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 is hanging on for its final season in 2004. For the 2003 model year, traction control became standard on front-wheel-drive models and all versions got 16-inch wheels. Remote keyless entry becomes standard for 2004, and luggage rails with crossbars are newly optional. Oldsmobile said the final 500 minivans will be Collector’s Editions.
Available only in extended-length form, the Silhouette comes in three trim levels: GL, midlevel GLS and top-of-the-line Premiere. Current versions of Oldsmobile’s backseat video entertainment system are DVD-based and include a letterbox viewing screen. Versatrak all-wheel drive 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 driver’s side may be installed on the GLS and is standard on the Premiere.
The Silhouette seats seven occupants, with two bucket seats up front and standard captain’s 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 climate-control system for front-seat occupants, perforated leather seat trim and an eight-way power seat with driver’s memory are standard in the GLS and Premiere editions. Maximum cargo volume totals 141.9 cubic feet. GM’s OnStar communication system and remote keyless entry are included in all models.
The Silhouette uses the same powertrain as its two GM cousins: a 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 engine that connects to a four-speed-automatic transmission. Versatrak all-wheel drive 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, standard on GLS and Premiere models, warns of obstacles to the rear.
Although the Silhouette doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a minivan, it serves as a pleasantly luxurious example. The Silhouette is enjoyable to drive, and it steers and handles easily and delivers a quiet, confident, civilized experience.
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 comfortable and easy to access, but reaching the third-row bench can be 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.