By on August 6, 2018

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movie Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen, Ford is reviving the special edition Bullitt Mustang. This is the third time Ford has modified a Mustang to honor McQueen’s ride in the movie.

For this Mustang, there are two important factors that determine if it will be successful. First, obviously, it has to be a good car. Second, it has to be a car that makes you feel like Steve McQueen, or at least Frank Bullitt, when you’re driving it.

We hit up the streets of San Francisco, which was where the movie and the iconic car-chase scene were filmed, to see if it really will make you feel like Bullitt McQueen.

(Full disclosure: Ford flew me to San Francisco, fed me, and provided me with access to the car for this review. They also put me in a hotel where they give you earplugs because guess what? Fog horns are loud. I also kept the Ford cue ball shifter wine-bottle stopper.)

Let’s address the “good” aspect first. For 2019, Ford offers automatic downshift rev-matching on all of their manual-transmission V8 cars. That means the Mustang GT, Bullitt, and Performance Pack 2 Mustang all have it.

If you’re someone who can’t heel and toe downshift, or find the pedal placement not ideal, it’s a welcomed feature. It’s quick to respond to the gear change and downshifts become silky smooth.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

If you’re someone who doesn’t want the feature, you can turn it off via a menu accessed from the steering wheel.

Starting at $46,595, the Mustang Bullitt isn’t an inexpensive car. The base comes equipped the same way a Performance Pack 1 Mustang GT comes equipped, with performance-tuned suspension and big Brembo brakes.

The original movie car was modified for better performance for the movie, and this Bullitt is no different. The 5.0-liter Coyote V8 has an open-air induction system and, more importantly, the intake manifold from the GT350’s engine. It also has an 87-millimeter throttle body.

Also standard is the active performance exhaust, including a quiet mode that will help you avoid annoying the neighbors.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

With 93 octane fuel (it’ll run on 87 octane but you won’t see the horsepower gains), it makes 480 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque.

Options are minimal, and include MagneRide magnetorheological ride control dampers, a Bullitt technology package with blind-spot monitoring and an upgraded stereo, and Recaro seats.

Only two paint colors are offered; Dark Highland Green and Shadow Black. Inside, green stitching is unique to the Bullitt. A cue-ball shifter replaces the standard unit. The full-color digital instrument cluster has a Bullitt-specific start up sequence.

Bullitt badging is minimal, and the entire car is quite subtle. Mustang badging is removed. In a lot of ways, you have to know what to look for to see that it’s a special edition.

We drove fully-loaded models, which retail at $51,385, around the San Francisco area. While it’s seldom talked about, the hill-hold feature is a life saver on the streets of the hilly city.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

You notice the extra power over the regular GT, but it’s not just peak power where you notice gains. Chief Engineer Carl Widmann explained that since the engine upgrades and exhaust are standard on this model, he could remap the setup to take advantage of the components.

What that means is that power and torque is up across the entire rev range. It makes the Mustang more livable, with the power more accessible, more of the time. It’s reason enough to select the Bullitt over a regular GT.

Widmann also said that the shifter should feel a bit more precise for the 2019 models. The sensors required to know what gear the car is in for the rev matching require tighter tolerances in the manufacturing of the gearbox.

Can I tell the difference? No. But I didn’t drive a 2018 back-to-back with the new one. What I can say is I like how the gearbox feels, with the throws and precision closer to a sports car than it ever has been.

At backroad speeds, the Mustang feels connected. In the Sport+ setting, the magnetic shocks still provide good ride quality. Steering is good for an electronically assisted unit.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

One thing I don’t really care for is the engagement point on the clutch pedal. The engagement point is way up towards the top of the pedal travel, which takes a bit to get used to and also makes me wonder why the pedal needs to have so much travel to begin with.

The Michelin PS4 tires are grippy with very little noise. Standard launch control helps you accelerate from a stop, and the line-lock will allow you to smoke the tires easily.

The Bullitt is a very good street car. Driven at seven-tenths it’s a great sports car. At the absolute limit it doesn’t feel as planted as a Performance Pack 2 car or a Shelby. That’s not a demerit, because I don’t consider the Bullitt a track car and don’t see many customers going to a track with it.

