Part of Mustang’s folklore is its starring role in one of the coolest car chase scenes ever. Ford milks the nostalgia for all it’s worth with the new 2019 Bullitt, a right weapon.
We hoped you all fried some popcorn and sat down to watch Bullitt again last month (or at least the car chase scene), the 17th of October marking the 50th anniversary of the movie’s cinematic release. Although locally that was probably the 18th, New Zealand being in the future (today is tomorrow) and all that.
But anyway it’s this half century milestone that has whipped Ford into action, releasing another of its Bullitt models which is now available in right-hand drive for the first time. For some, it’s a little hard to fathom the foofaraw over Bullitt as essentially it is a cosmetic job and a mild power up. But it channels the past era of great Mustangs, and people love it. The allocation of the fifty cars for NZ was snapped up hastily, Bullitt with a healthy premium over the regular GT at $93,490.
It’s been given a few extra units of output thanks to an improved air flow into the free spinning eight cylinder. Borrowing the intake of the GT350 brings a higher flowing intake manifold with longer runners and there’s the 87mm throttle body. It also gets a pod-like open element air filter up front. So with more airflow and a bit of tuning Ford has liberated 345kW, up six units, while torque is unchanged on 556Nm made at 4600rpm.
Some Bullitt specifics include the manual as the only transmission with the lever topped by a white cue ball shift knob. But whereas Detective Frank Bullitt had to do all his own throttle blipping on the downshifts, a new feature for the 2019 Bullitt is auto rev matching, switchable if you want to get your Bullitt on. It gets all the usual Mustang GT bits while the active valve performance exhaust system receives blackened exhaust tips and is said to have been retuned for a ‘signature burble’.
There are no stripes, spoilers or badges on Bullitt, just ‘bad ass attitude’ the designers reckon. They really didn’t have much to do. There are no Ford or Mustang references on the car, just a Bullitt gas cap on the rear. Only it’s not real; the filler is on the side. While available in Shadow Black, all NZ bound cars are Dark Highland Green. There are chrome accents around the unique all-black grille and front windows. The 19s mimic the five-spoke design of the original car but Frank wouldn’t have gone for the bright red Brembos we don’t think; black would have been more his style.
NZ spec cars come with the MagneRide adaptive dampers and the Recaro seats as standard. Also included are AEB, lane keeping, and adaptive cruise (functional above 20km/h) and a 12-speaker B&O Audio system, while the Sync3 infotainment module features CarPlay and Android Auto.
Like a bullet
While manual sales of the pony car have dropped off with the arrival of the fancy 10-speed auto, the Mustang with a stick shifter still has its charms. The manual’s action is well greased, slipping through the gate with no more effort than an MX-5’s shifter. The throw is a little longer than the Japanese Roadster’s and the clutch pedal has a weightier action but it deals with well over twice as much power and fury.
It’s no chore in traffic with a hill holder and has the ability to skip shift from first to third to fifth, the V8 as happy to lug lazily as it is to spin to 7000. The rev matching gadget makes for deft downshifting to the point you’ll be dropping cogs in unnecessary fashion every time you pull up. Well, until the novelty of hearing those delicious throttle blips rip through the pipes wears off.
The GT with its new active valve system has made the aftermarket exhaust business for Mustang redundant. Bullitt rumbles and roars with more intent, the idle more menacing while the noise as it nears 7000rpm is epic for something costing south of a hundy. These are some loud pipes but there is the Quiet mode to hush the hullabaloo of spent gas. And yeah, it does drink. Ford has buried the fuel consumption data in the sub-menus and we were too scared to look, but it’s probably always in the high teens.
The manual trans comes with a launch control function that’s easy enough to initiate, and you can fanny about setting the engine speed for take off, ranging from 3500rpm to five five. We tried the lower, upper and middle ranges but couldn’t get it to hook up smoothly on the usual low grip, coarse chip surface, tuned as it is for a traction-rich hotmix launch pad.
Switching off the T/C and slipping the clutch out the old fashioned way, we still only managed a 5.1sec run due to the usual traction issues, but a 2.5sec 80-120k/h shows this has legs. And they’re long, second gear winds out quite a way past the legal limit, and third, well, you can imagine. The box has no issue being rushed through the gate, but there’s not a huge amount of gear swapping involved out in the boonies.
Given the nature of the tall gearing, and the peaky delivery of the 5.0-litre, you can literally jam it in third and let it wail away, plucking second only when needed for the tighter corner exits. The eight seems to rev, rev and rev, to just past 7000rpm, pulling hard all the way. The response is atmo crisp, particularly in Race Track mode where the pedal is sharpened, but then so too are the dampers. It’s the one aspect of the Mustang that isn’t quite right.
The are plenty of drive modes but it’s a fuss to cycle through them with a button never intended to control so many settings. And with a MagneRide car, you can’t separate out the suspension stiffness from the engine response. Because while we like the racy throttle feel in Track mode, the circuit-ready firmness of the suspenders doesn’t gel as well with bumps as the Sport mode.
The magnetic dampers give the Mustang both control and compliance to monster the bends and, for a reasonably weighty coupe, this handles assuredly. The front end is disciplined and won’t break rank easily, the rear is controlled and well mannered and both tolerate coercion. The brakes deliver too, with a sensitive pedal and good power. While the tyres provide stick aplenty, they are noisy on chip seal.
In Normal mode Bullitt cruises in congenial fashion taking the bumps out of the mean streets as it searches out the bad guys. And one of those will arrive in the form of the right-hook Chevrolet Camaro, which lands next month, so stay tuned.
|Model||Ford Mustang Bullitt|
|Engine||5038cc, V8, EFI, 345kW/556Nm|
|Drivetrain||6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive|