You’ve probably read the news that Ford has discontinued the Shelby GT350 and 350R for 2021, but there is another passing model in the Mustang stable that I will lament just as much as the GT350s, if not more. The Bullitt came back in its 3rd generation for the 2019 and 2020 model year, and it became a sweetheart of the Mustang faithful, Steve McQueen fans, and even the surliest of automotive press members right away.
Why is this Dark Highland Green machine so beloved and so much more than just a tarted-up Mustang GT? Let’s begin with the Bullitt’s looks, which go beyond that unique paint job. Start with a blacked-out grille, void of a galloping pony badge, unique 5 spoke black wheels (emulating the Torq Trust versions seen in the 1968 film), red 6-piston Brembo’s, subtle chrome trim accents, and a Bullitt logo faux fuel cap on a decklid that has the spoiler deleted. It’s by far the most ‘subtle-and-yet-sinister’ look of the entire Mustang line up, and she turns far more heads as a result. Yes, this car is also available in Shadow Black, but on a Bullitt edition, why on earth would you tick that box? Once you climb inside, there are unique green-stitched seats, aluminum Bullitt badging, and a white cue ball shifter that feels perfect in your hand… And you’ll get very acquainted with that shift knob, as the Bullitt is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission. The whole package just exudes McQueen ‘cool’ in all the right ways.
But the Bullitt offers much beyond its great looks, as this model also gets 20 more horsepower than the standard GT’s V8 (480 vs. 460), Premium-level trim with the GT Performance Package and Performance Exhaust thrown in. The only stand-alone options are Recaro seats ($1595), a Bullitt Electronics Package ($2100), and the MagneRide Dampers ($1695). I highly recommend these last two options, as they really contain essential bits that make the Bullitt a true everyday driver. The Electronics package includes Bang & Olufsen stereo and critically, a driver’s side 3-position memory seat and mirror setting. The Magneride Suspension is also a must-have as the magnetic fluid shocks allow a stiff, sporting ride in their more aggressive mode, yet can be set to soft and compliant when you want to absorb city street potholes. Combined with the latest generation Mustang’s independent rear suspension, the whole package makes the Bullitt a surprisingly practical daily driver in the muscle car category.
The Bullitt is an incredibly fun car to drive, with gobs of torque and low-end grunt to slingshot you down the road, making it difficult to wipe the smug grin off your face for long. As a bonus, the open exhaust note is also one of the sweetest American V8 sounds out there, so all of your senses are engaged in driving this baby around.
My biggest criticisms of the entire car are the fuel economy (which can’t be helped with that amazing V8), and the large swaths of hard plastic interior pieces, indicative of all Mustangs, regardless of trim level. Luckily, Ford did a good job of sprinkling leather in the right places on the Bullitt edition that you forgive some of the pebble-grained plastic in others. The bottom line is, if you are even remotely on the fence about getting a Mustang, I recommend getting the Bullitt before it’s gone forever.
Jay Ward is a Bay Area based gearhead and the Creative Director for the ‘Cars’ franchise at Pixar Animation Studios. He also serves at an honorary Judge at Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Audrain’s, and Hilton Head Island Concours, as well as a regular contributor at the Jalopy Journal. You can find him and his kids at ‘Dad’s Daily Driver’ on Instagram and Facebook.