If you are a track rat, go for the Performance Pack 2. If you want a good street car that is easy to live with every day, get the Bullitt.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Now it’s important to address the second goal of a car like the Bullitt. Does it make you feel like Steve McQueen?

The exhaust is tuned to make a unique sound that really does mimic the sound of the car from the movie. It’s louder than a GT exhaust and makes all the right noises. It also doesn’t sound artificial. I’m sure a lot of time went into tuning the sound, and it paid off, as it sounds real and authentic.

In Dark Highland Green especially, the car is subtle. Dark accents with subtle chrome lines make it the best-looking Mustang on sale, in this author’s opinion. The unique wheels are straight from the movie and look like aftermarket units.

They could remove the Bullitt badging on the trunk and the steering wheel and I’d still want this car. It pulls off the retro look.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Despite that, the Bullitt draws a lot of attention. Waiting in traffic to cross the Golden Gate, it felt like I was cruising at Woodward Dream Cruise. People had their windows down asking me and my drive partner about the car.

A guy in a manual-equipped M4 and his wife were ready to drive to their local Ford dealership and trade in the BMW for it. He was completely enamored with the car.

Even a younger kid in a Challenger had to tell us about how nice our car was. My drive partner made a movie reference, since he was in a Dodge, and the kid didn’t get it. So he might not have ever seen the movie, but he still thought the car was cool.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

The Ford Mustang isn’t the ideal city car, especially San Francisco. But driving up and down the steep hills, listening to the exhaust echo off the architecture that hasn’t changed much since the movie was released in 1968, the Bullitt feels right at home.

Blasting through the fog across the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning, LED headlights burning through the mist, put a smile on my face.

McQueen wanted a movie that was a Western where the lead character would strap on his car like a gun belt.

That thought stayed in the front of my mind as I was driving around. Every time I saw a Charger or Challenger I wanted to chase after it. I felt cool driving it.

I am not, by any definition, cool.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

The modern Mustang is better than ever, and if it’s something that appeals to you, the Bullitt is a compelling trim that’s more than just the sum of its parts.

Also, for the first time, the Bullitt is global. It is not restricted to U.S. sales, meaning enthusiasts in Europe and Australia can channel their inner Steve McQueen in London, Paris or Sydney.

It’s limited to 2019 and 2020 model year cars, and Ford assures me that while production will be limited, if you want one you should be able to find one. Ford hasn’t announced total production numbers, just model years produced.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Don’t buy it as a collectible. Buy it to drive it and enjoy it. It’s what it’s best suited for.

Many people drive Aston Martins wanting to fulfill a fantasy of being James Bond. The Mustang Bullitt pulls off the same trick. When you drive it, you feel like Steve McQueen. He was the king of cool, and behind the wheel that’s how you feel.

[Images © 2018 Chad Kirchner/TTAC]

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50 Comments on “2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt First Drive – Like Steve McQueen...”


  • avatar
    carguy67

    Looks like a good car. I have a 2008 Bullitt and I’m tempted, but I love my current car, including its ‘crudeness’–hydraulic/mechanical steering and the live axle, of course–and I don’t think I could trade it in. I got beat off the line the other day by a lady in a new GT, but I can usually whip your average ‘performance’ car drivers–‘M’ cars included–in the corners. Honestly, I can’t fathom why people buy cars like that and never learn how to drive them even seven-tenths.

    Oh, and I never, ever feel like Steve McQueen. I bought my car for the color, the ‘bling delete’ and the wheels.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that the “bling delete” is a worthwhile reason to buy the Bullitt. Looks great, especially in the green.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Yeah, the car looks really clean with the badges gone, great look. Not sure I could live with that silver interior though. I’d rather have black.

        • 0 avatar
          carguy67

          My 2008 has near-black–probably ‘charcoal’–interior. Here in the California Central Valley, if the car sits in the sun for long the interior, especially the aluminum shift knob, gets blisteringly hot and the A/C can’t keep up (the only real complaint I have about the car). So, the silver would be better, unless they’ve really beefed-up the A/C.

