Seems like there’s no shortage of Kiwis keen to play at being Steve McQueen, but will interest in the mainstream editions of Mustang deliver similar fervour?
NONE have yet reached this country, yet many of the Bullitt special edition Mustangs allocated to New Zealand have already been spoken for.
This from Ford New Zealand, which has also identified the special edition manual-only model will cost around $94,000 – around $9000 above the most expensive automatic V8 version of the standard car.
The brand has also cemented conjecture that Kiwis are sticking to the script on how they configure a car that pays tribute to the star of the movie Bullitt on the famous film’s 50th anniversary.
Although Ford has decided to provide the Bullitt edition models in black as well, every incoming example is in the Dark Highland Green of the 1968 Mustang McQueen drove in an epic car chase scene hailed as one of the most dramatic, exciting and influential in movie history.
An update about the car’s appeal has come two months ago as first examples of the facelift 2018 editions of the regular-issue Mustang, the first major upgrade of the current generation car, start to reach NZ.
Although the special edition and the updates will undoubtedly reignite interest in the big coupe, Ford New Zealand doesn’t expect the same degree of public fervour that came with this shape’s initial introduction three years ago.
In fact, Ford NZ boss Simon Rutherford has expressed intention to purposely restrict the volume in attempt to better manage the long-term interest – the intent being top have just enough cars to keep the car on the boil without over-cooking the market.
So, he explains, there’s likelihood that a car that achieved 700 units last year might, in 2019, be dialled back to 350 to 400 units – around one third the volume the original model achieved in its first year.
Of course, at the same token, he doesn’t want Mustang to become yesterday’s news. Loading many fresh features, some global introductions and others market-specific, are intended to keep it from going stale.
The new models now feature a 10-speed automatic transmission across the four-cylinder and V8 ranges, a rehashed interior and extra power for the eight-cylinder, which achieved more than 90 percent of the previous line’s volume.
Power and torque climb from 306kW and 530Nm to 339kW and 556Nm. The redline is higher, with peak power now at 7000rpm, and the engine sounds a lot more muscular, due to Ford now provisioning as standard a sport exhaust that was previously availed with a first step after-market enhancement.
Rutherford says he has been delighted by the immediate and strong interest in the car, but also feels no temptation to try to secure more Bullitts, for similar reasons why he won’t allow an unrestricted flow of regular editions.
He says Ford fans here will ultimately be grateful that Bullitt availability has limited to just 50 units – any more than that might degrade the edition’s standing and long-term provenance.
In any event, while the Bullitt is set to provide significant oomph to the update Mustang’s launch here, he doubts the updated line’s popularity will reach the same volume that fuelled the incredible Mustang fever that greeted the original car on its introduction in late 2015.
“It’s an interesting one. There’s a new dynamic and we’ve now got used Mustangs in the market, which we didn’t have first time around,” he said.
“It’s a great car to drive … but our assumptions are different, for sure. We have already tried to pull it back and will do so going forward.
“The most important thing for us is to recognise that this is a highly personalised vehicle.”
Even though the update now delivers many ingredients that were previously cost-extras, he anticipates that most cases will still be special order items, through having been tailored to a buyer’s specific demands.
Once again, then, it’ll be likely that “a customer has to wait if they want a special match and I think we need to keep it that way as we go forward.”
At the same token, while the strategy of adding as standard items that were previously enhancements could be seen to diminish dealer-level opportunity to upsell cost-extras, it was also to encourage owners to keep the faith.
“You’re right, we’ve effectively now put in what was effectively a State One kit, but part of that is to give the existing owner base a reason to change, to give them more toys to play with and more opportunity to stay with the brand.”
Also based on the 2018 package, the Bullitt was first revealed at the Detroit motor show in January. It is based on the regular five-litre Mustang, but has many enhancements, not least under the bonnet.
It’s still unclear how much horsepower the NZ edition will deliver. Ford suggested in Geneva that the right-hook Bullitt will have 341kW and 526Nm – 11kW more than the standard Mustang’s 331kW, but 13kW down on the 354kW US-spec car.
It’s thought the US-spec car gets more than the standard Mustang thanks to the use of an upgraded induction system, intake manifold, 87mm throttle bodies and powertrain control module calibration listed straight from the 392kW Shelby GT350 – a model that Ford NZ does not sell new (as it only avails in left hook) but which has made available here by grey importers.
The top speed is also increased for the US car over the regular 5.0-litre Mustang’s 249kmh, to 270kmh, thanks to the uprated power output.
The Bullitt also gets a series of mechanical modifications to cement its status as the most special non-Shelby Mustang in the range.
Colour aside, it’s marked out by gunmetal finished 19in torque thrust aluminium wheels, red painted brake callipers and a black front grille. At the rear, the Bullitt false petrol cap shows the car’s significance.
Inside, there are Recaro seats, the upholstery is finished with green stitching, an 8-ball gearknob and the Bullitt Electronics Package, which adds sat-nav, a premium sound system, blind spot monitor and cross-traffic alert, as well as driver memory seats and mirrors. This is also standard fare here.