What better way to mark the turn of the century than by slipping behind the wheel of a Buick Century?

Of course, an even better alternative would have been to lay motionless in the sand on a beach in the islands for a few weeks while the Century sat motionless in the driveway back home.

But, when put to a vote, driving the 2000 Century won when a single aye from the boss proved that democracy has some shortcomings and Y2K has its problems.

To commemorate the occasion of having the only car named Century in a new century, Buick dolled up its midsize sedan to create a 2000 Special Edition.

If you were expecting, maybe, a car loaded with every known and a few unknown technological devices and one that, for good measure, glowed in the dark, you'll have to settle for a sedan with blacked out grille, body-colored fascias/side moldings/mirrors and special badging all over the sheet metal.

While memorable appearance items were kept to a minimum, the engineers made a contribution by retuning the 3.1-liter V-6 to deliver 175 horsepower, a 15-h.p. increase.

Considering that the folks from Buick had 100 years to prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime event, it didn't pull out the stops to market a highly memorable machine. Maybe in the next century.

Though a little glitz and glitter would have been welcome, we have to admit that even this subdued sedan has more styling charisma than a rival Toyota Camry or Honda Accord--as well as more room and comfort plus a suspension system tuned to limit unnecessary up and down movement and hold occupants in place without tilting side to side in the corners and turns.

And kudos to Buick for its wide range of standard equipment, the most notable being anti-lock brakes and traction control that too often are extra-cost options in midsize sedans to keep the base price down.

The V-6, though a shade more potent this century than last, could still use a little more kick. To leave the impression that the V-6 is more muscular than it really is, the exhaust has built-in rumble sound effects.

Of course, most folks don't acquire a Century sedan and a stopwatch at the same time. Performance is adequate off the line and into the passing lane, but where the V-6 proves its mettle is in its fuel-economy rating of 20 miles per gallon city/30 m.p.g. highway.

A reliable, functional sedan that holds four adults and is easier to maneuver and park than most full-size sedans, such as the larger LeSabre or Park Avenue within the family or the Mercury Grand Marquis orFord Crown Victoria outside the family.

One new feature for 2000 is the availability on all Century models of a new three-button OnStar emergency communication system as an option. The three buttons in the roof provide a hands-free link to the system and eliminate the need for the consumer to purchase a separate cellular phone service to access OnStar.

One gripe with Century, however, is that the seats are way too stiff. Some might blame the suspension when they start to get restless and shift in the seat after long travel times, when, in fact, the absence of a little softer padding is the true culprit. The suspension is fine, thank you.

And with all that leg, head, arm and trunk room (that benefits even more with a folding rear seat that expand s cargo capacity), why is it that the glove box was designed to barely hold a mitten?

One other gripe: $137 for lighted vanity mirrors! For 99 cents you can purchase a Bic and use it when light is needed. If you buy the mini Bic, you can even carry it in the glove box, though you'll have to move the gloves to the trunk.

Base price is a respectable $19,602. The Special Edition Century 2000 option package adds $1,810 though about the only noteworthy item in the package is the power driver's seat. Hard to justify an added $1,810 to get carpet savers and a cargo net in the trunk.

>> 2000 Buick Century Wheelbase: 109 inches Length: 194.6 inches Engine: 3.1-liter, 175-h.p. V-6 Transmission: 4-speed automatic Fuel economy: 20 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway Base price: $19,602 Price as tested: $21,324. Includes $1,810 for special edition package with such items as power driver's seat, leather-trimmed interior, AM/FM stereo with cassette and controls in steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, cruise control, 15-inch aluminum wheels, trunk net, rear window antenna and 2000 edition badging; $137 for lighted visor vanity mirrors; and $275 for split folding rear seat, minus $500 for a millennium discount. Add $560 for freight.Pluses: Special Turn-of-the-Century Century. The V-6 gets 15 more h.p. Good array of standard equipment from ABS and traction control to automatic power door locks and tire inflation monitor.Minuses: Seats a tad stiff for long-distance travel. Glove box holds just that, one glove. Styling very conservative.

>>