Ford continues to channel the macho ghost of Steve McQueen with its latest Mustang Bullitt, a paean to the most famous auto chase in movie history.
That was 40 years ago in Bullitt, and the nine-minute scene still resonates. McQueen, in his seminal role as Detective Frank Bullitt, drives a 1968 Mustang GT 390 to chase very-bad guys in a black Dodge Charger through the hilly streets of San Francisco.
The muscle cars bound over rises, screech through traffic, crash and slide along intersections. The Charger tosses seven hubcaps (really), the Mustang winds up in a ditch and the bad guys, well, they lose big.
Throughout the chase, the Mustang and McQueen looked fantastic (though a stunt driver did most of the tough turns), so that the sports coupe still can feed on the brilliant exposure four decades later. Many believe Bullitt, the movie, would have faded into obscurity if not for that car chase.
Frank Bullitt's olive-green Mustang fastback with blacked-out grille and charcoal alloy wheels is reborn in the 2008 Bullitt edition. The Ford designers got this one right on, more so than the last Bullitt edition in the previous generation Mustang.
The new Bullitt looks ominous as it rolls up, exhaust burbling with potential thrust, enough so that several people reacted with "Whoa!" It's an excellent rendition of the movie car and, if anyone still has doubts about what it is, the word "Bullitt" is festooned on every piece of trim that would take it. Kind of over the top, really. Better to let them guess.
Under its skin, the Bullitt is a mildly sport-tuned Mustang GT, not really a powerhouse of V-8 muscle but with the sporty finesse that might have put the late McQueen back in the driver's seat.
Ford Mustang Bullitt
Vehicle type: Four-passenger, two-door coupe, rear-wheel drive.
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8, 315 horsepower at 6,000 rpm,
323 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches.
Overall length: 188 inches.
Curb weight: 3,483 pounds.
EPA rating: 15 city, 23 highway.
Highs: Great Bullitt look, engine performance, sporty drivability.
Lows: Tacky dashboard trim, preponderance of logos, rough ride, should have six-speed.
PERFORMANCE: Bullitt gets 15 more ponies than the regular Mustang GT's 300-horsepower version of the same V-8, gained through cold-air induction. That may not rock the muscle-car competition but it delivers strong performance.
Fuel mileage is paltry, as expected.
The only available transmission is a five-speed manual, which shifts well enough, though a six-speed would be appreciated.
DRIVABILITY: Sports-car drivers can deride Mustang's retro solid rear axle if they want, but I think the ride and handling are sporty and fun. The ride gets harsh over rough surfaces, and the rear will dance on rippled surfaces, but it's all in the game.
Plenty more-sophisticated cars fail to mete out a fraction of the Mustang's driving character. Rude and crude and plenty enjoyable, with something of a vintage feel.
Bullitt comes with all the necessary safety gear, including antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control and side airbags.
STYLING: Right on the money, from the correct color and charcoal alloy wheels to the plain black grille minus Mustang logo.
INTERIOR: The more I looked at the ersatz aluminum dash trim, the tackier it looked. This may be part of the old Bullitt style, but they should have used the real stuff.
Otherwise, the look is macho handsome. I could do without all the "Bullitt" logos, especially the big ugly ones on the door sills.
BOTTOM LINE: An evocative turn of Mustang history with an image straight from Hollywood. The less-than $35,000 price on the fully equipped test car is a decent bargain for all that implied testosterone.
Base price: $27,020.
Price as tested: $34,705.
* Bullitt package, including special interior, 3.73 limited-slip rear, 18-inch Bullitt wheels, packed exhaust tips, $3,310.
* Navigation, $1,995.
* HID headlights, $525.
* Anti-theft package, $325.
* Selectable ambient lighting, $295.
* TripTunes, $295.
* Shipping, $745.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||July 17, 2007|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||December 27, 2008|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||July 12, 2008|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||April 2, 2008|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||February 27, 2008|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||December 8, 2007|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||November 21, 2007|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||November 14, 2007|
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