Ford Mustang Bullitt Review

(Note: This is a 2009 model. Read the review of the new 2010 Mustang GT here.)

If, in 1968, Ford had introduced a car that looked like the 1928 Model A, there would have been more stockholders selling shares than dealers selling cars. But pop culture is a funny thing...and a 40 year flashback can work...as long as it's the right 40 years.

The Ford Mustang Bullitt is a car that trades on two images...one, of a car...and two, of the man who drove it: Steve McQueen.

The 60s were full of cool cars on TV and in the movies, but you don't see Dodge trying to rush a Dodge Dart GTS Mannix edition to market, do you? Steve McQueen was beyond cool (for the record, I like Mike Connors, too).

If you haven't seen the movie Bullitt (is that possible?), buy it. McQueen is Frank Bullitt, a San Francisco cop and it's a good story, but the movie is best known for a 7-minute chase scene featuring McQueen at the wheel of his Highland Green Mustang GT (with decidedly non-stock wheels, blackout grille and a lack of badging) and a couple of murderous thugs with a '68 Dodge Charger.

Despite some continuity errors (the Charger loses six hubcaps and that green VW bug is everywhere), it's widely regarded as one of the best, if not in fact the best movie chase scene ever. See it once and it's burned into your brain.

But even before the big scene, McQueen and the Mustang peg the cool-meter. There's just something that says...yeah, he'd drive that car. And he's so cool, we'd all like to have it rub off on us.

Ford tried a Bullitt edition a few years ago, before Mustang's re-design...and it didn't really work. But now that Mustang looks like a Mustang again, the effect is dead-on. It's achieved by taking a Mustang GT Premium coupe (base price $27,020) and adding the Bullitt Package (interior revisions including a 60s-era Ford font on the gauges, 3.73 limited slip axle, 18" wheels that look like the movie car's mags, and packed exhaust tips for $3,310).

In reality, you get a better car than McQueen drove. This one's faster, can actually go in directions other than a straight line, and comes with the killer Shaker 500 audio system, including AM/FM and an mp3 capable 6-disc CD changer. Our tester also had Sirius Satellite radio. Steve was stuck with just AM (though KFRC and KSFO in 1968 weren't exactly punishment).

And you'll get way better mileage, even if you drive it like Steve...the EPA says 15 city, 23 highway. All for a price of $34,705 as tested. So, go buy the movie and then go test drive one of these...and then tell me with a straight face you're not at least tempted.