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We Review the Ford Mustang Bullitt

We Review the Ford Mustang Bullitt
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The Car.co.uk verdict:

3.9

Ford has twice reinvented the iconic Mustang from the 1968 movie Bullitt – but this 50th-Anniversary edition is the first one that’s seen a UK release. The Ford Mustang Bullitt is a thing of fantastic daydreams; a noisy V8 that’s wrapped up in a modern-day reimagining of the car from the best Hollywood car chase ever filmed. 

Are there faster or more agile cars you could spend nearly £50,000 on? Unquestionably. The truth is, the Bullitt isn’t a car you buy objectively; it’s a car you buy because you long for the days when fuel economy didn’t matter; when cars were judged on their beautiful angles and the noise they made idling at the traffic lights. The Bullitt might not look like the ideal car in numbers – but in many ways, it’s absolutely perfect.   

Pros

  • Plenty of original Bullitt-inspired styling touch make the car look extra special
  • The sound of the V8 and adaptive exhaust is spine-tinglingly good
  • Adjustable performance and suspension settings make this a viable daily car

Cons

  • If you’re looking for German GT refinement, you might be disappointed
  • Fairly poor Euro NCAP crash test results could make you nervous
  • Perhaps more at home on Route 66 – rather than UK A-roads

At a glance

  • Looks
  • Practicality
  • Engine and Power
  • Reliability
  • Equipment and options
  • Interior
  • The drive
  • Cost
  • Safety
  • Why buy

Looks

4.5 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Looks

A true muscle-car with plenty of nods to the original Bullitt Mustang

Bullitt’s iconic chase scene truly begins when Steve McQueen’s character out-foxes the bad-guys and appears in the rear-view mirror of their Dodge Charger. When Frank Bullitt’s ’68 GT 390 comes into shot, it looks mean; the last car on the sunny San Francisco streets that you’d want chasing you. If you’re a fan of the movie, Ford’s 2019 reinvention of this incredible car will not disappoint; it looks every bit as menacing as the original.

Essentially, this is a Mustang GT – the same stunning lines, flared arches, scoops and skirts are present – they just somehow look more aggressive on the Bullitt. Staying true to the original car, your 2019 version will come in Dark Highland Green as standard – although you could pay more for Shadow Black if movie-authentic looks are less important than stealth. Even the wheels are akin to those on McQueen’s movie car; although the Torq Thrust-style originals are replaced by much larger 19-inch versions of a similar design.

It’s hard not to smile when you look at the Bullitt. Sure, it’s not the original 60’s pony car – but it is the 50th anniversary edition of it – and the first of its kind released to the UK market. The design team at Ford have done an incredible job of tweaking the Mustang GT to create this special edition. The GT looks like a great car – but the Bullitt looks truly special.

Practicality

3.5 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Practicality

The lengthy Mustang makes plenty of room inside

For a serious-horsepower sports car, the Ford Mustang Bullitt’s dimensions make it really quite practical. Okay; it’s not going to take 4 adults to the airport with a week’s worth of luggage – but you’ll have no trouble getting a couple of decent size suitcases in the 400-litre boot – and you’ll even squeeze some passengers in the back, assuming they’re no older than 12. 

The space in the Mustang is thanks to the length. It’s only really a couple of CMs shorter than a Mondeo – although admittedly there’s a lot more bonnet here to eat up that room. Ford’s MagneRide adaptive suspension setting makes the car even more practical again – although it’ll cost you £1,600. The addition of normal, Sport+, and Track settings make the drive slightly more forgiving if you’re going to be driving around town.   

The Bullitt could very easily be your daily driver. Sure, it’s not a 5-door family car, but it won’t come up too short if you need to use it as one now and again. Storage space in the cabin is good too, there’s plenty of room to empty your pockets of phones and wallets into the centre console’s various cubby-holes – and the off-set drinks holders are deep enough to make sure you’re not clashing your elbow against your skinny mocha as you pursue villains through the city.

Engine and Power

4.5 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Engine & power

The Ford V8 Coyote engine performs beautifully – and sounds even better

If you’re in any doubt about whether or not this Bullitt version of the Mustang warrants an additional £6,000 over the GT model, the engine and exhaust will wash your worries away. Ford has made a number of adjustments to the 5.0-litre V8 that mean the engine now generates 458bhp, compared to 412bhp in the GT. A lot of that extra power comes as a result of better breathing – an uprated induction system and tweaked exhaust system really add a new lease of life to the Mustang.

