Unpretentious power

Ford Mustang Bullitt

Model on test: £49,810

Cards on the table, I’ve tested the Mustang in both fastback and convertible forms. And loved both. It continually amazes me that you can have this level of power, performance and practicality for less than £50k. So why would Ford mess with this format?

Because 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the film, Bullitt featuring Steve McQueen. And while (let’s face it) remakes don’t usually pack the punch of the original, thankfully that’s not the case with the Mustang. It’s, quite simply, astonishing.

Before I talk about this car though, a little history lesson. Of sorts…

The American muscle car, which is undoubtedly what the Mustang is, was every bit the working man’s car. It was in effect Ford recognising that the average factory worker wanted a V8 powered American car, and they priced the Mustang accordingly. In today’s money, a hardtop Mustang would have cost you less than £15k – or slightly less than an entry level Renault Megane. Granted, today, it’ll set you back around £35k, about the same as a top spec VW Tiguan. So you could say the basic premise of the Mustang as a Muscle car has been lost along the way.

Except it hasn’t. A muscle car was designed to give power and performance in a family car. It was intended to be unpretentious, fast and to look good. And it still ticks all those boxes, with a lot more as well. And I don’t just mean the spine-tingling howl from the exhaust.

Today, driving a Mustang means no one sneers at you. No one hates you for driving it. I’ve driven a McLaren (bright green in fairness) through Cheltenham and received many dozens of disapproving looks. But in the Mustang? Not a single one. People will look – especially when they hear it (and they definitely will hear it), but most either see it and appreciate it with a smile, or are surprised that the noise comes from something that has a Ford badge on it. They may be envious, but they don’t begrudge you for driving it.

And ultimately, I think that’s the modern-day equivalent of putting something with masses of power within reach of most people. I was looking at the offerings of European manufacturers to see where you have to pitch up to get equivalent power and space / practicality, and I think the closest you’ll get is a BMW M5. And for driving one of those, you will receive very different looks. Quite often with associated hand gestures.

But here’s the thing. An M5 would set you back an extra £46k on top of the Mustang Bullitt. And that’s a basic M5, before you’ve added any extras. So why would you pay almost twice the price for an M5 when a Mustang Bullitt gives as many (to be honest, more) smiles per mile, has a 5.0 V8 under the hood, and a massive boot for the family’s needs?

In short, I don’t know why. But people do, and that’s what really confuses me. The Mustang drives fantastically, sounds amazing, has a fantastic cue ball style gear knob (in the Bullitt) and goes like stink. All I can think is that people aren’t familiar enough with the Mustang to give it a chance in their deliberations… and that is a crime. If I had £95k to spend, I’d bite the Bullitt (pun intended) and buy one. With the change, I’d buy the convertible for my wife as she loved it too.

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