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Buick Century emphasizes comfort and practicality. Bench seats provide plenty of room for six people and its V6 engine is strong but frugal. Its flavor is plain-vanilla, but its popularity as Buick's best-selling model shows that vanilla is popular with many, many folks. Its design is one you can count on. Everything is exactly where you think it should be and everything works exactly how you think it should.
Under the hood, the 2001 Century has plenty of good news: a 3.1-liter V6 that delivers 175 horsepower at 5200 rpm, and 195 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Called the 3100, it's a solid and conventional engine, with overhead valves and sequential-port fuel injection.
The 3100 V6 provides a crisp, authoritative response. That's encouraging: A keynote of Buick heritage is that the big cars from Flint were historically expected to deliver vigorous performance. What is even more impressive about this engine is that, in addition to providing plenty of power, it also produces excellent fuel mileage, with 20 miles per gallon in the city and a whopping 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
The 3100's power is delivered through an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. It shifts smoothly, but otherwise its performance is only adequate. Kick -down response is slow when compared with the latest automatic transmissions found in high-priced vehicles. Electronic traction control, which comes standard, reduces wheel spin for improved control on slippery surfaces. Also standard is an antilock brake system (ABS), which allows the driver to maintain steering control of the car in a panic braking situation.
Century's front suspension is a MacPherson strut design, while its rear suspension is a multi-link independent using a coil-over strut. This setup is tuned for a smooth and soft ride when cruising on smooth, straight highways at normal speeds. This soft, "boulevard" ride is traditional for Buick, but results in undistinguished handling in any sort of vigorous maneuvering: The Century leans when driven quickly through corners and it floats and wallows at high speeds over wavy surfaces. This tends to isolate the driver from the road.
Buick Century is modest-looking yet generously equipped. It is a utilitarian four-door sedan. It was designed to provide long, workmanlike service for those who appreciate the traditional Buick values, that is, a premium vehicle at an affordable price.
The Century's engine is very satisfying, and its ample interior space is sure to please traditional Buick buyers. Its soft ride should also please longtime Buick owners, who are extremely loyal to the brand. The Century is one of GM's best-selling midsize cars; Buick sold more than 143,000 of them in 2000.
However, the over-the-road personality of the Buick Century looks backward to the sensibility expressed in earlier American large sedans, not forward to the more international vision of the fully balanced sedan of the future. But for now, Century is still finding buyers whose values are rooted in the past-while Buick has other models that look enthusiastically to the future.
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