The Bullitt will get to 60mph in around 5.0-seconds – but you’re going to be doing a lot of the work to get it there. The gearbox doesn’t really feel like a slick operation, moving through the gears takes a bit of skill, and some might argue that Ford has only just stayed on the right side of making shifting downright hard-work. The thing is, this car wouldn’t suit a seamlessly smooth German transmission; if you’ve driven a ‘60s or ‘70s muscle car with a manual gearbox you’ll understand why – the power feels like it needs to be coaxed onto the tarmac, and Ford has done a brilliant job of translating that authentic muscle experience into a modern car.

Don’t misunderstand; driving the Bullitt is an absolute joy – in a motoring world where everything seems to be prefixed with ‘adjustable’ or ‘adaptive’ – this Mustang feels like it genuinely deserves to be called a ‘driver’s car’; you feel like you’re working a real beast of an engine – even though it’s got plenty of tech onboard.

No talk of the Bullitt’s engine would be anywhere near complete without talking about the noise it makes. The V8 soundtrack is absolutely sublime – and it can get seriously loud in Sport+ and Track modes. As far as modern V8s go, you’ll be very hard-pushed to find one that sounds as throaty as this one.

Reliability

4 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Reliability

Limited reliability data – but positive feelings from worldwide sales

Although various incarnations of the Mustang have been available in the US since the mid-60s, it’s only this latest version of the car that’s been officially launched this side of the Atlantic. As a result, UK reliability statistics are only really just starting to take shape. 

Early indications show general Ford Mustang reliability statistics to be fairly good – and that picture is backed up by a good reliability record in the US for all recent models. As a whole, Ford sits around the middle of most reliability tables, so, all told, you can expect your Mustang Bullitt to be a fairly reliable car.

Equipment and options

4 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Equipment & options

A fully loaded Mustang with some tyre-shredding toys

At first glance, the Ford Mustang Bullitt specification sounds like a bit more power and some quirky cosmetic additions – but it’s actually so much more going on when you scratch the surface.

Starting inside, the Bullitt comes with the 1000w 12-speaker B&O sound system that’s an option even for GT cars. The infotainment system is also slightly upgraded compared to the GT, and the lovely ebony leather Recaro seats are a £1,400 lower down the range. In fact, aside from the adaptive suspension option, there’s nothing you can really add to the Bullitt that Ford hasn’t already packaged in with the price.

When you drive the Bullitt, you realise that there are some interesting toys that you won’t find on options list lower down the range. First up is ‘Line Lock’: flick the switch and it’ll give you 15 seconds where the car only applies the front brakes – leaving you free to transform the stock Michelin Pilot Sports into a cloud of rubbery smoke. 

If you’re more interested in leaving strips of rubber on the road rather than sending it into the atmosphere, then Drag Strip mode is for you. If you’ve got the adaptive suspension fitted, the Drag Strip button will squat the rear of the car down and use some rev-matching magic to give you a launch control system that balances the stance of the car to deliver optimum power to the tarmac. If you’re in the market for a fully-loaded Mustang, they don’t get better than this.

Interior

3 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Interior

A fairly unexciting interior with a few retro touches

If you’ve sat in any Mustang made in the last 30 years, you’ll know that interiors have never been their strong point – and, despite its top-of-the-line price tag, the Bullitt is no exception. Where you’d expect to find soft-touch materials on the dash, doors, and centre console, you instead find yourself touching moulded plastics – which is a bit disappointing when you consider the kind of interiors you’d find in BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis in the same price bracket.

That said, the Recaro-made seats are definitely a highlight in the Bullitt. Rather than the stock black leather with red stitching that generally comes in performance Fords, you’ll get ebony black leather with dark green stitching – tying into the overall movie theme. They’re very comfy and offer fantastic support when you’re throwing the Mustang around – although they lack the electronic back adjustment that you find on the standard GT seats.

The driver’s digital display offers a variety of layouts and dial options – so you can adjust your cluster to display whatever you wish. There’s an option for a horizontal speedo too – if you want a ‘60s vibe to match the cue-ball topped manual gearshift. 

All-in-all, the interior is just ‘okay’. If you’re buying the car because it’s a Mustang, you’re not going to be hugely disappointed, but if you’re lining the Bullitt up next to other cars in the same price bracket, this interior’s likely to be bottom of the pile.

The drive

4 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - The drive

A bulky sports car that feels good fun at any speed

The combination of wide rear wheels, low and wide stance, and ‘drag strip’ mode could lead you to believe that the Mustang plays into that typical muscle car “fast in a straight line but hopeless on corners” idea. In actual fact, that’s really not that case with the Bullitt or any of the other modern Mustangs. 

