Minivan; Built in USA
  • 3-door van
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $2,000*


1991 Oldsmobile Silhouette


1991 Oldsmobile Silhouette


1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette


1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette interior


1993 Oldsmobile Silhouette interior

Pros:
  • Acceleration (3.8-liter V6)
  • Antilock brakes (optional)
  • Passenger and cargo room
Cons:
  • Climate controls
  • Visibility

Despite their hard-to-see front ends and view-obstructing front pillars, first-generation Silhouettes have many virtues. Some shoppers, however, might be more satisfied with the 1997-up model, which does away with the radical nose and incorporates more traditional styling, which should solve the visibility problem.

Overview

Oldsmobile’s Silhouette was one of GM’s dramatic front-drive minivans, featuring body panels of fiberglass-like composite. It was similar to the Chevrolet Lumina APV and the Pontiac Trans Sport.The Silhouette arrived in 1990 with a base powertrain consisting of GM’s 120-horsepower 3.1-liter V6 and a 3-speed automatic transmission. Inside, seven bucket seats were standard, arranged in a 2-3-2 layout. One of the middle buckets could be deleted as a credit option.

Yearly Updates

1991 Silhouette
An overhead console with a compass, outside thermometer, map lights, and three storage compartments were added for ’91. Also added to the interior were power mirrors, a 12-volt power outlet in the rear side panel and carpeting on top of the dashboard to reduce glare. Underneath, a new stainless-steel exhaust system was added.
1992 Silhouette
While the 120-horsepower 3.1-liter V6 remains the standard engine, a 165-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 with 4-speed automatic is added to the option list. Also, 15-inch wheels and tires replace the 14-inch rubber used previously.
1993 Silhouette
The 3.8-liter V6 now comes with 170 horsepower, five more than previously. Also, new front and rear fascias have been added, along with new parking/turn lamps and alloy wheels.
1994 Silhouette
New standard safety features are added for 1994, including a driver-side airbag and a center high-mount stoplight. The industry’s first power-operated sliding side door arrives as a new option for the Silhouette. Buttons in the cabin and on the remote keyfob open and close it, but only when the transmission is in park. It’s also programmed to reverse direction if any object blocks its path.
1995 Silhouette
Silhouette drops the 120-horsepower V6 as its base engine, making the 3.8-liter V6 and 4-speed automatic the sole powertrain.
1996 Silhouette
A new standard engine–a 180-horsepower 3.4-liter V6–is the big change to the 1996 Silhouette. This is the last model year for the entire trio of front-drive GM minivans.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

The Silhouette arrived in 1990 with a base powertrain consisting of GM’s 120 horsepower 3.1-liter V6 and a 3-speed automatic transmission. It produced 175 pound-feet of torque at 2200 rpm. On the option list by 1992 was a 3.8-liter V6 with 165 horsepower, mated to a smoother 4-speed overdrive automatic. Maximum torque for that engine is 220 pound-feet at 3200 rpm. For 1995, both were replaced with a new 170-horsepower 3.8-liter V6, followed by another new engine in 1996–a 180-horsepower, 3.4-liter V6, also paired with a 4-speed automatic. Its torque rating was 225 pound-feet at 3200 rpm.

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.1/191
Engine HP 120
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 175
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
3-speed automatic

19/23

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.8/231
Engine HP 165-170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 200-225
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
17/24
17/25
17.2
ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.4/207
Engine HP 180
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 205
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

19/26

18.5

Road Test

Early models with the standard 120-horsepower 3.1-liter V6 were obviously underpowered, especially when loaded with passengers and vacation luggage. The 1992 addition of standard antilock brakes and optional 170-horsepower V6 with 4-speed automatic were both welcome additions. The new powertrain gives the Silhouette needed vitality and is the obvious choice. While the 3.4-liter, with 10 more horsepower added for ’96 seems like an improvement, it doesn’t have as much low-speed power.

No minivan has seats that are easier to remove or rearrange than the lightweight (just 34 pounds) buckets in the Silhouette. Ride and handling qualities are a match for any large sedan, but the Silhouette offers far more passenger and cargo space. Poor visibility, however, remains the Silhouette’s primary sore spot. The long dashboard stretches nearly four feet from the driver to the windshield, and obscures the front corners of the sloping nose. Adding to the distraction is the extra set of roof pillars needed to support the large glass windshield. Also, the climate control buttons on the dash are difficult to see and reach while driving.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1992 Oldsmobile Silhouette

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 6
60%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
60%
Cargo Room - 8
80%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 55

Specifications

3-door van
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
109.8 194.7 73.9 65.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
112.6 20.0 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.2 39.0 40.0 36.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1996 Silhouette 3-door van

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 3
60%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 66
Injury 54
Theft 12

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: 4T60E transmissions may drop out of drive while cruising, shift erratically, have no third or fourth gear, or no second and third gear because of a bad ground connection for the shift solenoids. (1992-94)
Automatic transmission
Description: TH-125 automatic transmissions may shift late or not upshift at all. The problem is a stuck throttle valve inside the transmission. (1990-94)
Coolant leak
Description: The 3.8-liter V6 may leak coolant into the engine from the intake manifold. A new gasket kit, revised throttle body nuts, and sealing compound is available. Redesigned manifolds are also available in the aftermarket. (1993-96)
Coolant leak
Description: Coolant loss via plastic intake manifold is corrected by installing upgraded manifold and gaskets plus new PCV kit. (1995-96)
Engine knock and oil leak
Description: 3.8-liter engines are prone to excessive oil consumption often accompanied by spark knock due to failure of the valve stem seals. (1993-95)
Engine noise
Description: Bearing knock was common on many 3.3- and 3.8-liter engines due to too much clearance on the number-one main bearing. (1992-94)
Engine noise
Description: A rattling noise from the engine that lasts less than a minute when the car is started after sitting is often caused by automatic-transmission pump starvation or a sticking pressure-regulator valve. According to GM, no damage occurs and it does not have a fix for the problem. (1992-95)
Steering noise
Description: The upper-bearing mount in the steering column can get loose and cause a clicking, requiring a new bearing spring and turn-signal cancel cam. (1994-96)
Transaxle leak
Description: The right front-axle seal at the automatic transaxle is prone to leak. GM issued a revised seal to correct the problem. (1992-94)

Recall History

1990
Description: Rear modular seat-frame hold-down hooks on some vans may not meet required pull force.
1990
Description: Right seat/shoulder-belt retractor may have been installed in second-row left-seat position.
1990-91
Description: Due to corrosion, shaft could separate from steering gear, resulting in crash.
1990-91 in 14 states
Description: Rear cradle bolts could pull through retainers, due to corrosion; if both bolts pull through, steering shaft could separate from steering gear.
1992-95
Description: Transmission-cooler line in cars with certain powertrains, sold in specified states, can separate at low temperature.
1993-94 w/optional power sliding door
Description: Second-row, right-hand shoulder belt can become pinched between seat and door frame pillar trim.
1994
Description: Pawl spring may be missing from retractors for rear-center lap belt.
1994
Description: Third-row seatbelt retractors may lock up when van is on a slope.
1995
Description: Brake-pedal arm can fracture during braking, resulting in loss of brake operation.
1996-98
Description: Faulty power steering bearings may have been installed on certain vehicles, resulting in difficulty turning the steering wheel. Dealers will inspect and replace all affected parts.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.