolstered and very comfortable. The split-folding rear bench is best left to little kids and larger dogs. The trunk swallows an unambitious 13.5 cubic feet of gear. 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Vehicle type: Two-door, four-passenger sports coupe. Engine and transmission: 5.0-liter V-8 (480 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds torque), six-speed manual. Base/as-tested prices: $46,595/$51,290. EPA estimates: 15 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. The good: Iconic high-performance Mustang’s return marks the 50th anniversary of Steve McQueen classic; asphalt-chewing 5.0-liter V-8 power; God’s own exhaust note; engine is tractable and easy to feather in and around town, becomes a beast on the highway entrance ramp; precise and instantaneous steering response and handling; handsome yet understated exterior design; trick magnetic shock-absorber damping; short-throw six-speed shifter easy to row thanks to automatic engine rev-matching; nicely designed and arranged cabin space and instrumentation. The bad: Tightly tuned suspension puts you on first-name basis with potholes and pavement cracks; thunderous exhaust roar likely not everyone’s cup of tea; bad-joke back seats; small trunk; more performance on tap than most buyers want; high price becomes even more so with options; poor fuel economy. Bottom line: The perfect automotive tool to release one’s inner Mad Max.