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By Jim Flammang
February 26, 2003
Vehicle Overview Similar to the value-priced Chevrolet Venture and the sport-oriented Pontiac Montana, the Oldsmobile Silhouette is the luxury member of General Motors minivan trio. All three vehicles carry the same 3.4-liter V-6 engine and four-speed-automatic transmission.
GM announced in December 2000 that the Oldsmobile brand would be phased out, but the Silhouette hangs on for another season. For the 2003 model year, traction control is standard on two-wheel-drive models. All versions get 16-inch wheels, and two new body colors are available.
Available only in extended-body form, the Silhouette comes in three flavors: GL, midlevel GLS and top-of-the-line Premiere. Oldsmobile was the first to offer a backseat video entertainment system, which debuted in the 1998 Silhouette Premiere edition. Current versions are DVD-based, with a letterboxed viewing screen. Versatrak all-wheel drive (AWD) is also available.
All Silhouettes ride an extended, 120-inch wheelbase, stand 68.1 inches tall and measure 201.4 inches long overall, which is just slightly larger than the Dodge Grand Caravan. The Silhouette is equipped with a rear swing-up liftgate and sliding doors on both sides. A power-operated door on the passenger side is standard on the GLS and Premiere models and optional on the GL. A power door for the drivers side may be installed on the GLS and is standard on the Premiere.
The Silhouette seats either seven or eight occupants on two bucket seats up front and two captains chairs in the second row. The third row may contain a three-passenger bench seat or a stowable bench that includes a floor-mounted covered storage tray.
A dual-zone front climate-control system, perforated leather seat trim and an eight-way power seat with drivers memory are standard in the GLS and Premiere editions. Maximum cargo volume totals 141.9 cubic feet. GMs OnStar communication system and remote keyless entry are included in all models.
Under the Hood
The Silhouette uses the same powertrain as its two GM cousins: a 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 engine that mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Versatrak AWD is available on the GLS and Premiere editions.
Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. A rear parking-assist system is standard on the GLS and Premiere models; this feature gives an audible warning when you come close to an obstacle to the rear while backing up.
Although the Silhouette doesnt pretend to be anything other than a minivan, it serves as a pleasantly luxurious example. You get the added bonus of ample, versatile interior space. The Silhouette is enjoyable to drive. It steers and handles easily and delivers a quiet, confident, civilized experience.
Its 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.
The center-row seats are appealingly comfortable and easy to access, but reaching the third-row bench causes a bit of a squeeze. A net between the front seats is useful, and the video player in the Premiere edition can be a welcome bonus for long trips.