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SLP invited us to test drive the SLP Thunderbolt at a track laid out at the Pontiac Silverdome this June. We had three Thunderbolts — the 2003 SLP Content on 2002 Ford Rangers — and one stock 2002 Ford Ranger. SLP also showed off their Chevy Blazer based Adventure SUV, and adaptaions of the Monte Carlo, the Grand Pix, and the Buick LeSabre. All were a pleasure to drive, but naturally, we took the most interest in the Thunderbolts.
Our test vehicles included SLP's performance package so we were greeted with a hearty exhaust note once we started up the truck. A little horsepower goes a long way, and the extra eight percent horsepower produced a noticeable difference in quickness off the line and out of the corners.
The biggest improvement we noticed, however, came from the 16-inch wheels and upgraded tires coupled with the handling package — a stabilzer bar in the back and a strengthened one in the front. Two of the Thunderbolts were equipped almost identically except for these options and the difference was dramatic. The Thunderbolt with the upgraded wheels, tires, and stabilizer bars ripped around the cones with grace and speed that the 15-inch wheels on the other Thunderbolt (and on our stock Ranger) couldn't match. Consumers interested in the performance aspects of the Thunderbolt definitely should put the 16-inch wheels and handling package on their must-have list.
Overall, driving the Thunderbolt was quite enjoyable. In back to back driving comparisons against the stock Ranger, the Thunderbolt made a bold statement as to the grace and power SLP Engineering has added to Ford's compact truck. Consumers interested in a pickup but looking for something that also sets themselves apart from the pack should definitely check out the Thunderbolt.
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