Back in the ‘60s, the Mustang wasn’t really a muscle car; it was a ‘pony car’ – a smaller, mid-sized coupe – nimbler than the likes of the Dodge Charger that Lieutenant Frank Bullitt chased in the film. While these modern Mustangs look like beasts, their handling is true to this pony car history; lighter and more responsive than your first impression might suggest. 

While you do have to put some effort into getting the most from the 6-speed manual ‘box, the same can’t be said of the steering; you don’t have to wrestle with the Bullitt to get it to go where you want it to, if anything, the steering feels lighter than you might expect – and the adaptive dampers switch between plenty-of-comfort and plenty-of-grip in a heartbeat. 

Pony car or not, the Mustang is bigger than most sports cars here in the UK – and you’ll feel that most when you’re tackling narrower roads. Its sheer dimensions mean the Bullitt isn’t a car you’ll feel 100% happy in zipping around tight bendy roads – but that shouldn’t put you off; with respectable handling and tons of power every time you press the accelerator, you’ll never get bored of driving the Bullitt – even if it doesn’t quite dance through the bends like a Porsche or an M-spec BMW.

Cost

4.5 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Cost

Boisterous US muscle with no real direct competitors in the UK

Ford Mustang Bullitt prices start at £48,210 – and, since there’s only the one engine and transmission option, the only way you’ll build on that is if you decide you’d like the MagneRide Adaptive Suspension – and, at £1,600, it’ll still keep you (just) on the friendly side of £50,000. When you consider all the extras that come with the Bullitt, it actually weighs in at just £1,500 more than a similarly spec’d GT – but obviously with the extra power and exciting details.

So, it’s good value compared to other Mustangs, but you’d be bold to consider spending nearly £50,000 without considering alternatives – so, that begs the question; what else stands up to this V8 menace around the same price? Well, there’s the outstanding Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé if you want your 8-cylinders turbo-charged, or the BMW M4 CS if you’re happy with a straight-6 and your budget’s a bit flexible. 

If you’re thinking about these German muscle-alternatives and feeling like they just won’t quite scratch the itch you’re feeling, you’re not alone. The Mustang Bullitt is a bit of a one-off; it growls in a way that only comes from a naturally-aspirated V8, and it’s unrefined in the most fantastic ‘60s muscle car way. It’s not the only quick car you can buy for £50,000 – but it is the meanest – and you’ll feel like Steve McQueen driving it; which, as far as we’re concerned, makes it a bargain.

Safety

2.5 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Safety

Disappointing Euro NCAP scores that are only just improving

It’s increasingly rare to find cars that don’t really cut the mustard when they’re crash-tested by the Euro NCAP body – but sadly, all Mustangs leave a bit to be desired, including the Bullitt. Interestingly, the Euro NCAP assessment has changed in recent years – altered to consider emerging crash avoidance technology – and it’s only really this section that’s seen the Mustang lifted for a meagre 2-stars to a slightly-better 3. 

Driver and front-seat passenger safety comes in at 72% - which is around 10% lower than you’d expect to see on family saloons. Worryingly though, where you’d expect similar figures from the child-safety assessment, the Mustang scores just 32%.  

It’s a difficult problem for Ford, many performance cars aren’t crash-tested, so the Mustang’s being compared to a big unknown – but, like it or not, the figures are out there – and if safety is a deciding factor for you, it’ll dampen the appeal of the Bullitt.

Why buy

4 out of 5
Ford Mustang Bullitt - Why buy

A re-imagined slice of Ford history that’ll keep a broad smile on your face

It’s easy to talk about what this special edition Bullitt Mustang isn’t; you only have to look at reviews of Audi RSs and AMG Mercedes to find cars that are – objectively – better or faster cars, but get out of a C 63 AMG and into the Bullitt and you can bet your smile gets wider.

The Bullitt is the car for someone who values bare-bones motoring authenticity over gadgets. Sure, there’s a CPU at the heart of the car – but it doesn’t take centre stage as it does in a Nissan GT-R or an M-spec BMW. At the heart of the Bullitt, there’s an obnoxious V8 that growls and roars – and it’s surrounded by components and panels that make you feel like you should be in a Hollywood car chase.

Petrol-head appeal aside, the Bullitt does have some downsides; it’s hard to overlook the poor safety stats, and the interior lacks the finesse of many European performance cars – but in a car that’s oozing with motoring history and iconic good looks, these are things you’ll quickly forget about; especially when you bring that V8 to life.