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Silhouette prices look steep compared to those of other minivans, but please note that the Silhouette lineup does not include any four-cylinder or short-wheelbase models to keep the price of admission low. Every Silhouette is V6-powered. Every one, by accepted minivan standards, is an extended-wheelbase model. And even the most basic GL packs a long list of luxury equipment that most other minivans offer only as options, or not at all. If you're shopping for the absolute lowest-priced transport for the soccer team, you should probably look elsewhere. Silhouette is designed for a different kind of buyer, one who understands that interior space, efficiency, and versatility are desirable traits in a luxury vehicle.
The highly refined Silhouette handles so well, it is actually fun to hustle one down a challenging road. Yet with its long wheelbase, Silhouette seats seven comfortably and comes with thoughtful interior touches that make trips with kids go easier. The Premiere Edition even features a state-of-the-art video entertainment system.
GM's V6 engine is a powerful workhorse with a satisfying throttle response and good efficiency. It produces strong low-rpm torque for quick acceleration, even when loaded down. You can feel the engine growl slightly through the steering wheel. Traction control is standard on GLS and Premiere, and a $195 option on GL, and we recommend it for easier control in winter driving. Without traction control engaged, you can spin one front wheel during a spirited take-off. With a powerful V6 and front-wheel drive, torque steer is sometimes noticeable: a slight tug on the steering wheel under hard acceleration. Still, the output of GM's V6 is less than that available in Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota minivans. The four-speed automatic is programmed to shift up as soon as possible, which improves fuel economy at the expense of driving fun.
Oldsmobile's Silhouette does a better job of filtering road vibration than Pontiac's Montana or Chevy's Venture. Perhaps the touring tires of the Premiere we drove are tuned for less harshness. These same tires likely contribute to the Premiere feeling a little less grippy in corners. Body lean is also more noticeable in the Silhouette than in the Montana.
The brake pedal of the Silhouette feels spongy, especially when you compare it to Oldsmobile's more modern sedans, such as the Alero, Intrigue, and Aurora. The anti-lock brake system, however, works well, with steady and unobtrusive feedback when it's engaged on slick surfaces.
The Oldsmobile Silhouette makes all occupants feel they have control over their personal space, with spots for drinks and trinkets, and volume controls for headphones. You could live in one if you had to, and it sometimes seems that way when you're stuck on the 405 in Los Angeles, shuttling distractible youths to after-school Tai Chi lessons.
We've driven minivans with aftermarket video and television setups, and none of them match the sound quality, picture quality, and ease of operation found in the Premiere Edition. On the other hand, the GLS model offers most of the same equipment without the video system for $2,800 less. That makes the video system an expensive option.
With or without video, the Silhouette is fun to drive. It rides and handles better than the previous generation of minivans from GM and is an excellent choice.