2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt Review - Going Back to Improve the Present
2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt
We all know about the Ford Mustang Bullitt’s heritage and its connection to the movie Bullitt. We all know the main chase scene with McQueen in a Mustang and the bad guys in a Dodge Charger cemented its status as one of the great car chases in Hollywood history. The actual car used in the movie, a GT390, was owned by a family for decades, and the owner even turned down an offer from Steve McQueen himself, documented by a letter in their possession. This tale just adds to the legend.
Ford got wind of this car’s existence and worked with the family to showcase it in 2018 when the third generation of a production Bullitt model was announced. The famous original was later sold by the family at auction for $3.74 million. Ford had built two previous editions in 2001 and 2008-2009. Now in the third run of the Bullitt name, this example has an MSRP of $52,595.
Today’s Bullitt is a factory modified Mustang GT featuring an extra 20 horsepower for 480 hp total at 7,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. The front and lower grilles are unique, and the familiar chrome pony badge is gone. There is no rear spoiler and the faux gas cap on the rear has the Bullitt logo. A rear diffuser and chrome ring around the windows complete the handsome and tasteful body appearance modifications giving it a smooth and unencumbered look.
Only available in Dark Highland Green or Shadow Black, it closes the gap between the GT and the GT350 before the upcoming Mach 1 inherits the extra power for 2021 and the GT350 retires into the automotive Hall of Greats. The wheels, 19” x 9” in front and 9.5” in the rear, have the familiar black 5-spoke “Heritage” design with gray centers that reveal the red Brembo brake calipers behind them. Michelin Pilot Sport 4s complete the package, 255s front and 275s rear. The way they’re mounted on the rear wheel gives it a kind of retro-bulge despite the 40-series sidewall and looks cool.
It is a glorious throwback to drive around, manually shifting gears with the white cue-ball topped shifter. The selectable drive modes correspond to exhaust sounds from the active valve control and make for ear-to-ear grins from start-up to that final rev before shutdown. Maybe Ford gets around the EPA sound requirement by clearly stating the track and drag modes are for track use only. The neighbors didn’t complain but after a few days the Quiet Start mode was selected and it stopped being a big announcement when I left the house.
Once out of the side streets, going back to Sport+ mode from Normal and selecting the automatic rev-match downshift feature, the giggles were a sure tell of the delight felt just by coming to a stop. Imagine a car that brings aural joy not just accelerating but also when downshifting coming up to a light or stop sign. Even at low speeds, third, second, and first gears all get the auto-blip, even when the clutch stays pushed in. In Normal mode, it sounds like a regular V8, just not one that is on the fringe of social acceptability.
Despite the Torsen limited-slip rear axle ratio of 3.73, the gearing is tall, partly because of the 7,000 rpm redline. When accelerating, even though the power is a little soft in the lower rpm range, long, sonorous, and effortless pulls in first through third gears get you over 70 mph. Yet the wind noise hardly seems to climb when approaching triple-digit speeds making it easy to not notice that you’ve exceeded the posted speed limit. While the manual transmission makes extracting speed more work, once up to cruising speed the Bullitt is a quiet and comfortable grand tourer or even commuter.
Mustangs sometimes do feel a little tall when driving, partly due to the standard seats, but the handling was great on the street, and the steering ratio complimentary to the process. Taking turns fast and applying the power early, the grippy Michelins and limited-slip differential did a great job, aided by the optional $1,695 MagneRide shocks. Breaking the tires loose would take an even more significant amount of speed and sound. This pony is so good that it begs for a trip to the track for some hot lapping.
Aside from the aforementioned sensation of elevated seat height, any concern over the standard seats not providing enough support is alleviated when those antics produce some eye-opening lateral g-forces. They are actually very good and have an advantage over the more supportive track-oriented Recaros – ventilation and heat functions. I scheduled the Bullitt to drive to and from Ford’s GT500 North American Track Tour, and comparing them to the track-focused Recaros, I found them easier to live with. If the Recaro option is chosen, those seats are leather-trimmed in the Bullitt, unlike in the other Mustang models that make the Recaros available.
In Normal mode, the shocks made for comfortable cruising, but in Track mode, the car is a bit choppy over expansion joints. There is definitely some noise when going over bumps but it was never uncomfortably loud. In day-to-day driving, the outward visibility in all directions is surprisingly very good, a far cry over the direct rival from Detroit.
While on a 130-mile round-trip drive, the trip computer showed 29.8 mpg at 75 mph in sixth gear, which was 2,100 rpm on the tachometer. That is amazing. Despite all the fooling around and frequent blasts exploiting the V8 soundtrack, fuel economy was never a concern. You have to give a 5.0-liter V8 some slack anyway, considering the official rating is 14 mpg city and 23 highway.
The 12-inch LCD instrument cluster is configurable based on the driving mode selected and the SYNC 3 infotainment system works well. Apple CarPlay is also integrated. The wide-view rear back-up camera is especially appreciated in Mustangs. This tester also had the $2,100 Electronics Package, which I’d recommended due to the suite of driver aids and conveniences such as blind-spot information system with rear cross-traffic alert, voice-activated touchscreen, and a Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker sound system with trunk-mounted subwoofer, which sounded great.
Little kids may or may not like the loud exhaust, but they love the pony-image light projection on the ground from the side mirrors at night. A classic GTO owner rode with me quite a bit during the Bullitt stay. Our GTO-owning friend, a dedicated manual transmission driver, greatly appreciated the Bullitt, and one discussion turned into a detailed conversation of a potential purchase involving a V8 Mustang with a clutch pedal.
Complaints are few. The transmission can be a little notchy, especially going into third. The clutch uptake travel changes from light, to firm then light again as it moves through its range of motion. When showing onlookers the engine with the exposed air filter element, one must deal with a prop rod, which is a throwback in itself, one that gets really hot to the touch after extended driving.
Ford hit a home run with the Mustang GT but GTs are also quite common. A special edition with a unique appearance and an extra 20 hp, among other touches makes for a great experience, both as a driver and for an owner.
After all, you don’t see a Bullitt every day.
[Images © 2020 Rob Eckaus/TTAC]
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- Fred I don't know about those big screens. Is there a way to minimize the display, so it's not so distracting? Especially at night the glow doesn't make it easy for me.
- Arthur Dailey Toronto Blue Jays' games are only available on AM radio. As I am 'on the road' quite often when the Jays play that is my only option for listening to the game. So an AM radio is something of a 'must have' for me.
- JMII My brother tracked one of these for several years... it will embarrass other sports cars. He sold it to someone who still rips it around on track days. Given my previous VW experience I wouldn't touch it but these are surprising quick and handle well for hatchback credit going to a decent AWD system. $16k seems crazy, but Rs aren't that common and this one appears to be in great condition and seems well sorted.
- Arthur Dailey I meant the grille and the profile along the passenger area. Look closely and it is reminiscent of the Journey.
- Daniel 16500 pesos
Seems like a cash grab by Ford like the previous versions.. They'll put Bullitt on the mustang but does Ford donate anything in honor of Steve McQueen to Mesothelioma research for milking more money out of Mustang fans? I don't think so.. Hey, but if you're dumb enough to pay it they're smart enough to sell it! Before anyone jumps on the you hate mustang's bandwagon, i own a 2018 Mustang
Like the car, but it needs the Pony on the front, like ALL Mustangs should have.....hell, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, ect. they all put their logos on the front. As usual, Detroit needs to catch up with the Europeans. However, do like the Bullitt logos on the steering wheel and rear gas cap. 👍️