      • 0 avatar
        fatalvenom

        You can bing-delete from the factory. I ordered my 15 5.0 with blacked out badges. On a Black car it’s even better. Plus I have the grill delete kit and black PP wheels. It is a black car for sure.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      That 2008 Bullitt is one of my favorite special editions of the ‘modern mustangs’. I like that the badging is more subtle. I like the nose better too.

      Good on you and hold on to it.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      Forgot to mention the other thing that closed the sale for me: no goddammed plastic spoiler (‘wing’) on the trunk lid (I think they changed the stance a little on the Bullitt to get better handling without a spoiler). I HATE plastic spoilers, especially on econoboxes; if I never see another Corolla with a plastic spoiler it will be too soon.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      If you can get a drive in a well equipped S550 it’s a significant improvement over the S-197.

      The improvement in steering feel and braking are apprent from the get go ( due to firewall design there is considerable flex there and leaves the brakes feeling spongy even with a pad and brake like change in the older car) and equipped with a torsen in combination and the car absolutely loves to rotate.

      Mag-ride is icing on the cake and leaves the car planted on just about everything ( FIA curbing at VIR was no problem ).

      I’d say the S550 is at least the same improvement over the S-197 as the S-197 was over the old fox and modified fox Mustangs.

      I loved my S-197 cars but the S550 doesnt make you miss the older chassis one bit.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Sounds like they got this one right. A pity that it’s way beyond my personal budget for a car.

    Of course, it’s a Ford. The slagging should start any second now.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    It doesn’t matter if you feel like Steve McQueen, the real star of “Bullitt” was the stock exhaust on that ‘68 Charger.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Does anyone really want to spend this kind of money to make a connection to Steve McQueen?

    Now excuse me while I try to get the Lord to buy me a Janis Joplin Mercedes-Benz

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      I’d rather make a connection to Barry Newman and get a ‘70 Challenger R/T.

    • 0 avatar
      Coopdeville

      I for one can skip that connection. I’m tired of people idolizing some of the worst members of our society, but I appear to be in the minority. I get crap from friends for not joining in on boxing pay per view parties, etc., because I don’t feel like giving domestic abusers and convicted felons my money or adulation.

      I know there’s two sides to every story but the current image portrayed of McQueen as a domestic abuser, astoundingly prolific philanderer, and all around world’s greatest a**hole have made me choose a different classic car movie star and racer to idolize.

      Now Paul Newman seems like a guy I could idolize. Most reports point to a class act and all around good guy, with a racing pedigree and now charitable work to his name. But guys like that apparently don’t inspire themed tribute cars or cool sound bytes.

      Not saying anything about the Bullitt Mustang in particular, or those who choose to own one. I would own one for the connection to the movie car itself and the options and color schemes, but certainly not for any love for the actor himself.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Well, I find idolizing people in general to be pretty disappointing, no one’s perfect and some are less perfect then others

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        I’ll say one thing for Paul Newman, his company makes good products. As far as jarred pasta sauce goes, his is really good. I buy his cookies and licorice too. I even bought a bottle of his Merlot and was pleasantly surprised, although I’m no sommelier. My dogs swear by his snacks. The profits allegedly go to charity too.

      • 0 avatar

        @Coop: You might want to check out the documentary “Steve McQueen: American Icon”. It’s a “rest of the story” look at McQueen. My guess is you’ll pass which is okay too. I agree with you on Newman. He very much came off as a guy with a lot of class and integrity.

    • 0 avatar
      Blackcloud_9

      ‘Cause my friend all drive Porsches, I must make amends

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Driver’s side front parking light out…oops..

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    The problem here is the real world math of buying a “limited edition” product.

    Today you can get a base GT with 3.55 axle for about 31k after negotiations. Dealers will be far less willing to move on a Bullitt edition, so count on $50k for this car. Sorry, its not $19,000 better than a standard GT.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      This is correct.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      Yeah. I checked with 4 Ford dealers when I was looking for my 2008; one of them less than a mile from my house. One wanted $15K over asking, one wanted $10K and one wanted $5K. None of them would budge. Bought mine sight unseen for window sticker from a dealer online, and she threw in the colored footwell ‘pimp’ lights I didn’t want ($300 option). Car had 40m on it when I got it, so I suspect it got traded from one of the dealers that wouldn’t negotiate. And, someone had swapped the volume knob on the Shaker 500 sound system for a plain one, which I didn’t notice until 8 years later when the system failed and I got a refurb off eBay.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Do the police give you any leeway if you have manufacturer tags? I’ve never seen those before.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I Love everything about it except the price.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    So does this car get the made-in-China Getrag transmission that’s good enough for lesser Mustangs, or the much better Tremec that goes into the Shelby? For 50 grand, I’d hope it’s the latter.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      Good question. Anybody?

