tda69, thanks for taking the time to expand on your issues.
As you can see from my sig, I own an '06 Ultra, and it's my first Harley, so I can't compare as you can.
What I will say is that the bike you got for rental appears to have been a dog. Let me give you my impressions of an '06 with just over 1k miles.
Engine stalling - hasn't happened once. This bike is incredibly reliable, starts easily and stays running.
HK Stereo. I know what you mean about the "boot up time" (maybe it runs Windows?
), but since I have not had any stalling, it's not bothersome. Same with the slight delay when changing tracks and/or radio channels. I am kind of a "find a channel and forget it" kind of guy - others (like yourself) may well find this a real issue.
Forks / Front end - if the '03 felt "heavier", I suspect I would like it less. I was also concerned that your rental felt like it would "fall apart" at 75. Mine purrs like a kitten at 80, and I could ride her all day like that. I wonder if there weren't real problems with the bike you had, and am glad you are safe after riding it. If my '06 is representative, the shakyness at speed is not an issue.
Reduced throttle - here I come to the party as a previous Metric owner. I LOVE the reduced tension from my previous bikes. Hopefully, this is a design decision, and not the result of "cheaping out". Time will tell.
Clutch: We agree here - best clutch I have ever pulled in. Light touch and very even in engaging. Gears shifting is indeed like butter. Nice job HD.
Lowers - again we agree. Nice job HD
Seat: While I haven't rode the '03, one thing I can say for sure (and judging by many here on the Forum, there is agreement), the stock Ultra seat is not good. After an hour in the saddle, I am ready for a break. Lots of threads here for Corbins, Mustangs, etc. It is quite dissapointing to have such a poor seat on a 22k motorcycle.
Again, thanks for taking the time to share your experience. Hopefully, your '06 rental was an anomoly. Other than my seat (which I will replace in the spring), I can't imagine owning another bike. Truly an amazing ride.
Be safe. Good luck finding a new ride. When you do, remember WE LIKE PICS!!!!!!