Driving a Ford Thunderbird on a summer night takes you back to a simpler time. The V8 engine burbles as you cruise comfortably back in time. Two seats, convertible top, rear-wheel drive, at times it feels like driving a vintage car, only it's brand new. Introduced as a 2002 model, the Thunderbird has enjoyed solid sales, but there are important changes to this big-image car for 2003. The Thunderbird has a great powertrain and this year there's more on tap: Horsepower from the 3.9-liter V8 has been increased to 280 and torque to 286 foot-pounds, 28 more horsepower and 25 more foot-pounds of torque than before. That means much stronger acceleration performance. Electronic throttle control and variable cam timing borrowed from the Jaguar engine improve engine performance, power and fuel economy all at once. Also new for 2003 is an optional Select Shift transmission, which allows gear changes similar to a conventional manual transmission without a clutch pedal. All-speed traction control is now standard on all models, where last year it was only on the Premium version. A heated driver and passenger seat option has been added for 2003 so you can drive with the top down and still be toasty warm on cold mornings, a pleasant pastime in the Thunderbird. Inside, there's a new analog instrument cluster design. Two-speed, variable-interval wipers with a heated wiper parking area are also standard for 2003. A new Saddle interior package includes full leather saddle seats, saddle leather steering wheel insert and a saddle leather shift knob. New exterior colors, Mountain Shadow Gray and Desert Sky Blue join two new interior colors: Black Ink and Whisper White.