Used 1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette Minivan

1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette
List price range
1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette


  • Excellent powertrain, fun-to-drive, loaded with standard equipment, optional traction control


  • Uncomfortable rear seats, lots of plastic in cabin, poor offset crash test scores

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

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.

1997 Highlights

Completely redesigned, the new Silhouette comes in several trim levels and two sizes, each with a healthy load of standard equipment.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette.

Overall Consumer Rating
3.76 reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

Good, Reliable Van @ 140,000 Miles
I bought my 1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette from my parents when it was 2.5 years old with 54,000 miles. Now it has 140,000 miles and still looks great. The dark blue paint has held up exceptionally well even in the Texas sun. Unfortunately, this is not so with tan dash, which has turned a greenish hue. Also, the leather seats have not fared well, with a significant tear in the driver's seat. The reliability has been excellent, but rattles have increased with age and the rear power vent window motors went out around 120,000 miles. The air conditioning has been subpar since I had to replace the compressor. I also replaced the intake manifold gasket. Overall this is a nice vehicle. The actual in-town gas mileage that I have been getting, 15 mpg, is below this model's rating of 18, but the highway mileage is right on at 25 mpg. It does a nice job towing trailers and is great on cross-country trips.
Excellent Vehicle
Tommy Caldwell,03/25/2009
Purchased this van from an individual with 114000 miles. This was an excellent auto for the money. Only problem was intake manifold gasket at about 180000 miles. Still drives good and handles great on long trips. Did not appreciate the roll down seats. Did like 29 MPG highway and 22 mpg around town. Now we have 210000 miles and it still starts everytime. Only uses 1/2 quart of oil between changes at 5000 miles. Actually probably leaks the oil. Engine still performs without smoking and transmission seems strong. Would buy this again if it were available.
Regrets of almost ten years
I guess the tip-off to why I shouldn't have bought this stems back to the day I test drove it. The day I looked at buying it, fluid was leaking from the power steering unit. He really wanted to sell it, so he had that fixed and then I shelled out $14k for it. It performed with reasonable reliability over the first few years, though phantom noises from the engine and misfires were common. But a broken camshaft at 90k forced a $4500 engine rebuild, to be followed by a rebuilt transmission at 95k, followed by another engine overhaul at 123k - now at 141k the engine just seized. So, I would say, with certainty, though it's been a decent car overall, mechanically, this van is terrible.
People Friendly Transportation
I never thought that I would consider being a mini-van owner. But the dealer let us take it out for the day, and I was very impressed with the drivability of the van, very good throttle response. I really enjoyed driving the van, it practically drives itself. I have three kids, and they love the seating arrangements, its very comfortable.
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Features & Specs

16 city / 23 hwy
Seats 0
4-speed automatic
180 hp @ 5200 rpm
16 city / 23 hwy
Seats 0
4-speed automatic
180 hp @ 5200 rpm
16 city / 23 hwy
Seats 0
4-speed automatic
180 hp @ 5200 rpm
16 city / 23 hwy
Seats 0
4-speed automatic
180 hp @ 5200 rpm
See all Used 1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette Minivan features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette
Used 1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette Minivan Overview

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Oldsmobile Silhouette?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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