Ford’s turbocharged Mustang is retro cool


CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer


A millennial co-worker of mine saw the Mustang Bullitt sitting in the carpark and said, “I’d buy it if it was blue.” Blasphemy! Young man, step back! Kids these days — there is only one color for the Bullitt and that’s Dark Highland Green metallic. (Ford also offers it in Shadow Black, and I must admit it looks slick, but that kind of transgression is an entirely different sin. Green is holy in this annal of speed.)

My young friend apparently has never seen the 1968 flick Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen, in which a custom Mustang leads one of the most iconic chase scenes ever filmed, out-pacing a Dodge Charger while jumping and sliding through the hilly streets of San Francisco. I told him to go rent it and quit talking to me until he has.

At least he appreciated the styling. I love how the front fender recedes into the bodyside, then kicks up again into the rear fender, connecting to the original. The fastback roofline and rear window trim gives a hint of Aston Martin while the wide rear channels Porsche. Key to the Bullitt is keeping it simple with a Mustang-less custom grille, 19-in. black five-spoke Heritage wheels, red Brembo brake calipers and integrated decklid spoiler. No nonsense.

McQueen wouldn’t recognize the latest car’s interior, though the twin cowl dash with aluminum-look accents is wholly appropriate. Leather bucket seats are heated and cooled; the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel is also heated. Dual zone automatic climate control, B&O audio and navigation add joy while the touchscreen features intuitive icons along the bottom for audio, climate, nav and phone. Safety is enhanced with blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

My friend probably thinks the Bullitt should have a cute little turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, too, but the Bullitt gets a 5.0-liter V8 that delivers 480 horsepower through a rev-matching 6-speed manual transmission. You certainly don’t have to suffer left lane slowpokes. Stay throttled to hit 163 mph or let up to achieve an impressive 15/25-MPG city/highway.

Older Mustangs could go fast in a straight line, but their solid rear axles danced over rough roads. That’s over as the latest generation employs an independent rear suspension with continuously adaptive MagneRide damping. It rides firm, but is never harsh. Adjustable drive modes calibrate the suspension and throttle from Snow/Ice through Normal, Sport, and Track settings. Crack the throttle loud enough to wake McQueen from his nap. Glorious!

Two 1969 Mustang GT fastbacks were used in the movie, which debuted in October 1968. One car was used in many of the jumps and was sent to the scrap yard while the second was sold to a private buyer. The latter was found in Baja, Calif., in early 2017. It’s showing its age, but has been used extensively to promote the current edition.

After a full education, our young friend now understands why the Mustang Bullitt is so special. I’m sure it would look good in blue (or red, white, yellow…), but that’s just wrong. While the original is priceless, you can buy a 2019 Mustang Bullitt for $46,595, or $51,485 as tested. Competitors include the Dodge Challenger SRT, Chevy Camaro SS and Audi S5.

Follow the writer on YouTube @AutoCasey.