By Jim Bray
It's green and powerful, and it isn't the Incredible Hulk. Instead, it's the new Bullitt edition of Ford's legendary pony car, the Mustang. And it looks like it'll be a heckuva ride!
The tie-in comes as the iconic Steve McQueen cop film Bullitt celebrates its 50th anniversary, assuming a movie can celebrate its own birthday, so what better time than now to exploit, er, honour, a dead actor and what's undoubtedly his most famous movie vehicle other than his LeMans Porsche and the motorcycle with which he leapt tall barriers with a single bound in The Great Escape.
Click on the image to open a slideshow.
The high calibre Mustang was unveiled in Calgary at the annual Calgary International Auto and Truck Show last week, the unwrapping coming courtesy of a couple of booth babes Ford had brought along for just such a planned emergency. And if you think I'm sexist for calling them booth babes I respond that I, too, have performed as a booth babe in my various careers – though of course in those instances it was probably more a case of my employers of the time needing a "booth boob"…
But I digress.
Before the Bullitt was unchambered, Gerald Wood - Ford's General Manager, Western Region - previewed the new Ford Ranger compact pickup truck that's being reintroduced after several years. "We're here in the heart of truck country," Wood noted. "As Albertans we love our trucks and…building on a heritage of more than 100 years of Ford trucks, with endless focus on engineering excellence, the all new 2019 Ranger is returning to the Ford lineup."
Wood said Ford is answering the call from its truck customers who want "an affordable, rugged and maneuverable midsize pickup that's built Ford tough. The Ranger is torture tested alongside the Ford F-150 and its quality starts with a rugged, high strength steel frame backbone, proven Ford-built 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine and class exclusive 10 speed automatic transmission." So, it's a four-cylinder engine, but probably more than adequate for application in the Ranger, and it shares the F-150's new transmission.
It also comes stuffed with today's tech stuff. "Ranger's available FX-4 off road package adds protective skid plates, upgraded tires, and off road tuned shocks and suspension," Wood told the assembled journalists – and this writer. "The terrain management system and trail control help navigate challenging conditions," he continued, "while a suite of innovative technologies help avoid collisions, including standard automatic emergency braking on all models, and available blind spot information system with segment-exclusive trailer coverage. We also have pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, rear and front park assist and available adaptive cruise control. So, for all intents and purposes, we threw every bit of technology that we have in the Ford house at this vehicle."
Which means nannies galore! To be fair, however, Ford's nannies that I've experienced haven't been nearly as annoying as some of its competitors'.
Production of the new Ranger, Wood said, is expected to start late this year and the trucks should be in Ford dealerships in the first quarter of 2019.
After hyping the Ranger, the attention turned to the Bullitt Mustang's reveal. "Ford is excited to introduce the new, powerful 2019 Mustang Bullitt," Wood said, noting that "the new version salutes the 1968 car featured in the movie, with an effortlessly cool appearance, available classic dark Highland Green exterior paint and subtle chrome accents." Interior highlights include a 12-inch all-digital LCD instrument cluster (I love these things, if they're configurable, though I forgot to ask if this one would be) and available Recaro black leather seats with unique stitching. The limited-edition Mustang comes with a retuned five litre V8 engine that packs "at least" 475 horsepower and 425 lb.-ft. of torque (at least 15 more than the GT), and it tops out at 262 km/h (163 mph, eight more than the garden variety horse).
The uber-Stang also comes with a standard performance package that includes red Brembo six piston brake calipers, unique chassis tuning and - Hurray! - a six speed manual transmission (with a white cue ball knob).
The Mustang Bullitt, Wood said, will be available in Ford dealerships this summer.
Pricing wasn't announced, but considering this is a kind of limited edition, and a step up from the regular Mustang, I figure it'll carry a premium. But it will be different from the garden variety pony, in that it won't look or sound quite like a regular Mustang. "It has the same engine but it's been retuned a little bit," Wood said. "It'll sound a little bit different than your typical Mustang, and the styling cues and the technology that we've put into it – it has everything you could ever imagine. We really tried to stay true to what the original car was, right down to the stitching on the seats inside. This is an ode back to the original car."
Production should begin soon, and Wood says Ford will produce "enough to satisfy demand. It's a car that we want to make sure…continues to be the icon it has been."
Wood noted that Ford realizes some people will buy the Bullitt version and sit on it as an investment, which could make it harder to find at dealerships. "It's a bit of a fine line that we walk," he said, "because we really would prefer seeing them out being driven, but customers get to choose what they do with their cars."
Kia continues to excel…
I also got to meet with Kia Canada's Mark James at the auto show and we discussed the company's rapid growth in capabilities and credibility, much of which can be attributed to the company's wise and audacious move of hiring Peter Schreyer away from the Volkswagen group several years ago.
Schreyer grew to prominence via such great car designs as the "B6" generation of Audi A4, a car I happen to own and which is the best vehicle I've ever owned, bar none. And I see his influence all over today's Kias and Hyundais, from the famous Kia "tiger's nose" grilles to the (unfortunate) red illumination on contemporary Kias. Today's South Korean cars are coming very close to offering that famous German car feel, an impression they give that almost seems as if they've been carved out of a single piece of granite.
Thanks to Schreyer and his band of designers Kia and Hyundai's ante has been upped substantially from their already-quick evolution from the days of being automotive jokes - and the companies deserve the success they're achieving.
I also like how they don't discriminate against people who like small cars by offering only stripped-down econoboxes. So, just because I like something the size of a Forte and/or Elantra (or a Jetta, to be honest), it doesn't mean I can't have a good audio system, a real automatic transmission, heated seats and an abundance of other features.
It makes perfect sense to me. Just like an A3 is at heart a small A6, a Rio is just like a smaller version of the Optima or K900, and by offering a lot of the same stuff across the line they can take advantages of economies of scale that lets them provide them without charging a premium. A brilliant move that Toyota, at least, seems to be figuring out (at least in part) with its now-standard suite of safety stuff.
How good has Kia become? J. D. Power named five of them to its list of 23 2017 Quality Award Recipients, sharing honours with such brands as Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. That's not bad for a company that used to be a lightweight upstart.
I drove the new Kia Rio and Niro at Canadian Car of the Year TestFest last fall and liked them a lot. I've had some seat time in the Sportage and Sorrento SUV's over the past year or so and liked them a lot as well. The Sorrento, if you order it loaded, is actually a more compelling SUV, in my never humble opinion, than the more expensive Acura MDX and Lexus RX and, like the Mazda CX-9, is a vehicle I would buy before either of those luxury brands.
Perhaps you could call it the Schreyer effect.
Copyright 2018 Jim Bray
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