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SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide


By Tom Hagin

Buick Full Line factory footage (11:22) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,145
Price As Tested                                    $ 22.235
Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.1 Liter V6 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                 191 cid/3146 cc
Horsepower                                   160 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               185 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  109.0"/72.7"/194.6"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3392 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/70R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 90 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            20/29/23
0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)                     17.5 seconds @ 80.5 mph
Top speed                                           105 mph
     * Sequential port fuel injection

Buick, General Motors' "traditional" division, does its best to offer a modern interpretation of the classic American sedan. A quiet, smooth ride and loads of amenities at an attractive price are the parameters, and many "mature" buyers have lined up to buy one.

The 1999 Buick Century represents the entry-level of the Buick line. It shares its "W-Car" chassis and lines with a number of other GM vehicles and does well competing in the mid-sized sedan market.

OUTSIDE - The Century projects an anonymous look while on the road, and its subdued styling and unassuming shape offends no one. Adhering to today's idea of the "conventional" family sedan, its unassuming look sells well in the mid-sized segment, especially so since most manufacturers will not make radical styling chances when competing in the family sedan market. Its hood is long and the trunk is short, but looks can be deceiving as the trunk has an impressive 17 cubic feet of cargo space. Unfortunately, the rear seat doesn't fold down and there's no pass-through for long items. The slim, flush headlamp assemblies wrap around the corners of the car's nose, while body-color bumpers and outside mirrors are standard on Limited versions. Steel wheels with bolt-on wheelcovers are standard, and alloy wheels are optional.

INSIDE - Century's front bench seat offers plenty of leg and headroom, but three across is tight on long rides. The same is true for the rear seat, because the seat padding is very soft and lacks support. The powered driver's seat gives plenty of adjustment for drivers of all sizes for good vision over the hood and there are storage nooks and pockets in all the right places. Buick has improved the ergonomics of Century's dashboard, with simple twist knobs and slide controls. Standard features on the Century include air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, Twilight Sentinel automatic headlights, rear seat heat ducts, variable speed wipers, and power windows, outside mirrors and door locks. Limited models add standards like dual mode air conditioning, heated outside mirrors and enhanced lighting. Our car came with an option package that added power seats, cruise control, an uplevel stereo with steering wheel controls, an auto-dim inside rearview mirror and leather upholstery.

ON THE ROAD - While the other General Motors' W-Car models get twin-cam V6s with 200 horsepower (one even benefits from a 240-horse supercharged V6), the Century's mission is to provide upscale amenities at a budget price. It uses the General Motors veteran 3.1 liter V6 that produces 160 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is adequate, but since it must propel 3400 pounds, it doesn't feel as responsive as the identical engine powering another G.M. "twin" that weighs less. It gives good gas mileage, however, as our 23 mpg average can attest. Quiet freeway cruising is more than acceptable, and the electronic four-speed automatic transmission shifts imperceptibly. Traction control, a system that limits wheelspin on slippery surfaces, is now standard on both Century models.

ON THE ROAD - GM builds many different cars on a common platform. This allows for reduced costs by pooling engineering, equipment, tools, parts and assembly sites. Those platforms can then be stretched, widened and stiffened to accept a variety of body styles, but all can be tuned to produce rides of varying degrees. Century's tuning is set for a very smooth ride. The suspension settings are soft and the bushings are pliable, which gives it that classic American "boulevard cruise" feel. Sometimes on undulating pavement sections, it will bob and bottom out and a full load of passengers and cargo unsettles the ride in this area even more. It tracks very well in a straight line, however, and there is so much road isolation it approaches luxury car status on the decibel meter. It uses speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering with front disc and rear drum brakes. A four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Dual de-powered dashboard airbags, ABS, side-impact protection and traction control are standard.

OPTIONS - Leather upholstery: $625; CD player: $225.