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2003 Ford Thunderbird

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2003 Ford Thunderbird Review

Has a lot to offer the price-conscious car buyer who wants features galore.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The Ford Thunderbird was first introduced in 1995 and had a cult following through the years. It was with great excitement that it was reintroduced in 2002. The new model has the same retro styling of the Ford Thunderbird of the past, but with some modern updates to boot. Its chassis is the same one used with the Lincoln LS. It is available as a convertible in two trim lines with an optional plastic hardtop. Most of the vehicle is actually made of plastic, down to the hood, fenders, and deck. This makes it exceptionally light, which is a good thing with the offered V-8 engine. Ford shies away from the retro-nomenclature forced on the Thunderbird, but it's obvious with the styling and name the company was hoping to whip up some classic fervor. The Ford Thunderbird has all the appeal of the old models with the convenience of contemporary technology.

The Range

Body Style: convertible roadster
Engines: 3.9-liter V-8 engine
Transmissions: five-speed automatic
Models: Ford Thunderbird Deluxe, Ford Thunderbird Premium

What's New

The 2003 Ford Thunderbird is only in its second year, but there are a few changes made. It increases the horsepower by 28 and gains 25 lb-ft of torque. The increase in power is due to the brand new electronic throttle control and variable cam timing. New this year is standard all-wheel traction control. Heated seats are a new optional feature. The instrument cluster, oddly, has had a redesign, an intriguing move by the automaker. A saddle interior package offers saddle-style leather for the seats and steering wheel.


The 2003 Ford Thunderbird’s exterior styling is perhaps its most intriguing feature, bearing retro styling reminiscent of Thunderbird’s of old. Shared features between old models and new include the egg-crate grille, the rounded headlamps, hood scoop, and the quarter-sized windows. The new model measures 186.3 inches long with a 107.2-inch wheelbase. It is available in five colors: Torch Red, Evening Black, White Whisper, Mountain Shade Gray, and Desert Sky Blue. It comes with a standard cloth convertible top, and a clip on plastic hard top is also available. Both models come with cast-aluminum wheels with 17-inch tires.


Inside the Ford Thunderbird is a two-seat cockpit. The interior trim color compliments the exterior color, depending on what the buyer chooses. The new instrument panel is easy to read and use. There isn’t a lot of room, but it is comfortable enough for the two passengers. This is not a hauling vehicle. The trunk has only 6.9 cubic feet of space. Standard features on the Deluxe model includes cruise control, front console with storage, cup holders, front door pockets, power locks and windows, power mirrors, two-way adjustable passenger seat, six-way driver seat, bucket front seats covered in leather, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, steering wheel mounted audio controls, clock and trip meter. It comes equipped with an eight-speaker, 180-watt stereo system. The Deluxe Premium model adds heated seating.

Performance & Handling

The 2003 Ford Thunderbird comes with a 3.9-liter, dual-overhead cam V-8 that produces 280 horsepower. It's paired with a close ratio five-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, it is not available with a manual transmission nor is an auto-manual transmission available. That aside, the V-8 engine is refined and as smooth as silk. Suspension is on the stiff side, making bumps a bit of a problem, but smooth streets and the freeway feels excellent. Passing, merging, and gunning it from a standstill is not only smooth but exciting as well. Getting into the vehicle with the top up is a bit of a squeeze, but most average-sized drivers should be able to handle it. Seeing out of the vehicle is sometimes difficult with the major league blind spots it has. Most of the shortcomings can be balanced against its cool styling and fun ride.


The 2003 Ford Thunderbird has one unique claim to fame: it is the first convertible ever to offer head and chest side-impact airbags. It also has standard anti-lock brakes. The NHTSA gave five out of five stars for front impact on the passenger side, and four stars for the driver. It also received five out of five for front-side impacts.

EPA Fuel Economy

Ford Taurus Thunderbird: 16/22 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Refined V-8 power
  • Lovely styling
  • Great handling
  • Bolt-on hardtop available

You Won't Like

  • Small trunk
  • Interior design needs work
  • No manual transmission available

Sum Up

Has a lot to offer the price-conscious car buyer who wants features galore.

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