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Buick Century Custom (2001)

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 19,840
     Price As Tested                                    $ 21,375
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.1 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 191 cid/3136 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                                     3386 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                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/29/24          
     0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          17.5 seconds @ 80.0 mph
     Top-speed                                           105 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(The Buick Century as a model has been around since 1936, according to Bob Hagin. Matt Hagin snidely remarks that most buyers of the new Buick Century were born right around that time.)

BOB - I was just a toddler when the first Buick Century was introduced, but it was a car that your grandfather, a dyed-in-the-wool Ford V8 man, always held in high esteem. The Century designation indicated that it would do 100 mph, but officially, it was good for a bit over 95. Back then, the Century was based on the small-body Buick Special,but it packed a big 320 cubic-inch straight-eight engine, the same one used in the giant Roadmaster. I guess it can be considered a Stone Age Muscle Car.

MATT - What a difference the years have made, because in the performance department, it hasn't progressed much. The current version is built to do 105 tops, but it takes a long time to get there. The Century is a traditional American cruiser, with a plush marshmallow ride and lackluster steering. Up front is a three-across bench seat with a center armrest that can be positioned up or down. Six people can ride inside, though six big riders will be squeezed. The seats are flat and soft and fit just about anyone. The suspension is softer than other more "sporting" Buick models and the relatively narrow R205/70R tires mounted on 15-inch steel wheels squeal loudly if they're pushed through tight turns. And as expected, the rear brakes are cost-cutting drum units. The steering is light and doesn't give much feedback, but an aspect I really like is its almost 30 MPG, which it gets on a diet of 87-octane gas. In this era of rising fuel costs, high fuel mileage and being able to operate on the least expensive fuel is something buyers are taking very seriously.

BOB - Contrary to the original Century concept, the V6 engine in the 2001 example is the smallest available in the Buick lineup. It displaces just 191 cubic inches but it puts out a respectable 175 horsepower. A torque rating of only 195 pound-feet accounts for its meager tow rating of 1000 pounds, but this thing isn't sold as a boat puller. The valve train is based on technology that's almost as old as the original, with two valves per cylinder, both operated by pushrods. It may be old stuff, but it seems to get the job done. And if a Buick buyer wants performance, there are several models that have powerful supercharged engines and sporting suspensions, but they cost a lot more than the Century. A four-speed automatic is standard, and it shifts smooth and strong. Recently, one of the straight-arrow consumer magazines gave an A-plus reliability rating on the 2000 model and since the new version is basically the same car, that toughness can be expected from the new one.

MATT - It comes in a basic form called Century Custom - the entry-level model. Above that is an upscale Special Edition model. It's an extra-fancy rig Buick claims is a "luxury car for everyone." Both trim levels offer some interesting gadgets that make modern life behind the wheel somewhat easier. There's a tire-pressure monitor that lets the driver know if one or more of the tires are getting low, and the climate control system has a built-in dust and pollen filter. An extra set of radio controls are on the steering wheel, so audio changes can be made quickly and easily. Our loaner came with a $600 Premium Package that includes equipment such as cruise control and heated outside mirrors.

BOB - Some of the auto enthusiast magazines bash the Century for being too old-fashioned and too much of a throwback to the domestic cars of the '50s and '60s. But because it's such a good bargain, Buick keeps on selling lots of them. I've read that General Motors is even producing a model like it in China for that market. And being "old-fashioned" means that the kids in the family won't want to borrow it for weekend dates. Overall, I like the concept of an affordable plush-mobile.

MATT - The demographics of Century buyers show that they're usually in their late '50s and '60s, so the "kids" that want to borrow the car for dates have, in most cases, left home, gotten married and have kids of their own. Come to think of it, that describes you pretty well, Dad.