Buicks are quiet cars, in more ways than simply those relating to mufflers and sound insulation. With the possible exception of the glamorous Riviera coupe, most Buicks are owned by people who want luxurious transportation in a wrapper that is elegant but not ostentatious. These customers avoid the trendy and flashy, but are pretty picky about basics; if a car is not quiet, comfortable and easy to drive, it's not for them. Buick has carved a successful niche in the marketplace for itself by addressing the needs of what might be called, for lack of a better term, the Silent Majority. And that group has responded, giving Buick several best-sellers in its six-model lineup. The Century is an excellent example of Buick's philosophy at work. The latest version, completely revamped for 1997, replaces a car kept in production for some 15 years. During the latter stages of its life, the old Century was regularly derided by journalists for being antiquated. By all accounts, Buick management was well aware of the car's advanced age, but they had a good reason for keeping it around: It was still selling very, very well, and it scored outstanding ratings for quality. So, we predict, will the new Century. Though it has several serious rivals on paper--among them, the Ford Taurus, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima and the Chrysler Cirrus/Dodge Stratus/ Plymouth Breeze trio--it is really more of a budget-driven alternative to the Buick LeSabre.