Great overall car for the money, with decent performance
Front upper ball-joint rubber boots torn.
Rattle in the dash around the passenger airbag area.
Headlights turn yellow and dim.
Center brake light in the back window has a melted lense.
The Thunderbird is an excellent car overall and a good bargain on the market. I was looking for a comfortable car, preferably with a V8, and this car fits the bill. I chose the 94+ model over the earlier ones because of the much nicer wrap-around dash interior and the smoother 4.6 engine vs. the older 5.0s.
The T-bird is a rather large car which hefts a lot of weight, so if you're used to compacts, it's not for you. But it has a roomy interior and large trunk which will more than please people used to mid-size cars. The seats are comfortable and the wrap around dash is an excellent design. All controls are logically placed and easily accessible. Exterior design is contemporary looking (although it dates to 89) and the front fascia is rather aggressive looking.
The 4.6 in the Bird is no race engine, but it has more than enough power to get out of its own way and isn't a gas guzzler. I routinely get 21-22mpg with mixed highway/city driving, and have gotten up to 27mpg with strictly highway driving. The transmission's computer controlled shifting can sometimes be rather annoying, and the tranny itself is a weak spot on these cars, but flushing it and refilling with Mercon V and getting a chip which alters shifting makes it much nicer.
The car handles rather well for a "luxobarge" of its size and weight. Once I replaced the sub-par Costco tires the previous owner put on my car with better Michelins, I was truly impressed with how well the car handles and at the speeds it can take California cloverleaf off ramps. The brakes (non-ABS front disc and rear drums on my car) stop the car well, but it's not stellar. These cars are notorious for warping front brake rotors as they're a bit undersized for the car. But they're still effective at stopping the car, and 96-97 Sport model T-birds have larger front brakes.
I haven't had many problems with this car, although I've only driven it just over 10K miles, and it was a well maintained one-owner car before I got it. Problems I've had which are common to these cars include the front headlights dulling and rear center brake light melting. The former was remedied with some polishing compound, and the latter by using smaller light bulbs. I've also noticed that both of my front upper balljoint grease boots are torn. I'll have to get this fixed soon.
Overall, I'm extremely pleased with this car and only have a few gripe points:
- Ridiculously low 105mph speed limiter, although this won't concern most people. This was done because of Ford putting low speed-rated tires on the car from the factory.
- Floor mounted parking brake lever interferes with placement of left leg when driving.
- Undersized front brakes, although they stop the car well enough.
- Headlight switch is not lighted. Every other button or switch is.
- Lack of fold-down rear seat with access to the trunk.
- LED lights on the trunklid are prone to failure.
Pretty minor gripes. I'd recommend this car to anyone looking for a vehicle of this type, although the 2-door "personal car" market has all but disappeared.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 24th January, 2002