I’ve been fairly critical of the new Ford Mustang. The 2.3 Ecoboost version is only for those who want to brag without knowing that when their backs are turned, everyone sniggers at them.
The 5.0l V8 on the other hand is more Mustang, in keeping with the original and less concerned with the quest for efficiency at the expense of enjoyment. It’s much closer to recreating the original muscle car but is still a bit off the mark for some.
I’d never been that impressed with the new ‘Stang, but then I got behind the wheel of the Bullitt model, named after the famous Steve McQueen movie in which the car was as much the star as McQueen himself. It’s been on sale in Europe for a while now, with Ford SA saying it will be introduced in SA at an as-yet-unspecified date.
In its dark highland green it looks menacing, but its status is further cemented by the presence of Bullitt logos on the rear badge and side sills. There are other elements too such as the unique 19-inch black wheels, front splitter, Recaro sports seats and interior upholstery finished with dark green stitching.
There’s a Bullitt badge in the centre of the steering wheel as well as a few other unique elements, most notably the white cue ball gear knob.
But while the Bullitt is desirable for its unique appearance, it is also about what it can do. We put it to the test on a tricky track through hills and woodlands in the UK where it was able to unleash its muscle. That muscle is 343kW and 569Nm of torque which makes it good for a 0-100km/h sprint in a claimed 4.6 seconds.
Switch the active exhaust system into sport or racetrack mode and things become acceptably noisy as you slot the cue ball into first and pull away. There are six driving settings, including Normal, MyMode, Snow/Wet, Sport+, Track and Drag.
We headed for the hills in Sport+ and were fully prepared for the 'Stang to be a bit of a handful. It wasn’t. The power was delivered to the rear wheels perfectly and there’s a limited differential lock to help keep things in check in the corners where it just hunkered down and got on with doing what was asked of it. The transmission was a joy to use and the steering reacted well to the constant demands on the twisty route.
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On occasion the large bonnet looked to be heading into the clouds as we crested a hilltop into a sharp downward left-hander but the Bullitt took it all in its stride.
The engineers have done quite a bit of work on the Bullitt, including re-tuning the chassis, adding heavy duty springs and a larger rear sway bar. There are also massive Brembo brakes to rein in the power and our test model was fitted with an optional MagneRide adaptive suspension system.
Not only does the Bullitt specification give this Mustang more street cred than its siblings, but it is actually the best new 'Stang made so far. It’s the one many have been waiting for and the one that Ford really needs to bring to SA if it wants its Mustang to be respected as much as Steve McQueen himself.