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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Ford Thunderbird Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Ford Thunderbird Overview

Flying High

The Thunderbird is an American icon that has come full circle. It began its life as a stylish, groundbreaking roadster that captivated the public and sent the competition scrambling. Over the years, the Thunderbird morphed into a four-seat coupe, and then morphed into a four-door sedan and morphed once more into a giant personal luxury coupe that shared its wheelbase with the gargantuan Lincoln Mark VI. Just when it seemed the Thunderbird would never be the car it once was, Detroit experienced a renaissance that would see the return of the classic Thunderbird roadster, complete with removable hardtop and the porthole window.

Though the styling is reminiscent of the original, Ford stylists take sharp objection to the term "retro" when describing the new Thunderbird. They would like you to see the car as more of an evolution of the original theme, rather than a copy. However you see it, most likely you'll find the Thunderbird's pleasing proportions have the power to elicit that little feeling of anticipation you get in the pit of your stomach whenever you see something desirable. From its egg-crate mesh grille to its turquoise inlaid door panels and instrument needles, the modern Thunderbird is every bit a chip of the old block.

Inside the Thunderbird, you'll find a set of very cozy bucket seats, complete with the trademark Thunderbird tuck-and-roll stitching. A similar pattern is carried out on the door panels along with brushed aluminum trim that continues on the dash and center console. There are storage bins behind the seats and a pretty fair sized trunk as well. This year, new interior options include a Saddle leather package and Whisper white leather seating. The Thunderbird's power retractable top is triple layered to ensure as little noise as possible makes its way in when you're not in the mood to experience the great outdoors; a removable hardtop with interior light and porthole side window is optional.

The Thunderbird may look new, but it rests on a proven platform that also supports such cars as the Jaguar S-Type and Lincoln LS sedan. This rear-wheel platform provides the structural integrity needed to brace a convertible, which loses some of its rigidity when the hardtop is cut away. With its independent rear suspension, the Thunderbird can take turns and round corners like no Thunderbird before it. Adding to the car's performance abilities are a great set of all-season tires on 17-inch wheels, a new standard all-speed traction control and a nearly 50/50 front to rear weight distribution. You'll find the steering wheel feels heavy even at high speeds, making it easy to perform precise maneuvering without the fear of over correcting.

The Thunderbird is one of those rare cars that is just as much fun to drive in a straight line as it is around turns; that's because horsepower is up this year to 280, though the powerplant remains the same 3.9-liter V8 offered in last year's model. There still is no five speed manual transmission offered, but Ford is offering a new Select Shift automatic that allows you to change gears without the use of a clutch pedal. Both the Select Shift and the standard close ratio five-speed automatic do a good job of harnessing the V8's power, though we did find that there is a slight pause before the transmission kicks down from high to low gear, this happens when you step hard on the gas.

With an MSRP of $37,000 for the base model and a fully loaded limited edition 007 model topping out near $45K, the Thunderbird does not come cheap. Standard equipment includes power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, ABS, traction control, AM/FM stereo with 6-disc in-dash CD changer, side impact airbags, speed control, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and cast aluminum wheels. Options include leather seats, the Select Shift automatic and a series of accent packages that offer differing trims and interior colors.

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