Minivan; Built in USA
  • 3-door van
  • 4-door van
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,700 – $5,600*

1997 Oldsmoible Silhouette

1998 Oldsmoible Silhouette

1998 Oldsmoible Silhouette

1997 Oldsmoible Silhouette interior

1997 Oldsmoible Silhouette

  • Antilock brakes
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Ride
  • Fuel economy

All told, Silhouette brings a lot of equipment for the money, along with convenient sliding doors and friendly driving manner. We recommend a test drive before buying any family minivan.


Three GM divisions–Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Chevrolet–rebuilt their family minivans for 1997. Plastic body panels were abandoned. Instead, these redesigned minivans were all steel. Also gone was the curious “dustbuster” styling with its ultra-extended snout. Minivans now came in two sizes: short- or long-wheelbase. At 112 inches, the wheelbase of the shorter model was more than two inches longer than that of the prior Silhouette. The extended version stood more than 10 inches longer than its predecessor. Dual airbags were standard, along with antilock brakes. Long-wheelbase models could have an optional driver-side sliding door. A passenger-side sliding door and one-piece rear liftgate were standard on all models.Sole powertrain on the front-drive Silhouette was the same 180-horsepower, 3.4-liter V6 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission used in 1996 minivans. All Silhouettes could seat seven passengers, but middle seats came in a choice of two forms: a 60/40 split bench (with one or two built-in child seats optional), or a pair of captain’s chairs. Middle and rear seats fold forward and slide fore and aft on tracks, to alter seating and cargo room. Quick-release latches allow them to be removed from the vehicle.

Yearly Updates

1998 Silhouette
Seat-mounted front side airbags went into Silhouettes this year, and 8-passenger seating became available. In addition, GM’s OnStar emergency/information system joined the option list.
1999 Silhouette
A Premiere edition joined the lineup late in the 1998 model year, equipped with a VCR and 5.5-inch TV monitor for use by back-seat passengers.
2000 Silhouette
Shorter-bodied Silhouettes disappeared this year, leaving only extended-length minivans with dual sliding side doors. Eight-passenger seating also was dropped, making seven passengers the maximum. Middle-row child safety seats were abandoned, too. A revised gauge cluster featured a dot-matrix data display, audio units had Radio Data System (RDS) capability, and second-row reading lamps became standard. Heated front seats could now be installed in GLS and Premiere.
2001 Silhouette
Silhouette got a stowable third-row seat and revised video system for 2001. Newly standard were second-row lower child-seat anchors, remote keyless entry, CD player, load-leveling suspension, and GM’s OnStar assistance system.
2002 Silhouette
The rear-seat video-entertainment system came with a DVD player instead of a VCR for 2002.
2003 Silhouette
Traction control is newly standard on all front-drive versions, and the GL trades 15-inch wheels for the 16s already standard on other models. Rear-seat controls for audio and air-conditioning systems are among new base-model standard features.
2004 Silhouette
Collector’s edition badging, wheels, and embroidery is available this year, for Oldmobile’s last year of production.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All Silhouettes carry a 3.4-liter V6 engine that develops 180 horsepower, driving a 4-speed automatic transmission. No powertrain options have been offered, but horsepower grew by 5 in 1999.

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.4/207
Engine HP 180-185
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 205-210
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



Road Test

Silhouette’s ride is comfortable and the minivan handles more than competently. If not actually sporty in nature, it’s at least at the top of minivan class, helped by particularly communicative steering. Yes, a firm suspension means you’ll feel more bumps in a Silhouette than in a Chrysler Town & Country, for one; but the Oldsmobile’s ride is never harsh.

Acceleration ranks as adequate with the 3.4-liter V6 engine, but low-speed power was better with the 3.8-liter V6 that had been available in ’95 models. On the plus side, GM’s 4-speed automatic transmission is one of the smoothest around, with prompt downshifts that help get the most out of the engine whenever a welcome burst of power is needed.

In a lengthy test run that included several highway trips, a Silhouette managed 19.2 mpg. Standard antilock brakes stop the Silhouette with minimal fuss, but the pedal tends to feel slightly mushy.