      My 2008 has a Tremec 3650–I think, not sure–and it’s been faultless over 135K miles (was a little ‘notchy’ at first, but some good synthetic fluid took care of that).

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Getrag, the Tremec is reserved for the GT350.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Also forgot to add the TR3160 in the GT350 has a lot of specific hardware for that application ( it has the highest torque rating for that model transmission ) and IIRC along with specific synchros the main shaft is gun drilled to save weight as well as an internal pump for the trans cooler so probably overkill for the application and a bit too expensive.

        That said I wish Ford would go back to using the Tremec across the line as well. I’m not a fan of the Getrag either, Especially the gearing. 1st and 2nd seem way to short when equipped with the 3.73 final drive Ford seems to prefer in its performance pack equipped cars ( indeed, the 3.31 final drive Ford equipped Mustangs tended toward better 1/4 mile times since it only required 3 shifts instead of 4 to make it down the track).

    • 0 avatar
      analogman

      Unfortunately, the transmission is still the same MT-82, made in China. I understand that for 2018 Ford made some improvements to the transmission in the form of a dual mass flywheel and the clutch, though I haven’t driven one.

      I have a 2015 Mustang GT with the same MT-82. I added a Blowfish Racing shifter bracket (to rigidly attached the shifter to the transmission, vs the semi-floating stock unit), swapped the transmission fluid for fully synthetic BG SynchroShift II, and swapped the shift knob for a heavier weighted solid steel ball from Anarchy Motive. The cumulative effect of these small changes made a noticeable and significant (though not Earth-shatteringly dramatic) improvement in shifting feel and action (though probably won’t do anything for transmission longevity).

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    not being exactly as cool as required, i only want it in a rag top.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Blasting through the fog across the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning, LED headlights burning through the mist, put a smile on my face.”

    Hopefully this is what was playing on the radio. If so, the moment would have been cinematic.

    youtube.com/watch?v=DUo9ogmtBoU

    I have an unhealthy lust for the new Mustang, and if I weren’t so damn practical, I think I’d have to have one for my next car. I’ve even toyed with the idea of doing a 2.3 turbo. Unfortunately, here in Denver, having a powerful RWD car as your only ride is a s**t idea.

    Enjoyed the write up!

  • avatar
    doublechili

    I understand Dodge is coming out with a Bullitt edition Charger. It will have 5 hubcaps.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I clicked on the article hoping to spot an errant VW Beetle in the background of the pictures. (Like in the movie, of course.)

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      I’m an Austin-Healey aficionado, and there are at least two shots of Healeys in the film: a BRG one in the chase scene, and a white one that stayed parked by Frank Bullitt’s digs. Supposedly, the white one belonged to one of the film crew and the director liked it so had it parked on the street.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    How about a Jacqueline Bisset 356?

  • avatar
    ernest

    I want one.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    The giant Bullitt logo on the trunk rather undermines the whole deblinging program. If that were my car it’d have to go, as would its equally tasteless sibling on the steering wheel hub. In fact the latter is worse, since the driver has to look at it all the time.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Car looks good, for the most part. The chrome around the windows and grill should be black. The red brake calipers should be black or grey and those gigantic Bullitt logos between the rear lights and on the steering wheel need to go.

    I’m reasonably sure someone in the design studio floated these ideas but for whatever reason, this bit of garishness made it through.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Both the chrome around the windows and the shape of the logo on the back are reminiscent of the 2015 50th Anniversary model. Maybe Ford had some leftover parts they needed to get rid of?

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I’m so tired of these retro-themed Mustangs. Why not make a version the reflects today’s SF – scent dispenser with human feces smell, center console littered with hypodermic needles, deranged homeless person and illegal immigrant in the backseat – all direct from the factory.


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