The Buick Century Is Back As An Ultra-Luxurious Minivan And It Rules

Buick Century Topshot

How’s this for unexpected news? After taking a dirt nap for several years, the Buick Century nameplate is back, and it sounds way better than the midsize W-body car that last bore the Century name. It’s a minivan and it’s most excellent.

In case you’re not familiar with the most recent Buick Century sold in America, allow me to refresh your memory. Sold between 1997 and 2005 as a cheaper counterpart to the Regal, the last Century was beloved by old people for its comfort and by people who eventually bought them off old people due to its sturdy nature. Today, you can find them either in pristine shape having only been driven to church on Sunday or, like the one below, piloted haphazardly on a donut spare with rust-addled sills that checked out sometime during the Obama administration. Despite decrepit appearances, those hooptie Centuries will run forever, or at least until the intake manifold gasket blows, leading to overheating and potentially terminal engine damage.

Buick Century Old
Photo credit: Seller

So why revive the nameplate now? Well, Electra is set to be the name for Buick’s electric lineup, Park Avenue was last used on a variant of the Holden Caprice as recently as ten years ago, and LeSabre doesn’t have much nostalgic value in China. Thankfully, the reborn Century isn’t a crossover, although its lineage can be linked to crossovers of sorts. The new model falls in Buick’s lineup of GL8 minivans, and earlier GL8s were based on GM’s GMT210 platform, conveniently shared with the infamous Crossover Sport Vans of the 2000s.

Buick Century Rear Seat 1
Photo credit: Buick

Granted, the Century and a Chevrolet Uplander seem to share as much in common as postcards do with coffee table books. Sure, they’re both vans, but the Century is extraordinarily fancy. Forget the VHS setup that came in a Venture Warner Bros. Edition, the Century brings an entire cinema to the rear seat with a massive available 32-inch rear seat entertainment screen that whirrs down into a partition should occupants actually wish to see the driver. Speaking of limo-spec stuff, a Rolls-Royce-esque illuminated headliner is also on offer, as is a 13-liter refrigerator for keeping Capri Sun chilled to perfection.

Buick Century Rear Seat 2
Photo credit: Buick

Those aforementioned really fancy bits are only available with the four-seat layout, but two of those four seats are extremely impressive. The rear two can lay out 160 degrees with 18 ways of power adjustment, five-zone heating including neck supports and footrests, and 18-point massage programs. Think of the whole package as a less-conspicuous alternative to a Maybach and you’re getting close to the heart of the Century.

Six Seat
Photo credit: Buick

Granted, you wouldn’t need to pop for the ultra-posh four-seat Grey Poupon version to enjoy luxurious rear seats. Even with three rows on deck, the middle row in the Avenir trim consists of heated, ventilated, and massaging captain’s chairs. Oh, the benefits of having the room to package complex yet lovely-sounding seats.

Plenty of luxury normally comes with plenty of power, but that’s not exactly the case with the Century. Motivation comes from GM’s familiar two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 9T50 nine-speed automatic gearbox. It’s similar to the setup you’d find in a Cadillac XT4 or XT5, and should be perfectly adequate, if not exactly effortless. At 205.9 inches long and 78 inches wide, the Century is one big vehicle, and GM’s two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine already feels labored in a smaller Cadillac XT5.

Buick Century Front End
Photo credit: Buick

As for outward appearances, the Century plays firmly by the new Buick styling playbook. There’s no traditional grille between the headlights as such, just a massive trapezoidal lower grille that extends roughly to the peak of the crease around each front wheel arch. It’s a little bit Lexus, but distinctive enough to not feel terribly derivative. Granted, the headlights do play a huge role in shaping the character of the front end. They’re massive L-bracket-shaped units that incorporate 90 LEDs each, which certainly doesn’t sound cheap. Also up front, Buick’s new emblem that looks like three nail clippers laid out side-by-side. Feel free to form your own conclusions on that logo, but I sincerely ask brands to stop with minimalism for the sake of minimalism.

front side
Photo credit: Buick

In addition, there’s some unusual surfacing going on. The doors feature massive compound curves like a Mazda 3, using subtle surfacing rather than hard creases to break up the doors. In theory, a huge parallelogram-shaped area stays in shadow while light falls on the fenders and part of the lower door. I’d be curious to see how this works in the real world when lighting may not be as controlled and reflections are picked up in the paint rather than neutralized by a polarized filter. Oh, and the greenhouse is properly strange, with the lower edge swooping up as it goes back the sliding door then violently cutting back down at the pillar. While an interesting styling element and possibly a necessary compromise to make the rear windows roll down properly, I can’t help but wonder what effect it has on second-row outward visibility.

