T series gives Buick new identity -- and imports a run for the money

Buick is getting a lot of mileage out of its sporty, performance-oriented T-type cars. Take the front-drive, midsize Century, for example. Output is up significantly for the first four months of 1983 over the same time slot a year ago - and the Century T-type is at the head of the line.

In fact, five of Buick's '83 cars - Skyhawk, Skylark, Regal, Riviera, and Century - are of the T-type. And in 1984, when the front-drive, downsized C-body Electra hits the road, it too will have a T-type model in its lineup.

The idea behind T-type is to redefine performance and style. But does it succeed?

Indeed, it does. The T-type Buicks are distinctive, giving an identity to the GM Buick division, and they do perform in the modern definition of performance.

The top-of-the-line Century T-type, a midsize car, is the only one of the five to come in both coupe and sedan versions. Too, it is available only in one paint job - silver with charcoal lower, blacked-out grille, moldings, headlight and taillight bezels, bumper fillers, door handles and locks, and accent stripes.

Standard sport seats are split, with charcoal cloth and full-length console, although bucket seats with leather inserts are an option.

Also, the Century T-type comes with one drive train, a 3-liter, Buick-built V-6 and three-speed automatic transmission, while the base engine in the non-T-type Century is a 2.5-liter ''4.'' In 1984, however, the Century T-type will get the 3.8-liter, V-6 engine, plus GM-developed, Bosch-type electronic port fuel injection.

Despite the lack of choice, the T-type Century is a good performer on the road - hardly a muscle car of yore, but a perky performer nonetheless - even with an automatic drive. The tires, wheels, steering, and suspension are all designed to squeeze the highest performance out of the available power.

Too, it is an obedient car, doing what you tell it to do without surprises, except perhaps for the fully equipped price.

At a bit over $10,000, the base price of the Century T-type Buick is in line with today's pricing strategy when even a domestic subcompact can push into the options and a $414 delivery charge from the factory to the car dealership are tacked on, the pricing area becomes more rarefied.

Even so, with an improving economy the price becomes less of a deterrent to more and more people in the market for a new car.

As for the Lear-Siegler seats up front, they were a tight fit, because of the curled-up sides. I can never find too much comfort in either Recaro, or Recaro-type seats, and that's what these are.

The V-6-equipped Buick Century T is rated at 20 miles a gallon by the Environmental Protetion Agency, although that is a city-traffic figure and would be somewhat higher on the open road.

The trunk is large, but don't expect a usable glove compartment. In size, it's minuscule.

Among the imports, the car is intended to compete with the Audi 5000 and the Nissan Maxima, among others.

Would I buy one if I were in the market for a new car? It would be in the running. That's for sure.m

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