1997 Buick Century

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1997 Buick Century
Available in 2 styles:  Century Custom 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
$318–$5,162
Estimated MPG

20 city / 29.1 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 7

By 

Orlando Sentinel

Because Buick let the Century fester in the marketplace for 15 years with few changes, no one really attaches much prestige to the nameplate.

That's one reason why I like the new Century so much.

Buick finally replaced the Century in January with an all-new car that, aside from the motor, uses nothing from the previous model.

Discriminating car buyers who take the time to get to know what the Century offers are likely to be pleasantly surprised. Here's a car that, in my estimation, is every bit as good as a Toyota Avalon but for $5,000 less.

If you would like a conservatively styled, well-made, comfortable, roomy mid-size sedan for under $20,000, you are going to have a very hard time finding another domestic or imported car that delivers as much equipment and value as the new Century.

PERFORMANCE, HANDLING

The new Century is as smooth, quiet and refined as a Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or any other expensive mid-size imported sedan.

Buick builds the 1997 Century with a 160-horsepower, 3.1-liter V-6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission.

Not much noise and vibration finds its way into the interior, thanks to the Century's stiff new chassis and the mounting of the drivetrain on a separate rubber-isolated frame.

Performance at all speeds is pleasing. The Century moves away from a stoplight briskly and has ample passing power; the four-speed automatic transmission shifts up and down imperceptibly.

As with most new GM vehicles, the Century is designed to require minimal upkeep. For instance, the engine is scheduled to go 100,000miles before it needs a tuneup.

In combined city/highway driving, the Century turned in a solid 26 mpg - and that was with the air conditioning on most of the time.

To some, the Century's four-wheel independent suspension system might be a bit too soft. There's no question that Buick engineers tuned the Century for middle-age to older drivers who prefer a quieter, gentler ride. But the Century's easygoing nature does not mean it is wallowy or unwieldy. I found that at moderate speeds the Century will round a corner competently and without fuss.

The Century is equipped with GM's terrific magnetic-hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system. The steering wheel turns smoothly, with just the right amount of effort required from the driver. The 37-foot turning radius is about average for a mid-size sedan.

Century comes standard with power-assisted front disc, rear drum brakes that stop the car easily and in a straight line. The anti-lock system is the best yet from GM; there's very little noise and not much pulsing at the pedal during emergency stops. Also, the system reacts quicker during panic stops.

Much like an Accord or Camry, the Century doesn't offer best-in-class acceleration or handling, but it does everything well, giving the car a balanced, confidence-inspiring well-engineered feel.

FIT AND FINISH

When I first saw the Century at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, it seemed like an average car.

It isn't.

When you look at it closely and follow the smooth, flowing lines of the exterior, you'll see that the Century is a very cleanly styled automobile that conveys understated elegance.

This car is sharp-looking from every angle. I particularly like the full-width taillights and stylish chrome grille.

The inside is just as impressive.

Century's dash is a monument to simplicity. A smoothly flowing instrument panel contains an easy-to-read speedometer, temperature and fuel gauge. The controls for the air conditioner and radio are easy to reach and use.

Buick's seat team - a band of engineers responsible for designing comfortable seats - has turned in fine work here. The front bench seat is covered with attractive cloth and offers plenty of support. It's a bit on the firm side but completely comfortable on long trips. The fold-down armrest th t splits the bench contains a flip-out cup holder.

The rear seats also rate excellent. The Century offers plenty of head-, shoulder-, leg- and foot-room. A built-in child safety seat (a $100 option) is concealed in the center of the rear seat.

There is also plenty of room in the trunk, which is easier to load and unload than the trunk of the last model. That's because the trunk lid extends closer to the bumper. The added room in the trunk is the result of Buick adding 4.1 inches to the Century's wheelbase.

Part of the reason the Century is so quiet on the road has to do with its door seals. Buick engineers devised a triple-seal system that locks out wind and road noise.

To dress the Century up, you can order options such as Buick's dual zone air conditioner and a sunroof. But I found our test car, with just a minimal number of options, offered everything I would want in a mid-size family sedan.

The Century Custom Package, which adds $430 to the sticker, offers cruise control, power windows and remote controlled door locks, tilt steering wheel, an electric rear window defroster, daytime running lights and half a dozen other minor features.

Few people probably get excited when someone mentions Buick Century. It isn't a car with a very racy image. But if you are in the market for a well-made, feature-packed mid-size family sedan that gives you plenty of value for your money, you'll be more than pleased with the new Century. Overall, it's an excellent automobile.

Specifications: Base price: $18,395. Safety: Dual air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, side-impact protection, front and rear crumple zones, built-in child safety seat. Price as tested: $19,700. Incentives: None. EPA rating: 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway.

Truett's tip: The all-new Century has all the ingredients to be a major success for Buick. It is extremely quiet, comfortable, well-equipped and tightly assembled, and it offers excellent value.


    Expert Reviews 3 of 7

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