SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide
It's the start of a new century. Coincidentally, Buick's entry-level model is called the Century. So Buick is taking advantage of the once-in-a-century opportunity with the 2000 Century 2000 Special Edition.
The 2000 Special Edition is basically a cosmetic trim package on the Century Limited model, with a blacked-out grille and commemorative badging outside and more special badging and trim on the inside. Although it is the most obvious addition to the Century line this year, it's hardly the only news. The Custom and Limited continue, and all versions have significant upgrades under their unchanged skin, including more power from the 3.1-liter V6 engine, transmission improvements, and an increased level of interior appointment.
Buick considers the Century to be its "luxury car for everyone," and it does indeed bring the contemporary American luxury car experience to the heart of the midsized market. It's quiet and comfortable, and even the "entry-level" Custom has upscale standard features like remote keyless entry, power windows, mirrors, and door locks, and a six-speaker sound system. Dual-zone climate control with air filtration is now standard in the Custom, with a fancier electronic version in the Limited. I found the 2000 Buick Century 2000 Special Edition to be a pleasantly smooth and much quieter than most midsized, mid- priced cars during my week behind the wheel. It's a true populist luxury car.
APPEARANCE: The Century has the contemporary Buick look, thanks in large part to the oval, vertically-barred "waterfall" grille and chrome-trimmed, full-width taillight applique. The grille is chromed on the regular Custom and Limited models, but it's blacked out on the 2000 Edition. And chrome "Century 2000" badges can be found on the front doors and tail, as well as special aluminum alloy wheels. Although the Century shares many of its pleasantly-rounded body panels with the Regal, its grille and bumper shapes and trim details differ, giving it a more conservative appearance.
COMFORT: The Century 2000 is a Buick, and so is expected to be luxuriously comfortable. And it is, with softly-padded, leather- covered contoured bench seats front and rear that are like two small living-room sofas. Six people can fit, although those in the center positions had best be small. "Premium but practical" is the Century's mission, and it shows in the appointments. Fold-down center armrests with cupholders and storage are found in both front and back. All four doors have storage pockets; those in the rear doors are especially large and divided. The area above the inside rear-view mirror is shaded to lessen glare and the visors have extensions for the same purpose. The instrument panel is a contemporary flowingly sculpted design, with good instrument and control placement and plenty of climate control vents. Delayed lighting adds nighttime convenience and safety. The trunk is large and its lid is held up by hydraulic struts, adding space and preventing crushed luggage.
SAFETY: Standard safety equipment on all Buick Century models includes antilock brakes, dual depowered airbags, daytime running lights, and safety cage construction with front and rear crush zones and side-impact protection beams.
ROADABILITY: As expected, the Century glides down the road in the finest Buick manner. It's smooth and quiet, and insulates the occupants well. In that, it's very much the descendent of the Buicks of the past. But the Century is a completely modern car, a front-wheel drive unibody design with a fully-independent suspension. Although ride comfort takes precedence, it is surprisingly maneuverable. There's plenty of body roll because of the soft suspension, but it is well-damped. Bumps are taken care of and then forgotten. The steering is not too light and reasonably quick, for optimum control. The Century's ride and handling are right on the mark for its intended market.
PERFORMANCE: The Century's powertrain is right on the mark for its market, too. It uses GM's 3100 V6, which, like the larger, more powerful 3800 used by its close relative the Regal, has benefited from continuous improvement. Internal enhancements have resulted in an increase of 15 horsepower to 175 this year, and 195 lb-ft of torque, an increase of ten, as well. Fuel economy has also improved, with EPA ratings of 20 around town and 30 on the highway, and real-world everyday mileage in the mid-twenties. The 3100 delivers its power smoothly, with little noise except under full-throttle acceleration. It is noticeably less powerful than the 3800, unsurprisingly, but is fully up to any task likely to be asked of it by Buick owners. The improved four-speed automatic transmission is very smooth and helps the Century's luxury feel.
CONCLUSIONS: Buick's special-edition Century 2000 brings all- American comfort and luxury to the heart of the midsize sedan class.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 21,737 Price As Tested $ 24,845 Engine Type 12-valve pushrod overhead valve V6 Engine Size 3.1 liters / 191 cu. in. Horsepower 175 @ 5200 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 195 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 109.0 in. / 194.6 in. Curb Weight 3,371 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.3 Fuel Capacity 17.5 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular, 87 octane Tires P205/70 R15 General Ameri * G45 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent tri-link strut Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 30 / 23 0 to 60 mph 9.2 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.7 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Century 2000 Special Edition package - includes: leather upholstery, electronic cruise control, trunk convenience net, automatic dual-zone climate control, electrochromic mirrors, steering-wheel radio controls, AM/FM/cassette/CD audio system, 6-way power passenger seat, Concert Sound III speakers with diversity antenna, split folding rear seat, Century 2000 special appearance package, special 15-inch aluminum wheels $ 2,608 Millennium discount -$ 500 Destination charge $ 560