- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2002

Attention parents: You may never play the license plate game again.

The 2002 Chevy Venture follows a typical minivan formula: adequate V-6, easy-driving four-speed automatic, somewhat unexciting exterior profile and enough seating for a Little League team. As with other vehicles in its class, cup holders 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 three models in the Venture lineup the only one 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 children 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. The Venture is positioned to compete with Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan and Voyager cousins at Chrysler, as well as the Ford Windstar, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Mazda MPV. This minivan 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 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 new Venture won't turn any heads or snap any necks with its power. A respectable, but not revolutionary, Vortec 3.4-liter V-6 delivers 185 horses at 5,200 rpm with 210 pounds-feet of torque only available at 4,000 rpm, which leaves a lot of time off the line and between passing lanes before drivers will feel a boost.

The new Venture is available with Chevy's all-wheel-drive Versatrak system, but only on long-wheelbase versions and 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 new edition, like other basic Venture models, has front disc and rear drum brakes. The lineup's high-end extended (wheelbase) LT models include Versatrak, as well as 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. Removable second row flip/fold seats can be removed to fold flat for cargo stowage.

Also of note is that a full-size cooler fits easily behind the third row, which also features a "convenience center" including 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 cup holders keep every drink, from juice box to Slurpee, close at hand, and power outlets provide backup for laptops and other equipment.

The new 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 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), and auxiliary jacks for video games and camcorders turn this cockpit into a minitheater.

For some, "minivan" is still synonymous with "suburbia." For others, "minivan" means "lifesaver" for its convenience, versatility and ease of use. The new Venture Warner Bros. Edition adds a whole new dimension to the minivan experience. It's not flair or performance, but it is the kind of built-in entertainment about which busy parents only dream.

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