Test Drive: 2009 Ford Bullitt Mustang

Ford Pays Homage to a Legendary Movie Car

The 2009 Bullitt Mustang. Photo © Jonathan P. Lamas

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In 2008 Ford introduced the second version of their special-edition “Bullitt” Mustang. The first car was introduced in 2001 to much fanfare. Based on the Dark Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT 390 driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt, this modified GT Mustang comes equipped with a 4.6L 3-valve V8 engine capable of producing 315 hp and 325 pound-feet of torque. Better yet it features a specially engineered exhaust note and a lowered suspension. Limited to 3,000 units in 2009, this car is a treat to drive on the open road. $33,380, EPA fuel economy 15 MPG city, 23 MPG highway.

First Glance: Low Key and Completely Undercover

When Ford designed this limited-edition Mustang, they must have had a buyer like me in mind. On the outside the Bullitt is everything I’d want in performance car. The exterior is low key with no rear spoiler or other flamboyant bodywork. That means there are no fake side scoops, no modified front or rear fascias, and no extravagant badging. Heck, you won’t even find the legendary galloping pony on its black-mesh grille. In a way it harkens back to the 5.0L Fox Body LX Mustang. It didn’t shout, “I’m fast,” but if you ever went head-to-head with one, you knew it was a serious power horse. The same can be said for the Bullitt Mustang. Like Lt. Frank Bullitt, this car truly is undercover.

So what makes it a Bullitt? Well, first off there’s its Highland Green exterior. Ford also offers a black paint option. Then there are its 18-inch micro-machined Euro-flange Bullitt wheels with dark gray painted brake calipers. No doubt, they look sharp. Oh, and we can’t forget the 3.5-inch stainless steel packed exhaust tips sticking out in the rear. At first glance, they look similar to those found on a standard GT, but they sound completely different. And there’s the faux fuel cap touting the Bullitt emblem on the rear of the vehicle.

The rest of this Bullitt’s goodies are hidden. “What goodies?” you ask. Oh, goodies like its Ford Racing Cold Air Induction system, its Ford Racing Strut Tower Brace, the sport–tuned suspension, and its 3.73:1 Limited Slip Rear Axle. Oh, and then there’s the modified H-Pipe exhaust setup and its Performance Friction Carbon Metallic front brake pads.

In the Driver's Seat: It’s All Business, Just Like Frank Bullitt

As I opened the door of my 2009 Bullitt test car (#5878), I immediately noticed its satin metallic trim, from the air vents and gauges all the way down to the shifter ball. Even the centerpiece of the interior features a hand-machined aluminum swirl dash panel. Then there’s the black leather GT500 seats. They’re said to provide added lumbar support. To me they felt much like the seats in my standard 2008 Mustang. Maybe a long road trip in the car would change my mind.

Down on the floor I found pedals that featured race-inspired aluminum covers. Definitely a nice touch. And then there’s the special tachometer and speedometer. If you look closely, you’ll notice that Ford imbedded a gun-sight into the display. How cool is that?

In regard to Bullitt badging, there’s a gun-sight graphic mounted in the center of the GT500 leather-wrapped steering wheel with the word “Bullitt” prominently featured. “Bullitt” lettering is also found on the car’s metal sill plates. Other than that, the car’s interior is very clean and, well, pretty standard looking.

One new feature on the 2009 Bullitt is its Sirius radio as standard equipment. I have this option in my 2008 Mustang and I’m a big fan. I was happy to see Ford offers it as standard equipment this year.

Another cool feature is the Bullitt’s innovative adaptive spark ignition system. The system can sense what type of fuel you’re using and will adjust the spark to provide maximum torque at any given speed. That means you can get by with regular unleaded when gas prices are high.

On the Road: Cruising Along Pacific Coast Highway, Waiting for its Chase Scene

With a car chase through the streets of San Francisco out of the question, I decided to put the Bullitt Mustang to the test by cruising up to Santa Barbara via Pacific Coast Highway. The first leg of my journey routed me along the winding mountain road of Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles.

