What's New for 1997
Completely redesigned, the new Silhouette comes in several trim levels and two sizes, each with a healthy load of standard equipment.
After years of unsuccessfully peddling a plastic four-wheeled version of the Dustbuster found in your hall closet, Oldsmobile goes back to the drawing board and brings this fresh, conservative, all-steel, fun-to-drive minivan to market. Available in three trim levels and three bodystyles, the new Silhouette is indeed one minivan consumers need to consider.
Why is this Oldsmobile so good? You name the convenience, and Olds has thought of it. Want a sliding driver's side door? You can get one here. Wish that passenger's side sliding door was power operated? Oldsmobile has you covered. Want leather? A CD player? Separate audio controls for rear passengers? Traction control? A powerful V6 engine? Easy to unload seats that can be configured in a variety of ways? It's all here, depending on the body style and trim level you select.
Silhouette is available in three bodystyles; regular length three-door and extended length three- or four-door. Base, GL, and GLS trim levels are available. All Silhouettes are front-wheel drive, and are powered by a 180-horsepower 3.4-liter V6 mated to an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission. Dual airbags and antilock brakes are standard.
Base models come with air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, power door locks, power windows, and fog lights. However, if you want to get traction control, alloy wheels, or integrated child seats, your ticket to ride is the...
GL trim level, which adds remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, power sliding right side door, power seats, and deep tinted glass to the base model's equipment list. Next up is the GLS, which adds a touring suspension package, rear climate controls, traction control, alloy wheels, and rear audio controls to the GL standard equipment roster. Leather is available only on the GLS.
We've driven the Silhouette's corporate twin, the Pontiac Trans Sport, and came away quite impressed. Based on that drive, we expect the Oldsmobile Silhouette to be smooth, powerful, and fun-to-drive with excellent road feel provided by sharp steering and easily modulated brakes. Our complaints are limited to uncomfortable rear seating and a noticeable amount of cheap-looking plastic inside the cabin.
Some of you may have seen a recent Dateline NBC expose in which several minivans were crashed into a deformable offset barrier at 40 mph. While there is no standard regarding offset crash protection in the United States, and the Silhouette does meet all current federal safety standards, this test showed that GM's new minivans did not do a good job of protecting the driver in such an accident. General Motors responded that the test represented a tiny percentage of real-world crashes. Later in the year, the National Highway and traffic Safety Administration ran a new GM minivan into a fixed barrier at 35 mph during official crash testing, and the van scored very well for both front seat occupants. If GM's contention is correct, and head-on crashes are more common, the Silhouette should protect passengers adequately.
While we like the new Oldsmobile Silhouette, and find its exterior styling to be the most attractive of the three new GM minivans, we can't help but wonder just how crashworthy this new model really is.