Auto123 reviews the 2019 Ford Mustang GT with Performance Pack Level 2, in which Ford takes the performance add-ons of the Bullitt edition but leaves behind the visual extras
By this point, pretty much everyone knows about the Mustang Bullitt. In fact, everyone knew about the Bullitt version of Ford’s iconic muscle car months – even years – before it was released for the 2019 model year. The black wheels, the green paint, the special brakes, power increase – all good stuff.
But what about a Mustang with all the go-fast bits from the Bullitt, but without all the visual Bullitt-ness; the anti-Bullitt, as it were?
That may not sound like a strange prospect, but when you’re talking about a Mustang – or all muscle or pony cars, really – it can’t just be about the performance, but the panache too. Cars like this need to feel and look special, or risk missing out on that je ne sais quoi that makes them so appealing. The Bullitt does so in spades; would the more standard-issue car be the same?
Well, my tester did its best to make sure it doesn’t fade into the background looks-wise, with its yellow paint finish, stripes and dark wheels. It didn’t have the red-painted brake calipers (or special Torq-Thrust lookalike wheels), but since my car was equipped with something simply called the Performance Package – Level 2 (“PP2” from now on), it got the same Brembo performance front brakes as the Bullitt features, with larger rotors. And while they aren’t red with this package, they are black with red “Brembo” lettering on them and as a result, still look achingly cool.
The styling additions brought by PP2 don’t stop there, either. For one, you get a jutting, sharp lower front splitter and special spoiler. So forget the Bullitt, this edition looks like the even more performance-focused Shelby GT350. Other performance adds, meanwhile, include a K-brace, Torsen 3.73 rear axle, specially tuned driver aids (More drifts! Woohoo!), strut-tower brace, unique springs and sway bar and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.
The one thing I was somewhat dismayed with looks-wise was the hood stripe. I would have preferred the twin rally-stripe that muscle cars have been known for for years, as opposed to the mismatched stripes seen here. Alas, those aren’t an option unless you opt for the Shelby, which is too bad.
Inside, PP2 adds two extra gauges for oil pressure and vacuum, as well as a unique aluminum-look finish to the instrument panel. Unfortunately, the Recaro seats you see aren’t part of the package, but have to be spec-ed for an additional $1,800. They look the part, to be sure, and they’re functional, but personally I think I’d stay away from them as opting for them costs you power adjustability and seat heating. Plus, the standard seats the Mustang GT gets are already plenty supportive.
I also had the digital gauge cluster, which somehow fits nicely even though it’s kind of at odds with the old-school vibe of muscle cars in general. It allows you to select between a number of configurations, my favourite of which has the rev counter winding all the way around the gauge cluster. Why? Because it’s so darn cool and a great run up to a gear shift, adding another layer of immersion to the Mustang experience.
The steering wheel is a bit of a point of contention for me, however. The convenience of having all those buttons mounted on it is undeniable, but it really doesn’t look great and as far as I’m concerned, the dash of a proper Mustang should have no more than a three-spoke wheel sprouting from it. Of course, in this day and age even muscle cars need to kowtow to the tech crowd (so for instance, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also present), but I wish they’d found a way to make those buttons just a little less, shall we say, “present”.
It’s a shame because along with that gauge cluster, the rest of the interior bits are right on. The toggle switches at the base of the centre stack for your hazards, steering mode and traction control, for example, are so cool that I’d just flick ‘em for the fun of it. Then there’s the stubby shift lever, Mustang plaque mounted ahead of the passenger, big, honkin’ handbrake lever – I just love all that stuff. Everything has such a sense of occasion about it that I just can’t get enough of.
Not that you really need another layer, though, because as muscle cars are wont to do, planting your right foot and rocketing down the road ahead of you is an assault on the senses that will get the juices flowing like few other vehicles, at this price or any other.
In fact, not a week before I tested the Mustang, I tested the latest Nissan GT-R supercar and while I’d be going faster in that car with similar throttle input, you don’t feel it like you do in a Mustang. Something about that big V8 rumble coupled with a chassis that isn’t quite so stiff – plus a manual transmission, obviously – just manages to add so much more to the experience of going fast.
This was helped along in my car by the modifiable exhaust note, achieved by switching either to “Sport” or “Track”, which negates the need for any digital boosting of the exhaust note. Be sure to turn it off at night, though, unless you enjoy antagonizing the neighbours.
While it’s true a Mustang will never feel so tightly sprung as a bonafide supercar, that’s not to say it left me nervous whenever I entered a corner. Indeed, with all that chassis tuning brought on by the PP2 package, with this latest GT you’re getting as close as you can right now to the old Boss 302 days without having to enter the Shelby realm.
The ability to adjust the steering weight by simply flicking one of those toggles is a nice – and nicely noticeable – touch, but I only wish I could adjust the exhaust note with one as well. Instead, you’re restricted to navigating menus in the gauge cluster. The steering toggle is great, but to get to a louder exhaust by navigating through a bunch of digital screens just seems somewhat anticlimactic.
Thanks to the new sway bars and springs, this latest GT is still a taut affair that responds well to steering inputs and while you will feel some body roll as you really start to hit repeated left-right-left transitions, I would still describe the handling package as sports-car like, through and through. Yes, the long hood ahead of you does increase the turning radius a bit, but that really only matters when you’re making tight manoeuvres in town. Other than that, it’s just that awesome feeling you get when you sit back and stare out over a long hood, just knowing that the V8 hiding underneath it is ready to rock. It’s no surprise that the V8 is treated like some kind of ethereal entity in Mad Max: Fury Road; that’s just the kind of feelings it rouses up in people, and car enthusiasts especially.