When you’re designing a tribute to perhaps the most famed of all Mustangs — the one driven in the movie Bullitt by Steve McQueen, the King of Cool himself — you better get it right. And, oh boy, did engineers get it right with the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt.
From the black wheels and nearly badgeless exterior swathed in dark green paint to the more powerful V8 engine, Ford’s latest Bullitt is an instant classic.
The Bullitt package was designed to pay homage to the movie of the same name. In the 1968 film, McQueen drives a stripped-down Mustang in one of the most iconic Hollywood car chases of all time.
The original Bullitt Mustang sports Dark Highland Green paint, black wheels and an exterior free of any pony car badging as it slides and leaps through the streets of San Francisco at high speed.
The engineers at Ford did an excellent job of paying homage to the original car with the 2019 model. I found the word “Bullitt” written in five places: the steering wheel, a plaque on the dashboard, the door sills and a badge on the trunk — the only external badge on the car, actually.
But looks are only part of the Bullitt legacy. The other is speed.
Powered by Ford’s 5.0-liter V8 Coyote engine making 480 horsepower, the new Bullitt has 20 more horsepower than the Mustang GT model. But, unlike most Mustang models, the Bullitt the 5.0 is mated with a six-speed manual transmission.
It’s glorious. And the throw is nice and short, which allows for plenty of driving entertainment.
The manual really lets the driver get into higher rev range with the V8 and that’s where it thrives — and roars. Ford’s rev-matching technology makes shifting a breeze for those who lack confidence with a stick, though purists will likely opt to shut off that option.
As expected, mileage isn’t stellar, but this is no 4-cylinder sedan. I averaged about 15 miles per gallon — which, given the way I drove it, is admirable.
The Bullitt’s suspension provides plenty of reassurance when opening the V8 on a back road. The one I drove one was equipped with the optional MagneRide Damping System, which adjusts up to 1,000 times per second to ensure a smooth ride, no matter the surface. While it certainly kept the tires stuck to the pavement, the active damping provided a more luxurious feel than I was expecting, especially for a sports-oriented Mustang. It made me feel like I was not only driving one of the coolest cars on the road, but also one of the nicest.
Oh, and don’t worry about slowing down or stopping. With their red calipers, the Brembo brakes provide all the stopping power you could need.
That luxury feel continued inside. The Bullitt has a few seat options, but the one I drove was equipped with the standard leather-trimmed front buckets in Ebony with Dark Highland Green stitching (leather-wrapped Recaro seats are optional). I found the seats to be comfortable after hours of driving and had plenty of bolstering for curvy roads.
Multiple interior touches indicate this isn’t your average pony. Four old-school toggles at the bottom of the dash modified drive mode and other settings, while carbon fiber touches throughout gave the old-style car a flair of modernity. Each Bullitt is given a numbered plaque. The one I drove read “MP001.”
The all-electronic gauges were a neat feature. Though they’re seen more and more in late-model cars, these paid homage to the Mustang gauges of old with the narrow, thin numbering. Flipping between driving modes also changed the gauge cluster appearance.
It’s also worth mentioning, the Bullitt provides great visibility for its driver, even when the power seat is lowered. Big windows stretch across the face of the car, giving the driver plenty of sightline in the front, rear and sides. The LED headlights provided plenty of illumination for night cruising.
The optional 12-speaker — yes, 12 speakers in a Mustang cabin — sounded great. But, let’s be honest, I just wanted to hear the pipes.
Equipped with Ford’s Active Valve Performance Exhaust System, the Bullitt is basically a choose-your-own-adventure when it comes to exhaust note. There are four settings: Quiet, Normal, Sport and Track. While Quiet certainly doesn’t turn the V8 into a whisper, it is significantly less audible than Track, the loudest setting.
I preferred to leave the exhaust in Sport. It was quiet enough for freeway driving but that rumble was always at the ready.
Like the original movie car, Ford has an instant classic hands with the 2019 Mustang Bullitt. It has everything pony car lovers want — power and sound wrapped in a smaller, stylish body — and more than enough visual appeal to turn heads in traffic and at car shows.
But these will be difficult to track down. Like other iterations, Ford will sell the Bullitt as a limited edition, meaning they won’t be for grabs at every dealership.
I rarely say this about media-fleet vehicles, but if I ever came across one for sale, had the cash at the ready and my wife assured she would not kill me, I would try to have one sitting in my garage.
Well, not so much parked in the dark as flying down a back road with that Coyote howling and Dark Highland Green paint glistening, but you get the idea.
2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt
Vehicle type: five-passenger, two-door fastback, rear-wheel drive
Base price: $46,595 Price as tested: $51,290
Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 480 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, 420 pound-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches Overall length/width: 188.5 inches / 81.9 inches (including mirrors) 75.4 inches (excluding mirrors)
Curb weight: 3,850 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 15 city / 25 highway / 18 combined
Assembled in: Flat Rock, Michigan