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Buick Century (2000)

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig

Buick Full Line Video footage (10:07)
MODEL:  Buick Century
ENGINE:  3.1-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 175 hp @ 5,200 rpm/195 lbs.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 109.0 in.
L X W X H: 194.6 x 72.7 x 56.6 in.
LIST PRICE: $24,380

There's a lot to be said for "normal" cars. I remember when I was buying a car for a surprise for our 25th anniversary a few years back that the car I wanted to buy had all the goodies. It had full instrumentation, a center console, a sport suspension and the bigger engine. My daughters brought me back to earth, though, when they told me, "That's not what Mom wants. She wants a basic car." So I bought her the car she wanted and she's been pleased for 11 years.

The 2000 Buick Century is what you'd call a "normal car." It's a lot better car than the 1988 model I bought, but it doesn't have the supercharged engine, it doesn't have a center console (although the fold-down armrest/console does a good job), and it doesn't have a sport suspension.

What the Century does have, however, is a nice ride in all normal conditions, decent power and a smooth transmission that doesn't jump every time it shifts gears. It's also a lot better car than our 1988 model, because it has dual air bags, ABS, and better fuel economy from a larger, more powerful engine (there has to be something for the old man in there) and adjustable seat belts.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my week behind the wheel of the Century. This is a great car for Buick to have in its lineup as the Twentieth Century closes. While it's not the big clunky Buick that earns laughs in comedians' stand-up routines, it has seating for six, a decent trunk, and everything good that you expect from Buick. This is a company that has been around for nearly a century itself, and it has learned something about building cars and satisfying its customers.

Century's styling places it firmly in the Buick firmament. There is rounded aerodynamic styling, an oval grille with chrome "waterfall" inserts, and a "family" taillight treatment. In fact, the Buick styling is so uniform across the lineup that you have to check the label on the back of a car to find out what it is. Sure, size can tell you the difference between a Park Avenue Ultra and a Century, but at a quick glance they're obviously related. So the person who buys a Century gains some of the warm fuzzy feeling of owning an Ultra.

The Century is powered by a 3.1-liter V-6 engine that delivers 175 horsepower. We found that this was enough for everything we asked the Century to do. Buick has been using V-6 engines since 1963, so they've learned a great deal in that time about what makes a good engine. The 3100 (GM designation) was quiet, responsive and relatively economical, with fuel economy of more than 22 mpg for our test. Mated to a four-speed automatic transmission that was designed to be "invisible" to the driver, the drivetrain gave almost no negative feedback to the driver and was silent at all times except when hard acceleration was needed.

And when hard acceleration was needed, we had to be careful we didn't spin the tires on wet or sandy roads. It's always a pleasant surprise when you discover power where it wasn't expected.

I'm sure that some car buyers won't appreciate the normalness of the Buick Century. It seems that every manufacturer is offering buyers vehicles that are sleeker, faster, and sexier. But they don't have the Century's capability to transport a full family in comfort in an atmosphere where they can actually talk to each other without having to shout over the sound of the engine.