New Car/Review

Oldsmobile

Oldsmobile Silhouette Premiere (2000)

By Tom Hagin

Oldsmobile Full Line Video footage (14:04)
SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 31,550
     Price As Tested                                    $ 32,380
     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                  102.0"/72.2"/201.4"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4017 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  25.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                             P215/70R15 touring
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                 90 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.35

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/26/22          
     0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                        1475 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         3500 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

After struggling against some red-hot competition in the minivan segment of the auto sales wars for many years, Oldsmobile finally got things right with its Oldsmobile Silhouette. Offered first as a 1998 model, the newest version has revitalized enthusiasm in a tough category for the company.

Three Silhouette models are available: base GL, mid-line GLS and our tester, the top-line Premiere model.

OUTSIDE - Oldsmobile had a tough time selling those first Silhouettes because not only did Pontiac and Chevy have virtually identical minivans, the public just wasn't too accepting of a shape that earned it the "Dustbuster" nickname. Fortunately, the company toned down the "doorstop" shape by blunting its nose and rounding some corners, along with a total redesign of the windshield and hood. The company added a sliding rear door to the driver's side, which is now a mandatory feature on minivans, and power motors to open both rear doors automatically on GLS and Premier models, a feature Oldsmobile pioneered on the Silhouette in 1993. Safety and security was addressed as well. The passenger compartment is surrounded by a series of structural hoops to increase overall rigidity. A rooftop luggage rack is standard on all models, while unique six-spoke alloy wheels come standard with the top two models. Previously, there was a short-wheelbase Silhouette but for 2000, only extended-length models are available.

INSIDE - For the most part, this four-door minivan is a very comfortable vehicle to drive. It's easy to slide across into the seats, and there's plenty of space between the door openings. And it's also easy on the back since parents can load kids into car seats from both sides. The cabin of our Premiere test model is spacious and comfortable, with soft, wide seats and a simple reach to most controls. The middle and rear seats are a bit low and lack some bolstering, but passengers will otherwise be content on long trips. New this year and standard on Premiere models is an entertainment package that includes a video cassette player that stores in the center console and an LCD color monitor that folds down from the headliner. Other standard Premiere features include dual air conditioning, leather seating, cruise control, keyless entry, power front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with touch controls, power windows, mirrors and door locks.

ON THE ROAD - Powertrain choices for Silhouette buyers are easy - there's only one. All models are powered by a 3.4 liter V6 engine that produces 180 horsepower and a healthy 205 lb-ft of torque. This engine carries over from the previous model, and eschews fancy overhead camshafts and multiple valves per cylinder in favor of an in-block camshaft operating two valves per cylinder. It's gutsy and spirited, albeit a bit coarse under heavy acceleration. A healthy amount of torque contributes greatly to its 3500-pound towing capacity, as well as providing adequate power when it is loaded with kids and camping gear. Mated to this is an electronic four-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly, while a traction control system that limits wheelspin on slippery surfaces is standard on GLS and Premiere models and optional on the base version.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Silhouette utilizes a front-wheel drive layout that includes MacPherson strut front suspension and a simple twist beam rear axle with specially-located shock absorbers. It handles just fine for a minivan, with a confident and stable ride and moderate body roll. Also, the ride is not floaty and wallowing like some others in its class. The steering system responds well to inputs, but could use a bit more on-center "tightness." A full load smooths the ride more than an empty van and it performed well in simulated emergency avoidance maneuvers. Braking is handled by front disc and rear drum brakes with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS) on all models.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, ABS, traction control and side-impact door beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Towing Package: $100; Gold exterior package: $150.

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