Only one winner from our 2018 list returns for 2019, and with good reason: The 5.0L V-8 in the Ford Mustang GT and the variant we tested in the Mustang Bullitt earn our praise from startup to redline.
We applaud the GT’s 5.0L, which incorporates technology such as mirror-bore, spray-in cylinder liners borrowed from the Shelby GT350 V-8 and adds direct fuel injection to the carryover port injection to achieve 460 hp and 420 lb.-ft. (569 Nm) of torque, up 25 hp and 20 lb.-ft. (27 Nm) over the prior version.
Spray-in cylinder liners save weight and allow a slight increase in displacement, while direct injection maintains efficiency while providing a more precise level of fueling needed under wide-open throttle and at high speeds. A reinforced crankshaft, higher 7,500-rpm redline and a compression ratio boosted to 12.0:1 complete the improvements in the GT’s 5.0L.
“Yowsa! Love that power at redline!” gushes editor Christie Schweinsberg, echoing the sentiments of every staffer who enjoyed seat time in the Mustang GT.
Not surprisingly, Ford again dips into the GT350 toolkit for longer intake runners and a larger throttle body to boost performance even further in this year’s pitch-perfect Bullitt iteration. We have no complaints with the standard GT, but there’s something extra-special about the Bullitt, which also gets a freer-flowing active exhaust that’s music to an enthusiast’s ears.
On paper, the Bullitt engine picks up a mere 20 horsepower over the GT, but on the road the Bullitt demonstrates how small changes and careful attention to tuning can bring new life to mature technology and create a whole new level of firepower.
In the Bullitt, 355 lb.-ft. (481 Nm) of torque arrives at just 2,200 rpm (up 11 lb.-ft. [15 Nm] vs. the GT) and continuing strong to its 420 lb.-ft. peak at 4,600 rpm where it levels off as the added 20 hp checks in above 6,000 rpm to propel this special Mustang at speed.
And while the 10-speed automatic in our GT tester offers better fuel economy – hovering around 20 mpg (11.7 L/100 km) despite spirited driving – the standard-issue 6-speed manual with rev-matching in the Bullitt provides a much more enjoyable and visceral link to the powertrain.
“Love to just turn off the radio and listen to this engine while cruising, blipping the throttle every once in a while to make it sing,” says judge David Zoia.
An earlier version of the 5.0L earned a trip to the winner’s circle in 2011, as well as the following year, when the 444-hp variant in the Mustang Boss 302 arrived. Big V-8s might be going the way of the dinosaur, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some last hurrahs.