Like the Chrysler Town & Country, the Oldsmobile Silhouette mini-van was designed with nimble car-like ride and handling in mind.

Silhouette, like the Town & Country, offers anti-lock brakes, but no air bag. Rather than an air bag in the steering wheel hub, Silhouette offers radiocontrols: Advantage Chrysler. Silhouette has an optional 3.8-liter, 170-h.p., V-6 for even quicker movement from the stoplight or down that merge ramp with its 4-speed automatic, yet with an even better 17/25 mileage rating. Nod to Olds. Silhouette features front-wheel drive, T&C all-wheel drive. Yet more kudos for Chrysler. And lest we forget, T&C has larger and easier-to-use cupholders, which, of course, is a dead giveaway for our preference.

The Silhouette starts at only $19,499, if tickling $20,000 can be considered "only." Yet that's a lot less than the $23,000 to $27,000 on the Town & Country and Voyager. When you add all the items standard in the Town & Country-such as cruise control, power locks, power seats, power windows, luggage rack and leather trim-to the Silhouette, you reach $23,119.

The big difference is Town & Country's superior ride and handling as well as overall room and comfort. Silhouette is built on a shorter wheelbase than Town & Country-109.8 inches versus 119.3 inches-which puts occupants closer tothe point of impact over the wheels. Silhouette's overall length, however, is greater than Town & Country's at 194.2 inches to 192.8 inches. Most of the length advantage comes from the ski-slope nose on the Silhouette.

One drawback is that Silhouette didn't come with GM's new optional (in March, no price yet) power-operated slide-open/shut side door.

With it, you need only pull the handle on the outside or push a button on the inside and that side door will motor open or shut without the little ones having to get a running start to close it. It also means neither Mom nor Dad has to exit the van in the snow or rain to open the door for the tykes and then close it after them. Advantage sanity as well as safety. The door stops automatically if something, such as little Joey or Janey, gets in its path.