The Bullitt isn't all that different from a standard Ford Mustang GT -- visually or mechanically -- but it has just enough tweaks to turn heads. And with its rumbling V8 and six-speed manual transmission, it's a Mustang that's easy to love.
The Bullitt really flies under the radar. It doesn't have any badges, save for its name on the faux rear gas cap, and there's no Mustang emblem on the honeycomb grille. The only dead visual giveaways are the black, 19-inch wheels and Dark Highland Green paint, though you can also buy a Bullitt in blue or black (but you shouldn't).
Ford's 5.0-liter V8 engine puts out 480 horsepower, which is a slight bump over the Mustang GT thanks to a larger throttle body and an intake manifold borrowed from the Shelby GT350. To complement that power, 420 pound-feet of torque are available nice and low in the rev range, so there's never a shortage of power. Standard performance equipment includes a Torsen limited-slip differential, front aero splitter, upgraded front springs and staggered Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires (255/40 up front, 275/40 in back).
The whole package just works. Coupled with the limited-slip diff, the independent rear suspension means the Bullitt can happily slalom through tight curves. Sure, at 3,850 pounds it's not exactly what I'd call spry, but the direct steering helps, as do the sticky Pilot Sport 4S tires. You can even get the Bullitt with Ford's magnetic ride suspension -- a $1,695 option -- which can adjust the dampers up to 1,000 times per second.
A few different drive modes really let you dial in the ride. I'll leave Snow alone for obvious reasons, and find the Bullitt is best experienced in Sport. Each mode switches up the traction control and throttle response, and I can personalize the steering effort between Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. An individual My Mode lets you set the parameters to your specific liking, so I can have the performance set to Sport but the exhaust set to Track, because I like annoying my neighbors. Of course, there's also Line Lock, for sweet smoky burnouts.
My one complaint? My Mode is never the default when you start the car. What good is having a personalized setting if you have to select it every time you start the car?
Still, that's a very small complaint considering everything else is so great. The clutch pedal feel is just right, the cue-ball shifter feels great in my hand, and gear changes are super-satisfying. Sport mode has automatic rev-matching, but you can turn it off. The Brembo brakes -- 13.8-inch ventilated discs up front, 12.5-inch solid discs at the rear -- are quick to grab but offer linear pedal feel. I really could drive this car all day.
It's not a tech-rich sports car, though, with only blind-spot monitoring and regular cruise control. If you want the latest driver-assistance features, you probably aren't shopping for a Mustang anyway.
But just because the Bullitt doesn't have any driving aids doesn't mean it's devoid of tech. My tester has an 8-inch touchscreen running Ford's easy-to-use Sync 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The optional navigation system features one-box entry so I only need to enter "ice cream" and I get a list of nearby locations for deliciousness. I also like that the "Where am I?" feature gives latitude and longitude coordinates as well as the nearest road. (I'm a map geek, what can I say?)
While the Sync 3 system is very user-friendly, the screen is sometimes laggy, usually when clicking on an icon that I haven't used recently. It's like the feature needs to be dragged from its memory banks when it was in the middle of a deep sleep.
The 12-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster is pretty dope, especially with the ribbon tachometer spread across the screen. This is also where the Mustang's Track Apps live, with pages for a timer, accelerometer, brake performance, lap timer and launch control.
As for charging, there is a USB-A and 12-volt outlet up front and one of each in the center armrest, as well. There are no charging ports for rear seat passengers, which is no big deal because, my lord, why would anyone ever want to sit back there? When I fold my relatively slender 5-foot, 9-inch frame into the back seat I find my head is touching the rear glass. The driver's seat is pushed most of the way forward and I have the tiniest bit of legroom, but I would only put a kid or my worst enemy back there. The rear seat is better used as a secondary cargo space in addition to the 13.5 cubic-foot trunk. Bottom line, the Mustang is tight. If you need more room, look at the larger Dodge Challenger.
The major downside to the Bullitt is that it's an $8,000 upcharge over a Mustang GT Premium. The as-tested price on my example is $52,595, including $1,095 for destination. And since the Bullitt only gets 14 miles per gallon city, 23 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, there's a $1,000 gas guzzler tax added on.
The Mustang isn't the only muscular sport coupe around, either. I've always been a fan of the Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody, though it kind of drives like a boat. The Chevrolet Camaro offers a 6.2-liter V8 engine with Bullitt levels of power, and in the immortal words of The Dead Milkmen, is totally bitchin'.
Ford also offers sportier Mustangs, don't forget: the Shelby GT350 and GT500. Both are more expensive, but they're far better in terms of handling and offer more power, to boot. But they're also different cars for different purposes. And the Bullitt is just so cool.
Everything from the Bullitt's green paint to the snazzy wheels to the rumbling exhaust pays homage to the Mustang's movie-car heritage and its iconic place in American culture. It might not be the quickest, best-handling Mustang, but it's easily my favorite.