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First drive: Ford Mustang Bullitt. Image by Ford AG.

First drive: Ford Mustang Bullitt
Fordís latest homage to the classic car chase movie is this dark-green 460hp Mustang special edition.


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Ford Mustang Bullitt

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It's the 50th anniversary of the classic Steve McQueen film, Bullitt, and its legendary car chase. To help celebrate, Ford is releasing its latest Mustang Bullitt special edition.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Ford Mustang Bullitt
Pricing: £47,545 as tested; Mustang starts at £37,045
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, 2+2 coupe
CO2 emissions: 277g/km (VED Band M, over 255g/km, Ä2,070 first year + £310 surcharge)
Combined economy: 22.8mpg
Top speed: 163mph
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 460hp at 7,250rpm
Torque: 529Nm at 4,600rpm
Boot space: 408 litres

What's this?

Fifty years old it might be, but Steve McQueen's 1968 film, Bullitt, still strikes a chord among both car enthusiasts and film buffs. Notionally about a taciturn San Francisco detective's efforts to unravel a murder that interweaves the worlds of politics and organised crime, it's best known for the ten-minute car chase that makes up most of the second act, as McQueen's Highland Green Ford Mustang GT390 chases, and is chased by, a malevolent black Dodge Charger up and down the famed hills of San Francisco. An epic of stunt work (even with its famous continuity errors and the fact that the Charger clearly crashes out beyond the climactic petrol station explosion), McQueen (who produced the film), director Peter Yates and stunt co-ordinator, Bud Eakins, crafted something amazing with that chase, a stunt sequence that continues to influence modern cinema.

Continues to influence modern vehicle design and sales too, as this is the third generation of the Mustang Bullitt, special editions of Ford's muscle car that celebrate the connection between car, star and chase. As with all Bullitt models since 2001, this latest version (based on the updated Mustang that went on sale earlier this year) gets Highland Green paintwork in homage to McQueen's original car. Oddly, black paint is also available, but Ford says it's not yet aware of anyone who's actually ordered it. There is also a gaping, de-badged grille, black alloys, red calipers for the Brembo brakes and a Bullitt badge where the pony logo normally sits on the boot. Inside, there are unique green-tinged instruments in the digital dash, leather Recaro bucket seats, a numbered Bullitt plaque and the best bit - a wonderfully tactile 'cue-ball' gear shifter.

On the mechanical front, the 5.0-litre V8 engine has been updated with a new intake system and new throttle bodies, which liberates, officially, an extra 10hp. Ford's a bit cagey about this though - apparently the official, homologated 460hp figure is based on less than ideal running conditions and, on the right fuel, it could make as much as 475hp. . . The 529Nm torque figure is unchanged and, while there's no automatic option, the manual gearbox now gets a rev-matching mechanism, so that you get perfect McQueen-esque blips on a downshift. That rev-matcher will also now be standard-fit on all manual Mustangs.

How does it drive?

As with the standard V8 Mustang, we could spend an hour or more here picking apart the Bullitt's dynamic performance, and pointing out how much sharper to drive rivals from the likes of BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Jaguar are.

Which, although factual, would be to entirely miss the point. While it's true to say that the Mustang's handling was significantly improved with this year's update, it remains compromised. Although the optional (£1,600) 'MagneRide' adaptive dampers do their best, the fact is that this is a big, heavy (1,800kg+) coupe that can spin its rear wheels up in almost any of the six gears you choose. The steering, although brimming with weight and a good bit of feel, also manages to come across as a touch slack in its initial responses, and the sheer heft of that V8 mounted in the nose means it can take occasional armfuls of effort to get that prow pointed where you want it.

All of which should leave it trailing in the wake of more sophisticated rivals. All of which simply doesn't, though. The thing is, in a world of increasingly digital cars (and even allowing for the TFT screen instruments and the SYNC 3 infotainment system in the Mustang), this feels like an analogue car, one that puts you on equal terms with the machinery when it comes to making cross-country progress. While rival cars take your instructions and execute them with precision, the Mustang and you have to work together, allowing for a certain amount of slip, slide and ham-fistedness on both your parts. Get it right, though, and the rewards are huge. The Mustang Bullitt can absolutely rocket across country at high velocities, with a wiggle of its hips or a sudden lightness of steering warning you that the limits are being approached. It's hugely friendly though, and once you accustom to the V8's slightly peaky power delivery, you can make amazing progress. Crucially, for all its faults, it is far, far more fun to drive than any comparable rival.

Much of which is, of course, down to the engine. It's not the most powerful, nor is this the quickest car you can buy, but it's more than fast enough for any mortal, and the noises that come from this mighty engine are just glorious. If we're indeed in the autumn years of the internal combustion engine, then the Mustang Bullitt is making sure they go out with a roar, not a whimper. The gearshift, too, is fabulous with that tactile cue-ball top and a hefty weight to the shift. Again, it makes you feel part of the process, rather than a mere operator of systems.

There are other advantages to the Mustang Bullitt. It's not cheap at £47,545, but it's still more affordable than any rival with a comparable power output, there's just-about space enough in the back seats to make it useable day-to-day and the boot is surprisingly generous for a 2+2 coupe.

Downsides? Well, with its official figure of 22mpg being more target than reality, it's clearly not going to be affordable to run. Equally, one has to ask how many people out there (under the age of 40 or so) remember the original film, the 1997 Ford Puma advert that famously riffed on it, or even who Steve McQueen himself was.

Actually, the answer to that last question seems to be 'enough people' as the UK's allocation of 350 Mustang Bullitts has already sold out. More may be available at some stage, but Ford says it's not going to build the car as a regular production vehicle, so numbers will always be somewhat limited.


How you feel about the Mustang Bullitt will probably depend on; (a) how you feel about the Mustang already; (b) how you feel about Steve McQueen and his somewhat dubious legacy; and (c) whether or not you remember or like the original movie. Technically, there's little that the Bullitt does that the standard V8 GT Mustang doesn't already do perfectly well, but with that V8 howling, that cue-ball on the move, and that pulsating Lalo Schifrin bassline theme ringing in your ears, there are few cars with more raw, instant appeal than this.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Neil Briscoe - 16 Oct 2018    - Ford road tests
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2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt Int FD. Image by Ford AG.


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