General Motors announced in December 2000 that the Oldsmobile brand will fade away, but not for a while. Meanwhile, Olds continues to offer a luxury version of GMs front-drive minivan, which is related to the value-priced Chevrolet Venture and sporty Pontiac Montana. The Silhouette has been the slowest-selling member of the trio with 41,177 units sold in 2000.
Marketed only in extended-body form, Silhouettes come in three flavors: the GL, mid-level GLS and top-of-the-line Premiere, known for its rear-seat entertainment system. Oldsmobile was the first manufacturer to offer a video-equipped model in 1998. The 2001 version has a bigger pull-down screen, new cordless headphones and dedicated second-row speakers.
New features include lower anchors for second-row child-safety seats and a rear parking assist system that gives an audible warning when you come close to an obstacle while backing up. Optional on other models, the parking helper is standard on the Premiere edition. GMs OnStar communication system and remote keyless entry are now standard on all Silhouettes.
All Silhouettes have a 120-inch wheelbase and measure 201.4 inches long overall, which is just slightly larger than the newly restyled Dodge Grand Caravan. Every Silhouette has a swing-up rear liftgate and dual sliding doors. A power-operated door on the passenger side is standard on the GLS and Premiere and optional on the GL. An optional power door for the drivers side is due later this model year for the GLS and Premiere editions. Both models also have switched from 15- to 16-inch tires for 2001.
The Silhouette seats six or seven, with two bucket seats up front and two captains chairs in the second row. The third row can contain a three-passenger bench seat, a new stowable bench seat or another pair of captains chairs a configuration available in the GLS and Premiere but not offered in other GM models. The new stowable rear bench seat arrives as an option during the 2001 model year, complete with a floor-mounted covered storage tray.
An eight-way power seat with drivers memory now is standard in the GLS and Premiere, and both gain a dual-zone front climate-control system and mini-perforated leather seat trim. All seats except for the front buckets may be removed for maximum cargo volume.
Cupholders now are mounted on the dashboard. A universal garage door opener comes with the GLS and Premiere and is available for the GL, and the options list adds an in-dash six-CD player.
Under the Hood
The Silhouette has the same powertrain as its two GM cousins: a 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 engine with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Side-impact airbags for the front seats and antilock brakes are standard. Traction control is standard, except on the GL model where it comes optional.
Although the Silhouette doesnt masquerade as anything other than a minivan, its a pleasant luxurious example of the breed with plenty of versatile interior space. Particularly easy and enjoyable to drive, it steers and handles easily, whether its on the highway or in urban areas. Delivering a quiet, confident, civilized experience behind the wheel, the Silhouette can make a person eager to head out on a long journey. Acceleration is impressive, and the solid powertrain operates with no annoyances. Ride quality is close to gentle on good pavement, though the Silhouette can bang around a bit through rougher terrain.
Center-row seats are easy to enter and appealingly comfortable, though reaching the third-row bench is a bit of a squeeze. One useful touch includes a net between the front seats, and the video player in the Premiere edition can be a welcome bonus for long trips.