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Buick Century Special Edition

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin

< Buick Full Line Video footage (10:07)

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,737
Price As Tested                                    $ 25,075
Engine Type                OHV 12-valve 3.1 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 191 cid/3146 cc
Horsepower                                   175 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               195 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  109.0"/72.7"/194.6"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3393 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                          P205/70R15 all-season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 85 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            20/30/24          
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                          17.0 seconds @ 81.0 mph
Top-speed                                           105 mph

* Sequential-port fuel injection 

I The Buick Century is one of those for-the-masses cars that is the modern interpretation of those floating land yachts of the '70s. It's smaller than those venerated vehicles, yet carries classic refinements into the new millennium.

Again, the Century is available in Custom, Limited and Special Edition, an example of which we evaluate this week.

But Toyota's new Tundra changes that. Available in two-or four-wheel drive, trim levels include base, SR5 or like our tester, the Limited.

OUTSIDE -Century was redesigned in 1997, and with the redesign came a rounding of corners, softening of lines and a smoothing of protruding edges. General Motors has done an admirable job of making Century a unique vehicle, especially since it is made from ubiquitous corporate pieces. Built on GM's W-car platform, it shares many components with its Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Chevrolet cousins. What turns the Limited version of the Century into the Special Edition model are a blacked-out grille and black door header moldings, body-color fascias and side moldings, and commemorative badging on its doors and tail lamps. Special Edition models also get machine-finished 15-inch alloy wheels and all- season tires. Two new colors are offered: Gold and Silver Metallic.

INSIDE -The standard seating setup is a front bench seat, split in a 55/45 fashion, while the rear seat sits slightly higher than the front. New too is an optional split-folding rear seat with a built-in armrest and cupholders. As part of the Special Edition package, our test car came with leather upholstery and "Special Edition" embroidering on the headrests, dashboard and floor mats. The standard dual-zone climate control delivers cool or warm air quickly, but a knob controls the driver's side while a slide controls the passenger side, which looks inconsistent. The pod containing the power windows and door locks are neatly arranged and can be operated almost intuitively. Standard Special Edition features include power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, rear window defogger, tilt steering, AM/FM/CD stereo, power driver and passenger seat, auto-dimming rear view mirror, remote keyless entry, Twilight Sentinel automatic headlamps and cruise control.

ON THE ROAD -All Century models are powered by a 3.1 liter V6 engine that can trace its roots back to the '60s. It's been thoroughly upgraded since, however, and for 2000 it offers more power than ever before but it's not a complex engine as there are no overhead camshafts or multi-valve technology. It's simple in design with a cast iron block and aluminum cylinder heads. This year GM has revised the intake system to boost the horsepower from 160 to 175, along with a jump in torque from 185 to 195 pound/feet. With the more efficient engine breathing comes livelier performance and a slight jump in fuel economy. Its standard four-speed automatic transmission has been upgraded as well. A larger torque converter is said to produce smoother shifting, while full-range traction control is standard.

BEHIND THE WHEEL -Unit-body construction is used for the Century. The 1997 redesign brought a wheelbase stretched by over four inches with a track increase of nearly three inches up front and 4.3 inches in back. Buick engineers made extensive efforts to make the chassis stiffer which in turn gives better handling. But Century is aimed at a clientele that isn't interested in sports car-like handling, so the ride is soft and quiet, with that traditional American boulevard ride. Both the front and rear suspension are independent, with anti-roll bars, tube shocks and coil springs used front and rear. Rubber isolators between the engine cradle and rear crossmember do an effective job of muting road noise, while its soft suspension soaks up bumps with ease. Its speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering utilizes what GM calls Magnasteer, a magnetically variable-effort system that allows easier turning at low speeds, such as while parking, with more road feel at higher speeds. Power front disc and rear drum brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.

SAFETY -Dual dashboard airbags, driver's side seat-mounted airbag, ABS and traction control are standard. OPTIONS - Special Edition package: $2,583; power sunroof: $695.