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2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt Test Drive: Not Just for the Cult of McQueen

For some, an instant classic.

Conner GoldenWriter, Photographer

The cult of the Bullitt Mustang is the real deal. Notice my choice of words there; the cult of the Bullitt Mustang. I'm not talking about present-day fans of the 1968 Steve McQueen movie Bullitt, though I'm sure there are at least a few thousand Bullitt die-hards out there who lavish more attention on the movie as a whole than they do on the specific Highland Green Mustang from the film. No, I'm talking about the not-insignificant number of fans who rally around the two special edition Bullitt Mustangs—the first from 2001 and the second from 2008 and 2009—of which a total of 12,164 examples were built.

Ignoring the inherent limited-edition status of both Bullitts, some enthusiasts pay a premium for these two cars over an equivalent GT not because of McQueen's steely gaze and chocolate-brown blazer, nor in some cases even the legendary car chase itself. Snoop around forums and dredge through the comment sections of in-period reviews, and you'll discover a common refrain—these Mustangs look badass.

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt: Badass Aesthetics

For a good portion of buyers, that's all there is to it. With darkened exterior features, a simple, unadorned grille, and subtle yet meaningful powertrain upgrades, with a dash of retro flair thrown in the mix, the Bullitt attracts a different type of Mustang enthusiast than any Shelby or Mach 1 would—it's an anti-Mustang Mustang, of sorts. After driving the 2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt—the third iteration of the special edition package—for a week, I believe this handsome and satisfying car will attract the same unconventional buyers it did the first two times around.

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt: A Different Kind of Special Edition

Fundamentally, the Bullitt is not positioned as an alternative to the wild Shelby GT350, nor does it chase after track-hungry Camaro SS 1LE variants. That's not to say the Bullitt doesn't have some go-fast chops, however. Regardless of paint color, each Bullitt arrives with the Mustang Performance Pack 1 upgrade that includes, among other things, six-piston Brembo brakes, a stiffer suspension, an uprated radiator, and further chassis tweaks that include extra bracing and thicker anti-roll bars. The Bullitt also receives a 20-horsepower bump over the standard Mustang GT for a total of 480 horsepower, thanks to the intake manifold from the GT350, a larger throttle body, and an open airbox. Out back, there's also a 3.55:1 Torsen-type limited slip rear end that's usually only available with the 10-speed auto on the regular GT.

All that, without ever having to sift through the order guide. There are only two options of any significance, one being MagneRide and the other a handsome set of aggressive Recaro seats in that dark interior. My tester carried both of these extras, and while I reckon MagneRide should come standard on all Bullitts, I'll leave the Recaro debate up to you and your personal preference.

So, the 2020 Mustang Bullitt walks the same path of subtle aesthetics and moderate mechanical upgrades that made the original two Bullitt editions so popular. I think we've got a winner here, and that's before I even get to how it drives. Most of the Bullitt's exercise under my care took place on the wide and open sweepers of Angeles Crest Highway, the ideal playground for hot stuff with a plethora of power and a footprint that borders on elephantine.

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt: More of the Same GT Goodness

After an extended afternoon among the pines, my takeaway is that there isn't much to add to our prior drives of Mustang GTs, particularly those wearing the Bullitt's standard Performance Pack 1. Modern Fords have a strange propensity to instill the feeling of sitting on the vehicle rather than inside it, and the Bullitt is no different. No matter how you adjust the seating position, it feels high (even when it's as low as it goes) and it takes a while for your vestibular system to acclimate.

When it all clicks, it feels great. It's not the sharpest, quickest, most thrilling, or comfortable drive, but as with most Mustang GTs to come before, it does a bit of everything. With standard Michelin summer tires and the optional MagneRide suspension, it does a satisfying impression of its big brother, the GT350, with rather flat cornering and enough composure to keep the Bullitt's 3,700-pound bulk in step.

The familiar 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 is still one of the more buttery V-8s available today, especially inhaling through the GT350's intake manifold and exhaling through the Bullitt's specially tuned active exhaust, designed in part to ape the guttural rumblings of Lt. Frank Bullitt's 390-cubic-inch Fastback. You'll get anxious hunting for the next straight; the cross-plane crank doesn't rip to a stratospheric redline as the flat-plane 5.2-liter Voodoo does, but the mellifluous caramel sounds bellowing behind you are a different kind of addictive. The Bullitt's 480 horsepower and 420 lb-ft are perfect figures for the weekend warrior, and it makes quick work of onramps, passing lanes, and if you work the clutch properly, those rather wide rear tires.

Interestingly, the Bullitt can only be had with the GT's six-speed manual, complete with white cue-ball shifter and automatic rev-matching. It's satisfying to rip through the pattern, but the Getrag-sourced MT-82 is still just as crunchy and hesitant as I've experienced in the regular GT. It's certainly not a dealbreaker, but I wonder how this box will shift with significant mileage under its synchros.

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt: Grand Touring Excellence in Muscle Suit

It's fun in the curvier stuff, but the Bullitt excels at a different sort of use-case. It has a dark, understated exterior with a sleek, imposing profile; a standard black leather interior with a large suite of available infotainment and driver tech, and a premium sound system; a sizeable trunk with a rear seat that can act as storage in a pinch; and an unstressed, powerful V-8 with an excellent soundtrack when you want it, and it is more than happy to rip through a twisty road. Sounds to me like this is one of the better ways to grand tour under $50,000.

Fans of the previous Bullitts should be more than pleased with the latest and greatest version, whether you prioritize subdued style or half-century-old Hollywood nostalgia. Want more performance than the Mustang GT without paying for the jump to the Shelby-badged models? Keep your garage open for the similarly priced and more aggressive Mach 1 set to arrive sometime next year.

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt Quick Facts

  • Best-looking Ford Mustang available in 2020
  • If you liked the older special-edition Bullitts, you'll love this one
  • A smidge more power than the GT, and sharper handling
  • Less about brawny performance, more about style
  • One of the better unintentional grand tourers

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $47,495
ENGINE 5.0L DOHC 32-valve V-8/480 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
LAYOUT 2-door, 2+2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 15/24 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 188.3 x 75.4 x 54.4 in
WHEELBASE 107.1 in
WEIGHT 3,850 lb
0-60 MPH 4.4 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 163 mph