What's New for 1996
Revised styling greatly improves the look of the Thunderbird for 1996. The Super Coupe is deleted, replaced by a Sport Package for the V8 model. Base V6 engines have been upgraded, and go 100,000 miles between tune-ups. Equipment rosters have been shuffled.
In 1989, the umpteenth generation of the Thunderbird was introduced sporting BMW 6-Series styling, an available supercharged V6 engine, and an interior whose switchgear resembled the control panel of a 1976 Whirlpool dishwasher. It was too heavy, and early models suffered reliability problems. For the first time in the Thunderbird's history, a V8 was not available. How the times change.
This year, the T-Bird still sports those classic BMW lines, but everything else about the car has been revised or revamped since the car bowed in 1989. Restyled for 1996, the Thunderbird is markedly improved over the 1995 model. A new hood, front and rear fascias, and new headlights have cleaned up the exterior nicely. Inside, the Thunderbird is a work of art, with a flowing dash that sweeps gracefully between the front seats and houses dual airbags. Excessive weight has been overcome by the addition to the options list of Ford's excellent modular 4.6-liter V8.
The Super Coupe has been canceled for 1996, but its spirit lives on in a Sport package that includes SC-style 16-inch wheels, a specially tuned suspension and grippy P225/60 R16 tires. Other changes to the T-Bird include color-keyed body cladding and door handles, new seat fabrics, new 15-inch alloy wheels, and a new cruise control system that increases or decreases speed in one mph increments. A total anti-theft system is newly optional, as are chrome wheels. Five new colors complement the new styling.
The base V6 engine benefits from 100,000-mile platinum-tipped spark plugs and other improvments that make it more quiet and durable. Horsepower is up to 145 on the V6.
Gone from the lineup is a power passenger seat, remote fuel door release and "hands-free" cellular phone. The leather-wrapped steering wheel, power driver's seat and illuminated entry system all move to the optional equipment list this year.
Ford's entry into the personal coupe class has evolved into quite a substantial car. Despite sheetmetal that is nearing its expiration date, the car has character and class, and is a recommended alternative to Chevy's Monte Carlo. New contenders from Chrysler, the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring, are sure to stir things up, and Japanese coupes, while pricey, offer better fuel economy and perceived value, but the Thunderbird is holding its own in an increasingly crowded personal coupe marketplace.