Buick Century 2
Photo credit: Buick

In addition to the perks of incredible opulence and a practical form factor, the GL8 Century is cheaper than you might expect. Pricing for the six-seat Avenir models starts at ¥529,900, or about $74,546 at the time of writing, while the four-seat Avenir version starts at ¥609,900, or about $85,800. Step up to the top-spec Flagship variant (yes, it’s actually called that), and you’re looking at a price tag of ¥689,900, or around $97,055. Any way you slice it, that’s a lot cheaper than a top-trim Cadillac Escalade. Sadly, this one isn’t coming to America. The GL8 Century will remain a China-only proposition, a bit of a shame considering how popular poshed-up Mercedes-Benz Sprinters are with the rich and famous.

All photos courtesy of Buick

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38 Responses

  1. Gorgeous. My first thought on seeing this article was “this can’t be real, it’s too good.” My hopes kept climbing higher as I read, and saw this was a real production model, actually going on sale. I finally dared to believe that Buick could matter again. Then the shoe dropped… China only.

    Damnit!

  2. Buick, I am issuing a cease a desist letter on behalf of basking sharks for the unauthorized use of their image on this van. The gaping toothless mouth that never closes is clearly trademarked by my clients.

    BTW do you have the business address for Toyota? They’re my next stop for obvious reasons.

        1. I noticed that a lot of lower/mid tier hotel chains are much nicer over there. The Crowne Plaza I used to stay at every time I traveled there for work was like the flippin Ritz for only $150/night (company rate). The off-brand hotels are pretty crappy, though. Of course I was usually only staying in one of those if I was visiting an inland supplier in East Bum Fuck.

      1. PBR became the hipster beer of choice because a recent college grad hired into their marketing department came up with the brilliant strategy of marketing their beer as “the best of the cheap ass shit beers”.

        it wasn’t actually any better than old swill, beast, busch or hamms, but it was better marketed.

        as a result, hipster douchebags would show up at my end of summer house party with a sixer of PBR, throw them in the cooler and then proceed to grab one of the high end craft brews the civilized adults brought with absolutely no shame. at the end of the night I’d be left with a case and a half of unopened PBRs and all the good beer long gone.

    1. Legend says that in the 1930’s and 40’s Buicks were the choice for Chinese government officials and most foreign diplomats. In a country where even horses were scarce these behemoths made a powerful impression on the walking populace. With their big, smooth, silent straight-eight engines, they were powerful….and reliable. After the revolution ended in 1948, new cars were hard to get, even for government officials so the government kept the Buicks in service, and they just kept on running, and running, and running. You couldn’t help but be impressed and so in China Buick sort of became the equivalent in image of “the old Rolls Royce” – you couldn’t build a better car.

      Even better for Buick, isolation from the West kept Buick from besmirching its image during the 80’s and 90’s.

  3. GM really needs to sell it over here!

    Also, Mercedes needs to sell the V-Class (the passenger version of the Metris) over here too. Passenger vans aren’t subject to the jealous 25% tax; it’s only 2.5% like cars.

  4. I spent plenty of time in Buick minivans during my frequent China trips a few years back. I was very surprised by how nice they were (the newer ones, anyway). It never failed – My driver at the airport would either be driving a GL8 or a Passat. Every darn time.

  5. Powered by a 2L turbo and a 9 speed automatic, eh?

    That would have been great for the mid 2000s.

    Problem is it’s not the mid-2000s anymore.

    This vehicle should have a hybrid powertrain at the very least… but preferably, be on a BEV platform.

  6. My first car was an 84 Buick Century with an Iron Duke, handled down from my parents. I loved and hated that car. While this car is very nice, it’s as much a Century as the Mach-E is a Mustang. That said, I would 100% drive this thing if given the chance. Or, if it had those extra nice seats, be driven.

  7. While I prefer the logo with the circle around it, I am glad that GM brought the colors back.

    The previous “improved” monochrome sliver version always looked cheap to me, and downplayed the American-ness of the brand.

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