What's New for 1999
The year 1999 brings a host of safety improvements, many of them standard. Additionally, the suspension has been retuned for less body roll, the sound systems have been upgraded and one new paint color, called Auburn Nightmist, has been added.
Buick moved more than 2 million A-body Centurys between 1982 and 1996, which means that more than one out of every 150 Americans brought one of these no-nonsense sedans home during the past 15 years. It also means we shouldn't underestimate the market power of America's senior citizens, rental car companies or business-class road travelers.
Back in 1997, Buick trotted out its all-new Century sedan that put the 1996 model to shame. More room inside, more trunk volume, a more ergonomic interior and a solid structure were the core improvements to the revamped version, but it also came wrapped in smooth, flowing sheetmetal. Wayne Kady, chief exterior designer of the '97 model, had said he was looking for a shape that would have a long shelf life. "We purposely avoided anything that could be considered trendy," he explained. To that end he succeeded, for while traditional Buick buyers might describe this car as clean or classic looking, younger buyers will likely find it as bland as baby food.
The '99 does nothing to change any of that, so if you happen to like the look, you're in luck. Ditto for the interior design, which is certainly contemporary, thanks to large and legible gauges and controls facing a cabin roomy enough to carry six comfortably. Rear seating remains elevated theater-style, lending an overall airy feel to the interior.Century still comes in two flavors, the well-equipped Custom and the positively pampering Limited model, which includes features such as Dual ComforTemp climate controls (with standard Air Conditioning) and Magnetic variable-effort (speed-sensitive) steering, along with several comfort and convenience upgrades. Power comes from GM's 3.1-liter V6, good for 160 horses.
The big news this year is that Buick has addressed a couple of our previous dislikes. First, Century's seafaring four-wheel independent DynaRide suspension has been revised with increased shock valving and larger front and rear stabilizer bars. That should reduce the floating ride sensation and overly soft body roll. Also, a traction control system, not available on any '98 Century at any cost, is now standard on both models.
Buick also says that improved electronics have allowed for upgrades to Century's cooling fan monitor, standard four-wheel antilock braking system and audio speakers, with an optional eight-speaker Concert Sound III system now available. You can even opt for electrochromic outside rearview mirrors that automatically dim when bright lights approach from behind.
On the safety side, a tire inflation monitor is now standard, an integrated child seat is optional and side-impact protection exceeds federal guidelines. Again this year, your dealer will install an OnStar Mobile Communications system if desired, which allows occupants of the Century to call a 24-hour hotline for roadside help, directions to that fancy buffet restaurant, or guidance from Tampa Bay to West Palm Beach.Buick has a sound sedan with the Century. However, GM stablemates Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac have similar vehicles that differ mainly in terms of styling and content. The Chevy Malibu LS is an amazing value. Ditto the Euro-flavored Oldsmobile Cutlass. The new Olds Intrigue is simply gorgeous, and Pontiac's Grand Prix is one of our favorite sedans of any stripe.
Nonetheless, a good safety record and solid build quality makes the Buick Century an enduring favorite, while gaining "top buy'' type acclaim from more than a few consumer publications and rating organizations. If this is what you're looking for in a mid-sized domestic sedan, step right up.