The Ford Bullitt Mustang is a modern tribute to the 1968 film Bullitt, which featured a ’68 Fastback as the ride of choice for the protagonist, Detective Frank Bullitt, played by Steve McQueen. Little is seen of the car until halfway through the slow-building film, when it shines in an explosive old-school chase with an R/T Dodge Challenger. While McQueen’s Fastback got only fifteen minutes of fame and screen time, Ford has honored this famous film car with its own special edition, which appeared first in 2001, later in 2008-2009 and again for 2019-2020. During an undisclosed but limited run, Ford was nice enough to let me borrow a Bullitt Mustang to see what sets this stallion apart from the herd.
The Ford Bullitt Mustang is a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter Coyote-V8-powered GT Premium Mustang with Ford’s Performance Package Level II and Bullitt-branded trim and software upgrades. McQueen’s car in the film is brash, but not too flashy, which is reflected in Ford’s modern interpretation. Available in Dark Highland Green or Shadow Black, the Bullitt Mustang is completely de-badged and spoiler-less — and with black Bullitt-specific retro 5-spoke wheels and bright red Brembos, the whole package maintains a mean, sleek presence. The only Bullitt identifier on the exterior of the car is the cross-hair badge on the middle of the trunk.
Open the door to the Bullitt Mustang and there’s more branding to behold. The "crosshair" trunk emblem is on the steering wheel, and there are Bullitt-branded scuff plates in a 1920s art deco typeface that’s repeated on the torsion bar underneath the hood. The dash is finished in brushed aluminum and includes illuminated oil-pressure and vacuum gauges from the Level II Performance Pack. The interior is wrapped in black leather with a subtle green stitching. Finally, the car is adorned with a badge on the passenger side that has a unique but symbolic Bullitt serial number. While Ford is mainly a manufacturer of middle-of-the-road peoples’ cars, there’s an upmarket feel to the Bullitt that holds meaning for any fan of muscle cars without being too ostentatious.
Over the course of the week, I was surprised by some of the attention the Bullitt Mustang received. With 10 million models produced as of last year, Mustangs are plentiful on today’s roads, and while I generally wouldn’t bat an eye due to their ubiquity, I was surprised to meet two Mustang admirers taking photographs when I returned to the car after a meal. They insisted that I watch Bullitt, which I admittedly hadn’t done until a few nights ago. At a stoplight, I glanced into my rearview mirror to see the striped hood of a Dodge Charger SRT on my tail. As the words "I bet he’s going to want to race" came out of my mouth, I heard a rev from his 392 Hemi. The car is an attention-getter.
Whether you recognize the Bullitt branding or not, the engine roars with a gloriously deep tone, and it even has a quiet-mode, which I used around my quiet suburban neighborhood at night (you’re welcome, neighbors). It is old-school, thirsty and unapologetic. I happened to get a hold of the Bullitt Mustang on the day of the global climate protest, and I was astonished to see a half-tank of fuel gone by the end of the first afternoon. The vehicle got 11 miles per gallon at first, and later averaged 14.3 mpg.
Starting at $49,000, the Bullitt is $9,000 more expensive than the GT Premium, and $11,000 less than a Shelby GT350. Priced at $51,000, my Shadow Black Bullitt tester included MagneRide, which means ferric fluid-filled shocks that are adjusted through a magnetic field. The switch from a solid rear axle to an independent suspension setup came just four years ago, and MagneRide is a serious update that delivers excellent all-around handling paired with dynamic selectable drive, steering and exhaust modes. While I initially expected the 480-horsepower car to be unwieldy, I was pleasantly surprised by its drivability. With ample power on tap, the massive 15-inch 6-piston Brembos are excellent. The brakes were so good, in fact, that when I returned to my daily driver, a 2015 Mini, rolling to the first stop sign after a week in the Mustang felt like braking on ice by comparison. To this day, I still haven’t regained complete confidence in my own brakes after experiencing the Mustang’s Brembos.
Whether the Hollywood-inspired branding speaks to you or not, the Bullitt is a smartly situated pony car notched between the GT Premium and Shelby GT 350 in price and packaging. If a Mustang GT isn’t exclusive enough and a Shelby is too track-suited, the Ford Bullitt Mustang brings most of the same performance to the table in a perhaps better all-around package. Find a Ford Mustang for sale