1986 Buick Century

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The Morning Call and Mcall.com

The Buick Century Limited is the type of car that doesn't require a great deal of automotive knowledge to appreciate it. In fact, you really don't have to give it much thought - just jump in and drive it. It does everything it's supposed to do and leaves you free to worry about other things. Perhaps this is why the Century is Buick's most popular model.

General Motors cars bear a strong family resemblance to each other, but the Century manages to retain some of that traditional Buick look. Perhaps most responsible for this is its understated trim and front end design, which features a new slanted grille, new headlamps and side marker lights. There's just something about it - besides the medallion - that says Buick.

The four-door test car (supplied by Kelly Buick, State Road, Emmaus) proved to be comfortable, responsive and relatively economical to run - certainly qualities that could appeal to much of the buying public. And while it may not have had any particular distinguishing traits, it had no bad ones either.

With an EPA volume index of 113 cubic feet (97 interior/16 storage), it is a mid-size car (rated between 110-120 cubic feet). It can hold six passengers and, if all of them aren't adults, everyone can travel in comfort. Dimensions include an overall length of 189.9 inches, wheelbase of 104.9 inches, width of 67.7 inches, height of 53.7 inches and curb weight of 2,771 pounds.

As could be expected, driving the Century is an absolute snap. There is plenty of room for even the tallest and widest of drivers. Controls and instruments are just where you would expect them and none of them will tax your imagination. The typical standard GM instrument panel has a speedometer and gasoline gauge. All engine functions are backed up by warning lights, which, of course, means that if they aren't flashing red you have nothing to be concerned about. Even the digital readout radio was easy to operate.

Even though the suspension was tuned for a comfortable ride, handling wasn't all that bad. The front-wheel drive configuration provided the usual lateral stability and the suspension system - MacPherson struts up front, trailing-axle in the rear, power rack-and-pinion steering and computer selected springs - and all-season radials kept the wheels in place. Handling wasn't up to a sports sedan, but I doubt very much if most buyers of this car would care. However, if you are a bit of a sport or plan to do some trailering, there are two optional suspension systems available. One is heavy duty suspension, recommended for trailer towing, and the other is Grand Touring suspension, which speaks for itself.

The interior of the Century is also typical Buick in that it features quite a bit of luxury and a lot of little touches.

Standard engine for the Century is a 2.5-liter/151 cubic inch four- cylinder with electronic fuel injection that produces 92 horsepower at 4, 000 rpm and 134 foot pounds torque at 2,800 rpm. This engine should provide adequate power for all Lehigh Valley driving conditions.

The test car, however, was equipped with the optional 2.8-liter/173 cubic inch V-6. This engine features a two-barrel carburetor and is rated at 112 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 148 foot pounds torque at 2,400 rpm. Performance was good for all driving conditions. No doubt helping the performance was the four-speed automatic transmission, which features an overdrive fourth gear and a lock-up torque converter. A good point about this transmission is that it can be driven as a three-speed automatic by simply putting the selector in ''drive'' instead of ''overdrive.'' This could, at times, be a better way to go in certain driving conditions, such as mountainous terrain, bad weather or simply city driving.

The engine/transmission combination of the test car also provided good fuel mileage. The test car averaged 27 miles per gall n over local highways and 18 miles per gallon for city driving - and all on unleaded regular.

If by now you're getting the idea that the Century may not be the world's most exciting car, you could be right. But there is a surprise in store, and it has to do with what American auto manufacturers are famous for - making dual-purpose cars. This family sedan is available in a version that could very well knock your socks off.

This is the four-door ''T Type'' (for reasons best known to Buick, the T Type coupe was discontinued for the 1986 model year). Standard equipment for the T Type includes automatic transmission with overdrive, sport suspension and gauges, a full-length storage console, black-out moldings and a somewhat wild 3.8-liter/231 cubic inches V-6 with sequential-port fuel injection and roller valve lifters.

The engine develops 150 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 200 foot pounds torque at 2,000 rpm. This is certainly a good amount of power for a car weighing less than 3,000 pounds. So, the T Type could be one of the liveliest sedans offered this year. And if the buyer doesn't want all the outward sportiness of the T Type, the 3.8 V-6 is also available in the Century Custom and Century Limited models.

Base price for the Century Limited four-door is $10,729. In addition to a high level of trim and appointments, standard equipment included automatic transmission (three-speed), power brakes, power steering, AM radio and lamp group. Full price on the test car, including a destination charge of $414, came to $14,617. Included in the $3,474 worth of options were electric door locks, $180; tinted glass, $115; power windows, $270; vinyl top, $160; rear window defogger, $145; air conditioning, $750; cruise control, $175; 2.8-liter V-6, $435;four-speed automatic, $175; tilt steering, $115; wire wheel covers, $199; 6-way power driver's seat, $225, and ETR AM-FM stereo with cassette and clock, $344.

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