I've driven a lot of new Mustangs. Specifically, the V6 Convertible, GT, GT Convertible, GT California Special, Hertz GT-H, Shelby GT and the Shelby GT500 (coupe and convertible). The only ones I've missed are the V6 hard top (I'll pass) and the Shelby GT500KR. After last week, I can check the 2008 Bullitt Mustang off my pony car to-do list. Limited to "just" 7700 examples, the Bullitt follows the path laid down by its cinematic inspiration: green paint, black wheels, limited badging and more power. As a veteran ‘Stang wrangler, let me tell you how the latest iteration stacks up against the other stallions…
The fundamental theorem of all modern Mustangs: Somewhere, on some road, at some point in time, you will understand why V8 gumption mated to a rear wheel-drive chassis is a winning formula. In other words, they're supposed to be throwbacks.
In a run-of-the-mill Mustang GT, you may only get that rebel without a cause feeling on a big straight highway when you downshift and drop hammer for the Hell of it. In the GT Convertible, the car’s only evocative when you're driving next to an ocean. In the
psychotic highly-tuned GT500, ‘Stangstacy only arrives when you crack 4,000 rpm and the supercharger whines louder than a newborn with dysentery. In the rare GT-H Rent-a-Racer (solely slushbox), you only achieve that special sensation when others are gawking and pointing. Alone in the desert? Snore.
But the Bullitt Mustang gets it right everywhere, all the time. You feel lucky and invincible while putting around town, devouring a freeway, whipping through corners or just standing still.
Case in point: I let a pal-o-mine drive the Bullitt (he begged) back from a night out in Hollywood. We were on Sunset, barely cracking 40 mph and he couldn't shut up. "Dude, this feels awesome!" Then we turned north into the hills and he gunned it. "Oh man, oh man, oh man! I love this car!" My friend was Frank Bullitt for perhaps fifteen minutes. I, on the hand, had the pleasure of running up more than 700 miles of burbling V8 seat time. And I never felt any different.
There are only two downsides. One is fuel economy. Driving to and from San Diego, I never went below 80 mph (or above 110 mph). The Bullitt returned an honest 25 mpg. When my week was over, I had averaged 17.6 mpg. Not counting the free tank my tester came with, I spent $171.10 on 87 octane gas. And I returned it on fumes. The other negative is (of course) the Bullitt’s interior.
Ford knows better than us that their car interiors suck. But there is mounting evidence, however tenuous, that FoMoCo is moving beyond acceptance to transformation. A few minutes spent in the new Ford Flex CUV are all Mustang fans need to light the candle of hope. The new 2010 Mustang will be a nice place to sit. The 2008 Mustangs, however, just aren’t.
Returning to my friend's off the cuff comments: "Why would they do this?" He was rapping his fingers against the hard, horrible dash cover. "Why not raise the price a little and make the inside as cool as the outside?" Birds chirping.
Let me give you another example of the bad and ugly. There's a button next to the cupholder that has a picture of a shoe on a pedal with a light shining on top of it. For four days I kept pressing it and looking at my feet, waiting for some sign of illumination. Nada. Then one day my girlfriend pressed it and noticed that the ring of light around the cupholder changed colors. Parts binnage at it's very, very worst.
Luckily, the Bullitt’s exterior is so spot-on that only us auto scribes would bother bitching about the interior. The Bullitt is nearly debadged. Only the wheel centers have the Mustang pony logo and with the exception of the lone "Ford Bullitt" badge on the trunk, there's no other indication. I especially dig the front, which is less fussy than the V6. Talk about stealth. If you're a fan of the Mustang's shape, then the Bullitt is the ideal form.
In fact, the Bullitt is what the GT should have been from day one. The sounds it makes are intoxicating. Them modest 15 hp and five lb-ft power bumps (315 hp, 325 torques) feel massively underrated. Thank the 3.73:1 final drive ratio and heightened redline.
But honestly, you can throw your numbers out the window. Who cares if an STI can stop shorter or that a 335i has sharper steering? Not I, and certainly not a Bullitt owner. Ford has crafted a very special Mustang that feels fantastic, mile after thundering mile.
[Ford provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance and a tank of gas.]