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New Car/Review


Oldsmobile Silhouette Premiere (2001)

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 32,990
     Price As Tested                                    $ 34,375
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.4 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 207 cid/3350 cc
     Horsepower                                   185 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               210 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  120.0"/72.2"/201.4"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4012 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  25.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16          

     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                        n/a
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.35


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/26/22          

     0-60 MPH                                       11.0 seconds
     Maximum cargo capacity                         155.9 cu.ft.
     Maximum towing capacity                         2000 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Since its introduction in 1990, General Motors has attached the Silhouette name to an Oldsmobile that is a sibling in a family of minivans, all built from the same platform. The Chevrolet Venture is the affordable version; the Pontiac Montana is the sporty version but if GM buyers want luxury, the Silhouette is the target vehicle.

The Silhouette comes in either base GL, mid-trim GLS or as our tester for the week, the top-line Premiere.

OUTSIDE - Originally, the Silhouette of 1990 was a rather odd-looking vehicle, with a radically pointed nose and a vast, expansive dashboard. It quickly earned the moniker Dustbuster, which aggravated GM promotional people. A complete redesign in 1997 brought a much more palatable look, with a shorter nose, a less-raked hood and windshield, and, most importantly, sliding rear doors on both sides. In addition, the passenger side sliding door is powered and can be operated by either an interior switch or a key fob transmitter. Power on the driver's side slider is optional. Our Premiere Edition came standard with 16-inch spoked alloy wheels and P225/60R16 all-weather tires.

INSIDE - The Silhouette has four bucket seats covered in two-tone leather in the case of the Premiere Edition, along with a removable third-row bench. Our Premiere Edition came with another pair of bucket seats in the rear instead of the bench. The seat padding is soft and cozy, with eight-way power adjustments for both front seats. Climbing in is easy, thanks to strategically-placed grab handles at the door openings. There is a sliding drawer under the front passenger seat, along with map pockets in the front seatbacks and in each door. And there is enough cargo area behind the rearmost seats for a sizable amount of luggage, while removing the seats provides much more. Ergonomics are good, although the rear wiper/washer and cruise control buttons are all crowded onto the turn signal stalk. New this year is Rear Parking Aid, a system that detects objects behind the vehicle when reverse is used and issues warning "beeps." Other standard Premiere equipment includes dual-zone air conditioning with rear vents and a filtration system, overhead console, keyless remote entry, fog lamps, power windows, mirrors and door locks, heated front seats, OnStar communications package, an uplevel stereo and a VCR/TV video package.

ON THE ROAD - The Silhouette is powered by a 3.4-liter V6 engine that produces 185 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque. Like many of the current crop of General Motors engines, it uses a venerable overhead valve design instead of the sophisticated overhead cams and multiple valves of some of its competitors. This design is tried-and-true, though it lags behind other minivans in the noise, vibration and harshness department. New this year is improved emission control equipment that allows Silhouette to become an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV). And while its off-the-line launch is good, the upper reaches of its RPM range brings lots of noise and a noticeable drop in power. Its electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission always shifted smoothly and consistently and is widely considered one of the best on the market. A full-function traction control system is standard on GLS and Premiere levels and optional on the GL version.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Silhouette rides on unibody construction with a strut-type independent front suspension and a simple rigid rear axle. Both ends use coil springs, but the rear also has a load-leveling system that keeps the van on an even keel, regardless of the amount of load inside. Cornering is stable and confident, with very little body roll and a moderate amount of tire scrub. A precise rack-and-pinion steering system is standard, while its relatively narrow overall width makes it easy to park inside those notorious compact parking spots. Braking is handled with front discs and rear drums, with a standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact airbags, ABS, traction control and rear child seat anchors are standard.

OPTIONS - Chrome wheels, $695