5.0 Mustang & Super FordsCar Reviews
2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt First Drive- The Sequel
Ford's second shot at re-imagining Steve McQueen's machine hits the bull's eye
Horse Sense: If you follow our Real Street class in the NMRA, you know Tim Matherly races an '01 Bullitt. According to the International Mustang Bullitt Owners Club, it wasn't a production car, but Tim's ride was a Bullitt in White (like a body in white) sold to him to be converted into a race car. We'd say that worked out for the best, as Tim has just racked up another Real Street championship.
It's rare that a sequel surpasses a great original. I know, I know, there's Empire Strikes Back, but it's still fairly rare. It's probably more common that a remake of an old movie has a chance to be better than the original. In the case of the Bullitt Mustang, the original was a remake, or reimagining, of the '68 Mustang in Steve McQueen's classic movie. The '01 took a few styling hints from the movie Mustang, added some aluminum bling, power, and a suspension tuned for a high-speed chase. It was a big hit with us and with buyers that lovingly refer to themselves as Bullittheads.
When word began to leak out that Ford was considering another Bullitt Mustang, it made a lot of sense. The S197 shares a much greater connection with the vintage Mustang. However, the original Bullitt was such a hit in its time, a new model would have a lot to live up to. Moreover, the marketplace is now crowded with all manner of specialty Mustang offerings. From a horde of aftermarket choices to Ford-sanctioned options such as the Shelby GT, I wondered how a Bullitt might find its own niche.
As it turns out, taking the car's performance level up while keeping its appearance undercover really sets this car apart from the crowd. Hopping behind the wheel, I immediately noticed all the shiny bits. I fired the car up and it was really quiet, even with a modified H-pipe and larger exhaust tips on board. The clutch is light, and right away I fell in love with the shifter. It's smooth and quiet, and it doesn't have the wet-noodle feel of the standard S197 shifter. Coupled with the revvy, FRPP-tuned Three-Valve, it was a joy to blast through the gears. I'd love more power, but this car is really well-balanced.
Likewise, the Bullitt's handling is light and controllable. The original model was stiffly sprung by factory standards, but this Bullitt is almost SVT-like in its handling. Body roll is apparent, but then the car squats and goes where it's told. It's what we'd call tossable, and that trait came in handy when I got cut off by a Jaguar on Interstate 4. I had to truly test the Bullitt-spec Performance Fricition brake pads while turning to avoid the rear of the Jag taking out the front of the Bullitt. With sudden application of the brakes and input to the steering, it maintained control and avoided disaster. And that's just what Ford did with this sequel. It could've paled in comparison to the original, but instead it improves on the concept by toning down the appearance and focusing on the driving dynamics.
So for those who want more than the GT offers but don't want flashy, order a GT Premium package (140A) with the Bullitt package (54B). It only comes in Highland Green (as it should) and Black for those who want to be different.