Test Drive: 2008 Ford Mustang “Bullitt Edition”

Great cars and hit movies enjoy a pleasantly symbiotic relationship. The cars make the movies fun and exciting and the movies give cars a certain panache – they often make the cars the stars, upstaging the human actors.

From Herbie the Love Bug to ?The last of the V-8 Interceptors? in the Mad Max series, a starring role can spawn hundreds of home-built imitations on the streets. But it takes factory support to really make a nice knock-off of a movie car.

The fact is, movie cars don?t really exist – they?re generally mocked up to look good from 500 feet away in a moving shot, with totally different rigs used for the in-car shots. But through the magic of cinema, they look great in the final cut.

So, when an automaker goes for the knock-off, they have a certain latitude. As long as it looks right outside and in, they can get away with it. Except that movie cars are always faster, quicker, and handle better than the run of the assembly line, and if the automaker doesn?t duplicate that, it?s just a sad joke.

Way back in 1968, Steve McQueen starred in a movie called ?Bullitt? – a San Francisco cop flick. It?s a gritty movie, with one of the best car chases in the history of film.? And in that movie, McQueen drives a deep green Mustang.

So when the current generation of Mustangs came out – to well-deserved acclaim among retro muscle car fans – it just made sense to go for the nostalgia and make a copy of the movie car. I mean, it?s not just any old flick – this is McQueen we?re talking about, for god?s sake! Do you remember the Mustang that James Garner drove in ?Grand Prix?? Most people don?t.

So, what?s the deal with the Bullitt edition Mustang? What do you get?

Well, you get a great car. A few weeks ago, I had the Shelby GT500 for a week, and it was fantastic – 6-speed manual trans, big ol? blown 5.4-liter 500 HP engine, and all the goodies underneath to go with it.? That was a true super-muscle car – nothing you?d want to drive in the rain, though. And it cost $41,930.

In contrast, the Bullitt Mustang gives you a 315 horsepower, 325 lb-ft of torque, normally aspirated 4.6-liter V8, a 5-speed manual transmission, and a bunch of nice upgrades to the Mustang GT underneath. For example, you get a 3.73 rear axle, cold air intake, better brakes and suspension, 18-inch ?coke bottle? style wheels in a nice flat charcoal finish, leather seats, and groovy engine-turned aluminum dash. And it costs $10,000 less than the GT500, coming in at $31,075.

The test car was decked out with an alarm system and satellite radio, plus a few other ding-dongs that boosted the price to $33,960, but who?s counting the small stuff?

Driving the Bullitt is a lot of fun. The 5-speed has a more solid feel – like a classic muscle car – than the 6-speed in the GT500. It?s probably slower to shift, but not by much. The power and torque from the engine feel good – the Bullitt car has plenty of grunt, but it?s not going to get away from you in anything less than a couple inches of snow.

The suspension is firm, yet compliant. The brakes are solid and commanding. The car is comfortable – with a nice vintage look to the interior, yet with every modern convenience you might desire. At 15/23, the fuel economy is good for a V8 muscle car, too.

The most fun thing is that people go nuts over this car when they see it. No one ever mistakes this for just another Mustang, and I got comments about it the whole week I was driving the Bullitt.

I have to say, I don?t really care for the ?Bullitt? insignia, however. It just feels kind of silly to drive around with a movie name on my car.? The car is so beautiful, the color and wheels and performance so right with what a Mustang should be, I don?t think it needs the movie association to be so obvious.

And that?s the bottom line on this car – it?s the perfect expression of what a Mustang should be.

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