2002 Ford Thunderbird

Scott Dahlquist
0107 Ford Thunderbird 09

You also can't get angry at the Thunderbird, because it simply drives so well. The steering is isolated from road shocks, yet the response is quick, direct, and linear. Every control is light in effort and yet perfectly natural. When you steer into a bend, it takes only a little effort to keep the car from pitching or rolling onto its bumpstops, and then the chassis arcs through the corner with reassuring steadiness. Everything is calm, natural, and intuitive. Anyone can hop into this car and feel at home within two minutes.

The Thunderbird also succeeds because it's such a complete car. Everything works the way it should. The hard top weighs 83 pounds, and you unfasten it with two allen-head screws at either extremity of the windshield header plus a lever beneath each porthole. The top stows vertically on a rollaway cart that Ford provides for the purpose. It's a sturdy piece, although it does shudder in place when the chassis crosses choppy pavement. When the hard top is removed, the T-Bird is generally free of turbulence, thanks to the protection offered by the big windshield. The electrically powered soft top, with its glass rear window, comes up and latches in place with minimal effort. The trunk is shallow, but the large opening lets you make the most of it, and it'll accommodate the two golf bags that are the standard for cargo utility in this class.

Sure, we're disappointed that the Thunderbird is not blazingly quick. But we're not put off, perhaps because Ford tells us right up front that this was never meant to be a sports car. The Thunderbird is a great top-down car, delivering the exhilaration of being outside while rolling down the highway to get ice cream. It has so much style that a simple drive becomes an event, a celebration, a parade. When the hard top is in place, the Thunderbird becomes far more masculine, a traveling car meant for long distances.

0107 Ford Thunderbird 10

We also must admit that the Thunder-bird gets away with its approach because it has such style. Every gesture it makes is delicious, right down to the aqua bands that underscore the wings of the Thunderbird emblem, a styling device straight from the original T-Bird. If you think of the Thunderbird as simply a convertible, then you begin to understand its mission in life. This is not a '32 Ford hot rod meant for lighting up its tires. Instead, it's more like a '57 Chevy, a custom car meant for the pure enjoyment of driving. As advertised, the Thunderbird is relaxed. At a price that begins at $35,495 for the deluxe model and ends at $38,995 for the premium model with removable hard top, it should bring back the spirit of American chrome in a big way.

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