Used 2002 Ford Thunderbird Review

Though it's got just two seats, the revived T-Bird ain't no sports car. Rather, this retro-dressed Lincoln derivative is a boulevardier sure to turn every head in town.




what's new

Following a four-year absence, the Thunderbird nameplate returns on an all-new two-seat roadster platform designed to recall the first-generation '55-'57 T-Birds.

vehicle overview

After more than 40 years, a proper two-seat Thunderbird roadster has returned. Looking back on the various types of cars the Thunderbird name has been used on, it's amazing to think that this is the model that helped almost kill off the Corvette. That's right, the introduction of the '55 T-Bird combined with the sale of only 700 '55 Vettes nearly put the kibosh on Chevy's two-seater.

Now a Ford two-seater is back, and it will be a sight to see on the road. Riding on the same platform as the Lincoln LS, the 'Bird uses the same 3.9-liter DOHC V8, as well. In feathered trim, the engine also produces the same 252 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 267 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm. The LS' five-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox available at this point.

Ford's new two-seater rides on a full independent suspension that uses a short-long arm (SLA) design at the front and rear. The control arms are made of aircraft-grade forged or cast aluminum to reduce weight. Cast aluminum 17-inch wheels are also standard in a 21-spoke design, which, frankly, we like better than the optional seven-spoke chrome wheel. All 'Birds come with ABS and four-wheel disc brakes. Looking for maximum traction in all kinds of weather? Spring for the optional traction-control system.

Moving to the car's intimate two-seat cabin, you'll find many of the buttons and switches, as well as the instrument cluster, are lifted directly from the Lincoln LS -- though instrumentation does utilize attractive white-faced gauges. The leather seat trim has what Ford calls a "Thunderbird tuck and roll," and the driver seat has six-way power adjustment and adjustable lumbar support. While the standard interior color is black, there's an interesting option package in which the seats, lower instrument panel, steering-wheel top and shift knob match or contrast the five available exterior colors. If you order this package, cars that are Inspiration Yellow, Torch Red or Thunderbird Blue will get the above-noted interior pieces in the same color. The same package is available in red for Evening Black or Whisper White T-Birds. Additionally, 200 special-edition '02 Thunderbirds were sold through the Neiman Marcus catalog. In about two hours, every car had been spoken for.

Finally, while the Thunderbird is the epitome of what a truly fun car is all about, it's still chock-full of safety bits. There's standard side airbags, which make the car the first Ford convertible to come equipped with combination head and chest side airbags. And when you want to include small children in the fun, there's a deactivation switch for the passenger side front and side airbags and a LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) child-seat anchor system that provides rigid child-seat anchors.

The anticipation of this car's coming to market easily matches that created by others such as the PT Cruiser, VW New Beetle and '97 C5 Corvette. Naturally, demand will far exceed supply for years to come, primarily because Ford has done an exceptional job in the design, style and engineering of this new 'Bird. If you haven't already placed your order, be prepared for a long wait and/or serious dealer profiteering.






edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.