1999 Olds Silhouette Premiere Edition (257)


I decided this year’s trip to Sequoia National Park would be in Oldsmobile’s 8 Passenger minivan. I had the Premiere video edition, which features a foldaway color monitor, video cassette player, CD player, individually-adjustable headphones and universal connector for a camcorder or video game system.

It debuted midway through the 1998 model year. In the past I opted for an SUV like Jeep or Olds Bravada with their off road capability. But with the growing popularity of the minivan it was a good opportunity to experience a minivan out of the city where it shines. It truly is the perfect around town car for mom and the kids, even though dads would rather have an SUV. Those macho men grunt their approval of 4-wheel drive, mega horsepower, limited slip differential, off road, hill climbing, gas guzzling machines – oh yeah.

In reality, however, only 25% of those SUV’s will ever get off road. And in California the road conditions are never that bad to need the 4-wheel drive anyway, but it sounds good. Now mom knows about practical and after she explains why they will buy the minivan I think he’ll agree.

Some of the features mom considers important include the fact that they are low to the ground so little ones can get in and out without a struggle. It’s easy for her to put the car seat in. The double sliding doors, with the passenger side power operated, have inestimable value, especially with the remote feature. She’ll fall in love all over again.

Mineral King is in the southern part of Sequoia National Park and there’s lots of hiking and beautiful scenery. You expect Julie Andrews to show up singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music”. She didn’t so we sang it for her as we shuttled our group of 7 from camp to trailhead. Everyone would toss their backpacks in the back and find a seat. If we were tired of singing I turned on an educational video and we’d be off to see the Wizard, in a land replete with lions (no tigers) and bears.

I kidded with Mark, who served in Vietnam, about how much minivans resembled the army choppers used during that unfortunate war. We thought you could mount a gun turret outside one of the sliding doors and the picture would be complete. But now that I think of it, it would be great for road rage problems. It would have a calming affect on stressed out drivers who contemplate killing you for unintentionally cutting them off.

I was a little concerned about the middle two captain’s chairs because they don’t fold out of the way for people to get in the very back seats. However, passengers had no complaints since they simply entered and exited between them. It worked out just fine.

The video can easily be considered a necessity rather than a luxury. For the longer jaunts it doesn’t take much imagination to see how helpful it can be to keep the kids occupied. In addition to the educational value you can be sure you won’t hear as many “are we there yet’s”.

In the old days Oldsmobile sported a big V8 but these days they come with a 3.4L V6 185-hp coupled to more efficient automatic transmissions you get all the power you’ll need. Pontiac Montana is the only one of the competition I haven’t driven but I can say that none of the rest is more solidly built or quieter than this Olds. Overall I came away with a good feeling and would put this in serious contention when deciding which minivan mom should drive.

Oldsmobile Silhouette is available in four trims: Silhouette GL Extended, GS, GLS Extended, and the Premiere.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Venture $20,795 – $23,195, Chrysler Town & Country $27,385 – $36,340, Dodge Caravan $18,205 – $31,710, Ford Windstar $18,425 – $30,415, Honda Odyssey $23,000 – $25,800, Mercury Villager $22,415 – $25,015, Nissan Quest $22,159 – $26,299, Pontiac Montana $21,325 – $24,040, Toyota Sienna $21,508 – $26,574.

Good News:

Good gas mileage, great family car, and awesome features.

Bad News:

Limited storage area (requires luggage rack for trips).

Standard Equipment:

There is an awesome array of stuff in this Premiere edition. 3.4-liter 185-horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning with auxiliary rear system, cruise control, power windows and door locks and windows, tilt steering wheel, deep tinted glass, fog lights, leather seats, AM/FM stereo cassette & CD, power front seats, power sliding passenger door, manual driver side sliding door, factory-installed video entertainment system, which includes a center-console-mounted VCR and an overhead foldout video screen for viewing from the rear seats, dual front and side airbags, daytime running lights, traction control, anti-lock brake system (ABS), keyless entry, power o/s mirrors, power rear quarter vents, rooftop luggage carrier.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.


MSRP $ Retail Price Range: $24,610 – $31,200

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

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