The 1997 Buick Century and Regal were both the last of their nameplates, at least until the Regal was reintroduced in 2009. Both vehicles were essentially the same but they had there own distinct flavors, the Regal being the sportier and more expensive of the two. The aim of the Century seems to be quite the juxtaposition to the relatively daring Regal, giving buyers more traditional virtues as opposed to the Regals more international qualities. Being impervious to most trends, fads, and gimmicks over its development and long life, the Century was able to be what would seem to be the quintessential modern Buick and an especially stress-free midsize sedan.
Identifying a Buick of this generation as a Century or Regal starts at the front. The Century has a blunt nose with an upright waterfall grill and two wide, rounded headlights, thereby distinguishing itself from the relatively swept shape of the Regal. The staid Century has few sheet metal garnishes, but those that are there break up the rotundity. Conservatively applied also is chrome trim found on the grill, script nameplates, and around the rear light bar. The tested Century rode on a set of purposeful-looking black steel wheels with wheel covers. The unpretentious design of the Buick is most definitely reserved, but because of that continues to be worn well and proves quite likable.
The interior of the Century is as refreshingly plain as the exterior with a monotonous expanse of grey in the case of the tested car. This may not sound positive, but just like occasionally choosing vanilla over chocolate ice cream, it nice to experience restraint and neutrality. The dash is defined by gentle curves and well-marked switchgear. The lack of a true center console leaves a vast expanse of space under the dash contributing to the overall airiness of the interior. The velour 60/40 split bench seat is incredibly soft, giving the perception of an infinite amount of give in the cushion. Behind the dated four-spoke steering wheel is a simplistic instrument cluster consisting of a center speedometer, temperature gauge, and gas gauge. Other information is relayed through large warning lights. Trunk space is a more than decent 16.7 cubic feet.
Buick made for a calming driving experience in the Century by keeping outside disturbances to a minimum. The compliant suspension quashes the resonance of impacts and the harshness of a poor road with competence while the cabin is tightly wrapped in a sheath of silence, isolated from wind noise and tire roar. The absence of hardly any impact along with the quiet acoustics enhances the surprising feeling of solidity in the tight-feeling Buick. The steering is rather heavy for such a comfort-oriented automobile, but is direct and responsive. Not responsive is the 3.1 liter pushrod V6 producing 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Centuries made before the 2000 model year had 160 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This engine puts power to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic with a column mounted gear selector. For any sort aggressive acceleration, the V6 requires some persuasion; otherwise it lazily propels the car to speed, emitting harsh, throaty notes in the process. Though the power train is far from ideal, it is adequate for the relaxed Century.
The driving position is considerably flawed; the accelerator is far away while the steering wheel and the brake are close, but the Century makes up for this discomfort with its other previously discussed qualities. The brakes were neither grabby nor too spongy. The Buick is rated by the EPA to get 18MPG city and 26MPG on the highway, good numbers from a larger V6 sedan.
The Buick Century adheres to the tried and true values that defined past American sedans and has its own appeal because of that. Even if the motor may be neither smooth nor spritely, an excellent ride and comforting interior ensure the Century can create a most serene driving experience. Kelly Blue Book says the fair purchase price for a 2003 Buick Century with the average of 115,495 miles is $4,296. For that price, rest assured your buying a likable Buick with luxuries and traditions that count.