2003 Chevrolet Venture Warner Bros. Edition
The Chevy Venture follows a typical minivan formula: adequate V-6, easy-driving 4-speed automatic, somewhat unexciting exterior profile and enough seating for a Little League team. As with other vehicles in its class, cupholders abound, and some nifty storage spaces help stash gear enough for a summer trip to the beach or a winter trip to the slopes.
What distinguishes this family hauler from the pack is the new Warner Bros. Edition, one of five models in the Venture lineup-and one of the few in its class to offer a full, factory-installed DVD entertainment system. With free Warner Bros. DVDs and a complete audio/video DVD/CD and cassette sound system, this package deal all but guarantees that the kids will never ask, "Are we there, yet-"
The latest Venture is not a radical departure from past versions in the GM stable, or those offered by competitors. Positioned to compete with the Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan and their Voyager cousins at Chrysler as well as with the Ford Windstar, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Mazda MPV, this Venture is more of a logical extension of the family vehicle Americans (and, increasingly, the rest of the world) have come to love.
From the outside, GM's new offering cuts a sparse, straightforward silhouette that won't win design awards but gets the job done. A low front grille and air dam accent the snub-nosed front end and large windshield. Side doors slide back easily and are available with power assist on both sides. The rear liftgate completes a square back end, and a luggage carrier keeps things in place on the roof.
The Warner Bros. Edition is distinguished by a few exterior changes from the other models in the lineup, including color-keyed, satin-finish side panels, aluminum wheels and "Warner Bros. Entertainment" badging. This co-branded version also comes with a standard passenger-side power sliding door. (Power on the driver's side is still optional.)
Under the hood, the story is much the same-that is, the Venture won't turn any heads or snap any necks. A respectable, but not revolutionary, Vortec 3.4-liter V-6 delivers 185 horses at 5,200 rpm with 210 lb.-ft. of torque available at 4,000 rpm, which means leisurely off-the-line acceleration.
The Venture is available with Chevy's all-wheel-drive Versatrak system, but only on long-wheelbase versions, which includes the Warner Bros. Edition. Independent front and semi-independent rear suspension help create a pleasant, but not terribly tight, road feel, while power rack-and-pinion steering makes navigating parking lots and playing fields a bit easier.
The Warner edition, like other Venture models, has front disc/rear drum brakes when equipped with front-wheel drive. Adding the optional Versatrak all-wheel-drive system upgrades the componentry to 16-inch aluminum wheels and tires, a fully independent rear suspension and four-wheel disc brakes.
Although this vehicle is not a beauty to behold, it does hold a lot of gear in some pretty clever ways. Seating can be easily reconfigured to make room for stuff or passengers. Second-row flip/fold seats can be removed entirely or folded flat to become tables for games and snacking. Third-row seats fold flat for cargo stowage, a unique feature in this minivan class.
Further, a full-size cooler fits easily behind the third row, which also features a "convenience center" with three stowage compartments. The middle one has a sealed bottom and sides for putting away wet gear at the beach or after a rainy soccer game. A whopping 17 cupholders keep every drink, from juice box to Big Gulp, close at hand, and power outlets provide backup for laptops and other equipment.
The DVD system is the feature presentation inside the Warner Bros. Edition. The system plays DVD video and audio as well as CDs and video games formatted for DVD. A flat, flip-down 7-inch screen is located in the center ceiling just behind the driver's cabin, and includes three simple controls-Power, Play and Eject-for ease of operation.
A remote control rounds out this system, which allows passengers to use the DVD player, radio and CD player all at once (four sets of headphones are included). Auxiliary jacks for video games and camcorders turn this cockpit into a mini-theatre.
For some, "minivan" is still synonymous with "suburbia." For others, "minivan" means "lifesaver" for its convenience, versatility and ease of use. The Venture Warner Bros. Edition adds a whole new dimension to the minivan experience. It doesn't flaunt flair or performance. Rather, the Warner Bros. Venture offers the kind of built-in entertainment busy parents only dream of. (www.chevrolet.com)
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