WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It's a night made for a James Bond Adventure. Above, a clear sky twinkles like a big-screen planetarium and out the window a full moon illuminates the crest of Mt. Greylock, the state's highest peak. With a touch of a remote control, Diamonds Are Forever begins to play on a monitor overhead. My companion and I settle into our comfortable seats, with drinks and popcorn nearby and pull up a blanket to watch this classic movie.
A modern-day movie theatre? A cabin in the country? Neither, but, in a
sense, both. We are in the Oldsmobile Silhouette, a veritable "living room on
wheels." With a host of upscale features, this six-to-seven-passenger minivan offers many of the comforts of home. And, with the Premiere Edition's standard in-car entertainment system, it can keep young ones occupied during long-distance travel just as well as providing a romantic movie-watching getaway for adults.
The General's Oldsmobile division has enjoyed a strong standing in the
high-end minivan market. But in response to fierce competition in both the
minivan and crossover/sport-utility markets, GM has upgraded its latest versions
of its high-end people-mover. While engine and mechanics remain similar to its previous generation, safety has been upgraded,
styling has been refined and optional packages have been expanded.
As in previous models, all Silhouettes (the base model GL, mid-model GLS and upscale Premiere) are powered by a 3.4-liter V-6 engine that produces 185 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, and drives the front wheels. All models have anti-lock brakes; traction control is standard on the GLS and Premiere editions, and optional on the GL.
Recent engine upgrades include a more durable water pump assembly, and a
longer-lasting drive belt tensioner as well as a more efficient catalytic
converter and improved spark plugs and wiring. The latter changes help give the
Silhouette engine LEV (Low Emission Vehicle) status in all 50 states, and ULEV (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle)
status in California and the Northeast.
A comfortable ride comes from a MacPherson strut suspension in front and a twist-beam axle in the rear; for carrying heavy loads, an auto-leveling system is standard equipment. Touring tires on the Silhouette are P215/70R15 for the GL and GLS, with 16-inch P225/60R16s standard Limited versions.
2001 Oldsmobile Silhouette
Exterior styling remains similar to
the previous model, with only slight changes. The hood has been redesigned to
include a new front grille and badging and the front wipers now remain concealed
under the hood when not in use. The body-color rocker panels, body-color side
moldings, and smooth, well-designed door handles give a sleek, integrated
appearance. Furthering the Silhouette's emphasis on sophistication, Onyx Black
now tops the list of eight available exterior colors.
Two sliding rear doors are standard, and on the GLS and Premiere, the passenger-side rear door can also be opened with the flick of an interior switch or a button on the key fob. Later this year, the same feature will be
optionally available for the driver's-side door on the GLS and Premiere models.
The bulk of what's new with this vehicle can be found inside. The Silhouette is roomy enough for seven passengers, but Premiere buyers can opt to replace the third-row seat with dual captain's chairs, giving six passengers a good deal more elbow room. The second-row captain's chairs fold flat at 50/50 for easy storing, and the third-row bench can also split in half. The rear seats pull out quickly and easily if more storage is needed.
The GLS and Premiere models come with new mini-perforated leather trim with a two-tone coloring on the seats that
matches the body trim. Luxo-quality wood grain accents are included on the two
upper models, as
well. A four-season air conditioner (it holds a temperature regardless of the ambient air) with an air filtration system and shut-off air vents is standard
on all models, but with the GLS and Premiere you get dual-zone climate control, too. Other standard features include cruise control, front and rear defoggers and heated outside mirrors, a side-wall mounted convenience net in back, and a cupholder for every seating position. Extra sound insulation makes the car quieter.
2001 Oldsmobile Silhouette
The newest version of GM's award-winning OnStar emergency and convenience system is included on all models. It includes Virtual Advisor, through which OnStar subscribers can receive Web-based information such as stock prices or incoming e-mail using a hands-free, voice-activated interface. It also has Personal Calling, a feature that lets you make hands-free cell phone calls using a programmable voice recognition system.
The Silhouette is outfitted with the latest in safety equipment. Every model
has side-impact airbags that are certified to be safe for children and other
smaller passengers. New for 2001, standardized rear child seat anchors have
been installed in the second row. Also new is the Rear Parking Aid—standard on
the GLS and Premiere and available on the GL—that detects
objects when reversing and is especially useful in parallel parking.
The audio system is an AM/FM/CD/cassette setup across the board. On the top two models, you can
also opt for an in-dash, six-disc CD changer and
upgraded speaker system. But the big news in the entertainment department is the video entertainment package. Standard on the $33,225 Premiere, (but not available on the GL or GLS) it includes a 6.8-inch LCD color monitor that folds down from the overhead console for viewing by the rear passengers. The built-in videocassette player allows passengers to view videotapes, plug in their video game or camcorder, and the cordless headphones preclude tangles. We liked the entertainment system so much that we feel it may even inspire the adults to move to the back seat and let the kids ride in front.
Even with Oldsmobile's demise on the horizon, General Motors feels that the Silhouette will remain a strong competitor in its field in the next few years. While it might have been a better move on their part to make more of the options available on the base vehicle, we're still satisfied with this van's handling and general competence. And now that dealer and factory incentives are in full force, the decked-out Premiere might just be a bargain, especially when compared to a cabin in the country.
2001 Oldsmobile Silhouette
Base price range: $26,290-$33,225
Engine: 185-horsepower 3.4-liter V-6
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 120.0 in
Length: 201.4 in
Width: 72.2 in
Height: 68.1 in
Curb weight: 3948 lb
Fuel economy, EPA cty/hwy: 19/26 mpg
Safety equipment: Front-seat inflatable restraint system with side-impact airbags, anti-lock brakesMajor standard features: Remote keyless entry, OnStar with hands-free phone
Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles (all Oldsmobile 2001 and 2002 models)