De­spite the 50-year-old ref­er­ences, Ford Mus­tang Bul­litt drives like a thor­oughly modern sports car and has all the tech that comes with it.

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - CONTENTS | FOCUS - Robert Duf­fer has a lot to say about it

Of the more than 100 new ve­hi­cles I’ve driven this year, the 2019 Ford Mus­tang Bul­litt might be my favourite. I wish I could leave it at that, then chan­nel some Steve McQueen icy blue stare and you’d just ac­cept its great­ness as truth and we could all do our own high-speed stunts while chas­ing two hit men in a Dodge Charger on the hills in and around San Fran­cisco.

But that was then and that was ques­tion­able and this is now and this is cer­tain: The 50th an­niver­sary edi­tion of the in­fa­mous Mus­tang with the le­gendary car chase from a movie that doesn’t quite stand the test of time is out­stand­ing. And at just over $50,000, or about $3,000 more than a sim­i­larly equipped GT with Per­for­mance Pack­age 1, the Bul­litt with a planned two-year pro­duc­tion run is kind of a deal.

The McS­tang comes in dark high­land green (shadow black is an op­tion, if you don’t care for her­itage or verisimil­i­tude) with sub­tle chrome ac­cents and has red six-caliper Brembo brakes lex­ing be­hind 19-inch, ive-spoke alu­minum wheels wrapped in Miche­lin PS4 sum­mer tires (more on that in a bit). The grille is blacked out so there is no Mus­tang, and the only Bul­litt iconog­ra­phy is a round tar­get on the trunk and the fuel cap.

There is some mod­est badg­ing in­side, in­clud­ing a Bul­litt wel­come screen on start up, a fake alu­minum dash piece and a Bul­litt steer­ing wheel cen­ter. Even the most sig­ni­icant up­grade is sub­tle: The 5.0-litre V-8 gets a 20 horse­power boost over the GT to 480 horse­power, which lifts top speed 8 mph to 163 mph, thanks in part to some en­gi­neer­ing tweaks from the GT350. It can hit 60 mph in 4 about se­conds, ac­cord­ing to some out­lets, which is the same as the GT.

It might be di­fi­cult to tell the horse­power dif­fer­ence, even on a track, but there’s no mis­tak­ing the six-speed man­ual with the cue-ball shifter. It’s the only trans­mis­sion of­fered, so that 10-speed au­to­matic will have to go to the mil­len­ni­als and the par­ents who failed them.

So what’s to love? Let’s start with the cue-ball shifter. It’s like hold­ing a sor­cerer ’s orb of power. Leave the palm on it while cruis­ing and it’s re­lax­ing, like some oddly sat­is­fy­ing stress ball. But then there’s some­thing about pow­er­ing through the gears that is both curved and irm, fem­i­nine and mas­cu­line, grace­ful and pow­er­ful.

And the sound. How sweet the sound. Ac­tive valve per­for­mance ex­haust is the same as the GT and still worth a para­graph. It uses but­terly valves in one of the dual twin ex­haust pipes to mod­u­late sound in four dif­fer­ent set­tings.

Nor­mal mode plugs in the amp; track mode takes it to 11. Rev the en­gine up to 7,400 rpm and the high gear range means you can keep it in third while climb­ing into tripledigit speed. As the scenery licks by with in­creas­ing speed, the V-8 sound­track in the cabin in­ten­si­ies. Your chest thrums be­cause the heart has in­ally met its match.

But there is also quiet mode, which tames the wild war­ble so you can drop off the kids at school or slip out of the sub­di­vi­sion on a Sun­day morn­ing with­out an­nounc­ing to the world your in­ten­tions. This dy­namism and re­spect to a world whose ma­jor­ity doesn’t much sing the siren song of the V-8 ap­plies to ac­tive rev match­ing as well.

On the track, ac­tive rev match­ing blips the throt­tle in down­shifts so the en­gine doesn’t jump and the car lurch; the driver need not have to heel and toe it; on the street, ac­tive rev match­ing can elic­its glares from ev­ery pedes­trian who sus­pects you of fool­ishly revving the en­gine into a stop. In the Mus­tang’s ex­cel­lent 12-inch LCD in­stru­ment clus­ter, there is a but­ton to shut it off.

That clus­ter can also be re­conig­ured for dif­fer­ent views to cor­re­spond with dif­fer­ent modes, from snow/ice to track mode. With the ad­vanced driver as­sis­tance sys­tems with nav­i­ga­tion and cross-trafic alert as part of the elec­tron­ics pack­age ($2,100), the steer­ing wheel can feel a bit over­whelmed with but­tons. But it, along with ex­cep­tional voice com­mands, min­i­mizes the need to hit the small touch screen with the nar­row but­tons.

Even though the Mus­tang can it two stunned kids in the back, it doesn’t have the clas­sic mus­cle car size of the Chal­lenger, nor does it have that whole retro vibe. De­spite the 50-year-old ref­er­ences, Bul­litt drives like a thor­oughly modern sports car and has all the tech that comes with it. The Ca­maro prob­a­bly is quicker, more pow­er­ful and bet­ter com­posed, but Bul­litt Mus­tang looks bet­ter than them both, even with­out the Bul­litt name. It’s just cool.

But those PS4 tyres shouldn’t be used when it’s cold, or dur­ing our sea­son’s irst snow­fall, which to­taled 12 inches. Ev­ery­one knows this. Ev­ery­one should also know that even in bet­ter con­di­tions, the 420 pound-feet of torque on the rear wheels can make it buck and wag. Don’t loor it from a stop en­ter­ing a turn. It’s not the car that needs tam­ing, but the driver who needs to be tamed from slam­ming the pedal in re­sponse to the pri­mal call from the en­gine.

But, on the track, in the snow, dur­ing the com­mute, our love for this spe­cial Mus­tang never faded. If only we could say the same for the movie that in­spired it.

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