Firmly positioned within the Bullitt’s GT500 leather seats, I found myself shifting back and forth between third and fourth gears. The Santa Monica Mountains can be unforgiving, but the Bullitt was up for the challenge. The roar of the exhaust was ever present, reminding me of Lt. Frank Bullitt’s Mustang back in 1968. It was also a reminder to those around me that the car could really “haul” if needed. In fact, some clowns in a Honda began to tailgate me about a mile into the ride. I put my foot down and they disappeared into the distance, permanently. Did I mention how cool the exhaust sounded as a pulled away? The sound of the Bullitt’s exhaust system is superb.

Shifting via the satin aluminum shift ball shifter was precise and accurate. Best of all, the car had solid stopping power. In fact, the Bullitt’s brakes, equipped with special performance front brake pads, were an improvement over those found on the standard 2008 GT I tested last year.

As I pulled the Bullitt onto PCH, I left the mountains behind me and headed north to Malibu and beyond. With 315 hp at my disposal, the car could really move. One moment I was cruising along enjoying the scenery. The next I was planted in my seat, foot firmly on the gas, as the car roared down the highway. We’re talking 0-60 in 5.2 seconds.

Journey's End: Lt. Frank Bullitt Would Feel Right at Home

In all I was impressed with how the Bullitt Mustang hugged the road. Although there was a slight hint of understeer in hard cornering, the car, which rides on BF Goodrich G-Force T/A KDWS tires, drives like it’s on rails. When Ford designed the Bullitt they equipped it with performance shocks and struts for an improved ride balance. They also equipped it with a tower-to-tower brace which provides additional lateral support. As an added touch, the Bullitt’s rear ride height was lowered 6mm by switching out its rear-springs.

The new S197 model Bullitt incorporates all the goodies of the 5th generation Mustang with the mystic of the Bullitt franchise.

The Bullitt is a one-of-a-kind car. It's by no means a power horse like the Shelby GT500. In all fairness, it wasn’t designed to be. The Bullitt is what it is. It’s a car designed to pay homage to a legendary movie car. That said, I think Ford pulled it off nicely.

What I Liked About the Bullitt Mustang

  • The sound of its exhaust
  • Its low key exterior
  • The adaptive spark ignition system
  • Its Lt. Frank Bullitt “coolness” factor

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Interior is a bit “too” understated

Who should buy the 2009 Bullitt Mustang:

  • Collectors of extraordinary cars
  • Mustang fans of the movie Bullitt
  • Buyers looking for a factory upgrade to the Mustang GT

Who should not buy the 2009 Bullitt Mustang:

  • Folks who can’t drive a stick shift
  • People who’ve never seen the movie Bullitt

Details and Specs

  • Body style: Coupe-Passenger Sports Car
  • Seating capacity: 4
  • Base Price: $28,375
  • Model tested/price: 2009 Bullitt Mustang / $33,380
  • Base engine: 4.6L 3V OHC V8 Engine
  • Optional engine: None
  • Premium fuel required? No
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Driveline: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive
  • EPA fuel economy estimates: 15 MPG city/23 MPG highway
  • Where built: Flat Rock, Michigan
  • Standard safety equipment: Front airbags, side-air bags, ABS traction control, Securilock, tire pressure monitoring system, latch child safety system
  • Optional safety equipment: Active Anti-Theft System, wheel locking kit, GT security package
  • Major standard features: Interior upgrade package, Sirius satellite radio with 6 months subscription, Ambient lighting, AM/FM Stereo with 6-CD in dash MP3, satin aluminum panel, split fold rear seat
  • Major options: Bullitt Package, 18-inch premium Bullitt Wheels, P235/50/Z18 tires, Gun Metal over aluminum panel, rear spoiler delete, HID headlamps, Bullitt interior package, 3.73 ratio limited slip axle, Packed exhaust tips, Pony center cap tag
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain
  • Roadside assistance/free maintenance: 5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance

Best rivals:

  • 2009 Mustang GT
  • 2009 Mustang GT/CS