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By Jim Flammang
April 15, 2002
Vehicle Overview Versatrak all-wheel drive is available on the 2002 Silhouette, which gains all-disc brakes, a fully independent suspension and dual-stage front airbags. A new DVD-based rear-seat entertainment system features a letterboxed-profile video screen. Oldsmobile led the minivan pack with video entertainment by offering a Premiere series with a VCR and video screen back in 1998.
Similar to the value-priced Chevrolet Venture and the sport-oriented Pontiac Montana, the Silhouette is the luxury member of General Motors minivan trio. All three vehicles carry the same 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 engine and four-speed-automatic transmission. The Silhouette has been the slowest-selling of these three GM minivans, with 36,184 units going to customers during the 2001 calendar year, according to Automotive News. Chevrolet sold 88,788 Ventures and Pontiac sold 49,416 Montanas in that time frame, though all three minivans saw declining sales in 2001.
Available only in extended-body form, the Silhouette comes in three flavors: GL, midlevel GLS and top-of-the-line Premiere, which features a rear-seat entertainment system. GM announced in December 2000 that the Oldsmobile brand would be phased out, but most existing models have earned a reprieve through at least the 2002 model year.
Exterior All Silhouettes ride an extended 120-inch wheelbase, stand 68.1 inches high and measure 201.4 inches long overall, which is just slightly larger than the recently restyled Dodge Grand Caravan. The Silhouette is equipped with a swing-up liftgate and dual-sliding side doors. A power-operated door on the passenger side is standard on the GLS and Premiere and an option on the GL. A power door for the drivers side may be installed on the GLS and is standard on the Premiere. Both higher-end models ride on 16-inch tires, but the GL has 15-inchers. Radio antennas are now mounted on the rear fender.
Interior The Silhouette seats either six or seven occupants, with two bucket seats up front and two captains chairs in the second row. The third row may contain a three-passenger bench seat, a stowable bench or another pair of captains chairs a configuration available in the GLS and Premiere trims but not offered in other GM minivans. The optional stowable bench includes a floor-mounted covered storage tray. A 50/50-split bench seat is installed in the third row of the GLS minivan and is available for the Premiere.
A dual-zone front climate-control system, perforated leather seat trim and an eight-way power seat with drivers memory are now standard in the GLS and Premiere editions. All seats except for the front buckets may be removed for a maximum cargo volume of 141.9 cubic feet.
Cupholders are mounted in the dashboard. A universal garage door opener is standard with the GLS and Premiere and optional for the GL, and the options list for all trim levels includes an in-dash six-CD player. GMs OnStar communication system and remote keyless entry are standard on all Silhouettes.
Under the Hood The Silhouette uses the same powertrain as its two GM cousins: a 185-hp, 3.4-liter V-6 engine, which mates to a four-speed-automatic transmission. Versatrak all-wheel drive is available on the GLS and Premiere editions.
Safety Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. Traction control is standard on the GLS and Premiere and comes as an option on the GL. Lower anchors for second-row child-safety seats are installed. A rear parking assist system, which is standard on the Premiere but optional on other models, gives an audible warning when you come close to an obstacle while backing up.
Driving Impressions The Silhouette doesnt pretend to be anything other than a minivan, yet it serves as a pleasantly luxurious example of the breed. You also get the added bonus of ample, versatile interior space. The Silhouette is particularly enjoyable to drive, and it steers and handles easily on the highway and in urban areas.
It delivers 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, but it can bang around a bit through rougher terrain.
Center-row seats are appealingly comfortable and easy to enter, but reaching the third-row bench is a bit of a squeeze. A net between the front seats is a useful touch, and the video player in the Premiere edition can be a welcome bonus for long trips.