Exterior Design: *****
The 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt isn't just a series of minor enhancements. Although the differences between the GT are subtle, they're numerous — starting with the badge delete option and Highland Green paint, a large black grille rimmed with a satin piece of chrome that hints at the car's unique importance. The dark five-spoked wheels get a similar strip of lightly colored metal around the perimeter, helping to both maintain the car's stealth and at the same time acting as an enticement to the casual observer. Even the carefully considered lack of a lip spoiler adds much to the stature of the car, signified by a refusal to ornament. A rarity these days.
Interior Design: **
The '60s-era font used for the gauges is difficult to read at first. The gigantic and distinguishing piece of machine-turned aluminum that covers the dash is also a bit worrying. Although it definitely stands out against the primarily-black interior, the word 'AIRBAGS' etched into the corner of one panel ruins it.
The buff books have been pegging the Bullitt 's 0-to-60 MPH time at around five seconds flat. That just-slightly-faster than a stock Mustang GT time is achieved thanks to a shorter rear-axle ratio, freer-flowing exhaust and an additional jolt of power from a Ford Racing cold air intake. The redline's been pushed to 6500 rpm. None of that, of course, means anything when you're driving it. The force of gravity pulling your ass backwards and the force of glee pulling the corners of your mouth into your cheeks as you smoke the tires is the best measure of speed, and the Bullitt has plenty of both.
When you're going fast it's hard to remember that you need to stop. In fact, the best check of the brakes occurred not at the end of the drag strip, but rather as I noticed the fuel gauge beeping and the last gas station on an empty road fast approaching. Braking is sufficient, bringing the car to a halt without any theatrics, but it's nothing amazing.
This is a Mustang? A performance Mustang? Though not Oldsmobuick floaty, it still manages to glide across the road and even off the beaten path it doesn't bitch and moan. I found it hard to believe that this was a heavy muscle car, much less a Mustang, even after driving it all the way across Texas.
Balance and predictability are the two key factors here. The Bullitt benefits from a unique strut tower brace and new anti-roll bars which give the chassis a solid feel. Other tweaked suspension bits combine for an enjoyable-yet-manageable experience when tossed around at high speed. Accelerate into a turn from a dead stop and the Mustang's signature propensity to fishtail reveals itself, but even that is precise and controllable thanks to the quick steering.
Who cares about six gears? Who cares about fuel economy? Not us so much. Five well-spaced ratios are all we needed to make the Bullitt perform. The globular aluminum shifter knob is comically large and, in the heat of action, leaves the numbers '1' through '5' and the letter 'R' seared backwards into the driver's palm, but it ends up enhancing the experience given how short and easy the throws are. Just add a layer of french fry grease and it becomes part of your hand.
There's nothing particularly special about the standard-issue Ford system, which comes with an Auxillary input jack and the option of satellite radio. The real audio system is the car's exhaust, which has supposedly been specially tuned to the sounds from Bullitt. I've watched the movie and I can't quite confirm that, but it doesn't much matter; step on the gas and the deep, throaty rumble will have the high-school girl in the V6 Mustang convertible down the block taking a brief recess from consulting her Sidekick to admire it.
The navigation system might be out of place, but it's functional and touchscreen. Designers, sadly, maintained the 'select-your-color' cupholder and footwell lighting that's offered in the basic GT. I tried to keep the color pink as long as I could manage it — about five seconds. Also, no Sync in our test model. But the lack of toys actually speaks well to the car's purpose — driving.
All told, the 2008 Bullitt comes in at a somewhat hefty $34,705 after the ambient lighting option, GPS, and destination and delivery. If you're not willing to give a GT the necessary upgrades on its own, then it's worth every penny. It's seriously the best Mustang Ford makes. They could, and likely will, come out with 15 more special editions before you finish reading this sentence, but the Bullitt would still be the best. How can you say no when it feels so good?
There are those who would pass on the car because of the gimmick you must first embrace, the gimmick of the car's eponymous film association. Yes, it is a bit silly. But passing on the car for such a reason would be like walking out on the first course of a carefully prepared meal because you don't like the amuse bouche. It would mean passing on the only muscle car with which you could use the term amuse bouche in a review without feeling a little ridiculous.