In a Silhouette, you get a comfortable driving position and a commanding view of the road. Passenger space is good, though taller adults might complain about leg room–especially in the farthest-back seats. Center and rear seats are low to the floor and do not feel as substantial or supportive as those in rivals.

Entry and exit to the back seats is awkward, and the pass-through between the front buckets is narrow. Cargo room behind the rear seats is good in the extended-length model, but only average in the regular-length version.

Radio and climate controls in the new dashboard are easy to see and reach, with large buttons and knobs. Gauges are amply sized and unobstructed.

Storage space is abundant, including more cupholders than most people will ever need, and handy cargo nets attached to the sides of the front seats. Paint in our test minivans has been smooth and glossy, though many body-panel gaps were uneven. Interior materials are pleasant in quality.


Model Tested: 2002 Oldsmobile Silhouette Premier

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.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 6
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
Cargo Room - 9


Value - 5

Total: 57


3-door van
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
112.0 187.4 72.2 67.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
133.0 20.0 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.9 39.3 39.9 36.9
4-door van
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
120.0 201.4 72.2 68.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
155.9 25.0 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.9 39.3 39.9 39.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Silhouette 4-door van


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


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

Collision 64
Injury 54
Theft 13

Trouble Spots

Description: The brake pedal may not return fully causing the brakes to drag, get hot and wear out prematurely. Also, the cruise control will not function. The cause may be misadjusted brake or cruise-control switches of a defective brake-pedal assembly. (1997)
Climate control
Description: The heater may not be adequate in very cold weather requiring as revised heater core and possibly a new air-distribution duct for the floor outlet. (1997)
Climate control
Description: If the air conditioning is insufficient, the engine-cooling fan and the air-conditioning orifice tube may have to be replaced. (1997)
Engine noise
Description: Ticking on cold startup may be due to excessive piston pin to bore clearance. (1997-98)
Engine temperature
Description: Overheating and coolant loss may be due to rough surface on radiator filler neck. Neck should be sanded smooth and cap replaced. (1999-2000)
Hard starting
Description: Corroded electrical connector under the driver’s seat can cause hard starting, stalling, and improper fuel gauge readings. (2000-02)
Suspension noise
Description: A dull, rattling noise from the rear on long-wheelbase models equipped with electronic level control requires replacement shock absorbers. (1997-98)
Description: If the “auto-down” feature of the power window quits, a voltage spike from the driver’s side switch has probably destroyed the integrated circuit that controls this function. (1997)
Description: The windshield may crack in cold weather. (1997)

Recall History

1997-01 w/passenger-side sliding door
Description: Door closes but may not be latched. If this happens, the sliding door can open while the vehicle is in motion.
1997-04 w/second-row bucket seats or captain’s chairs and power sliding passenger door
Description: If someone holds onto the sliding-door handle while it’s being opened by the motor, that person’s arm may be pushed into the seatback or armrest, possibly resulting in injury to wrist or lower arm.
Description: Windshield-wiper linkage arm can contact brake line connected to traction-control modulator valve; brake line can chafe, resulting in brake-fluid leakage.
1997-98 w/bucket seats or split bench seat in second or third row
Description: Seat-latch mechanism does not have protective covers; when activating release mechanism to roll a bucket seat forward, finger(s) could be severely injured, or severed, if they are not kept clear.
Description: Broken shift-cable fitting or loose shift linkage can occur; moving shift lever to “Park” position may not shift the transmission to “Park,” and vehicle could roll.
Description: Steering shaft on a few minivans could separate, as a result of collapsed sleeve.
2000 w/extended wheelbase
Description: Fuel-tank rollover valve on small number of minivans is inoperative.
Description: Some seatbelt assemblies were not properly heat treated and do not pass the load-bearing requirement.
Description: Seat-latch anchor-wire diameter may be wider than 6.1 mm, potentially inhibiting the installation of child restraints.
Description: Driver’s-side airbag inflator could fracture during deployment increasing the risk of serious injury.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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.