This well-equipped, but rather pricey minivan, comes complete with a rear flip-down 5.6 inch flat colour video screen, a VCR positioned under the dash, 2nd row video game/video camera inputs and headphone jacks, and 3rd row headphone jacks. Two sets of headphones are included.
Your kids will love it
Anyone who has driven their young children on a trip that lasts more than 20 minutes will be familiar with the phrase, “Are we there, yet?” My personal experience is that kids love to repeat this question regardless of the length of the trip – three hours or three days! Adults must have some sympathy for them, though…what could be more boring that being strapped into a seat for hours with little to do but look out at some trees, and cars and other boring stuff.
About five years ago, my (then) ten-year old son suggested to me, “Why don’t they put a video screen in the back seat so I can play Nintendo?” Your kids probably had the same idea. Well, it took a while for the car manufacturers to catch on (kids are much smarter than car companies), but now there are a number of minivans available with rear entertainment systems designed specifically for those excrusciatingly bored children and adolescents.
One of them is the Chevrolet Venture Warner Bros. Edition minivan. This well-equipped, but rather pricey minivan, comes complete with a rear flip-down 5.6 inch flat colour video screen, a VCR positioned under the dash, 2nd row video game/video camera inputs and headphone jacks, and 3rd row headphone jacks. Two sets of headphones are included.
Rear passengers can watch movies, play video games, or listen to the radio, CD, or cassette player. Since rear passengers use headphones, front passengers can still listen to their stereo without disturbing passengers at the rear.
The Venture Warner Bros. Edition mini-van is also available with an optional LEGO Playseat which includes a customized, second-row LEGO board and LEGO pieces.
Unfortunately, the entertainment system is available only on the top-of-the-line Venture Warner Bros Edition, so the price is fairly high for a family vehicle: $37,670.
It wasn’t difficult for me to persuade my two adolescent children to help me test the Warner Bros van’s entertainment system. Since I had to pick up my wife up at the airport, they volunteered to be back-seat test-drivers. They sat in two of the three second row bucket seats, (which happen to be front row seating for the movie screen), plugged their headphones into the jacks which are located on the ceiling, and adjusted their individual volume knobs.
A flat, colour LCD display flips down from the roof, and is visible from all five rear seats. For safety and security, the screen locks into a roof cavity when not in use. The VCR is up front under the dash, a position which gives the driver control of what, and what does not go into the VCR (for example, fruit rollups and ice-cream sandwiches do not go into the VCR.)
Controls for ‘play’, ‘rewind’, ‘fast-forward’, and ‘stop’ are on the VCR unit, but there’s also a remote control which the kids can use. The 5.6 inch colour LCD screen is big enough to enjoy the movie, but it’s relatively small as video screens go. Also, being a liquid crystal display, the image gets blurry when looked at from an angle. My daughter decided to move from the right hand seat to the centre seat for this reason.
As luck would have it, my wife’s plane was an hour late. Normally my teenagers would have considered mutiny, but the movie kept them happy while we waited – a fairly apt demonstration of the usefulness of an in-vehicle entertainment system.
On the other hand, the entertainment system had the effect of making me feel more like a chaufer than a father. Time in the car is often an opportunity to talk with your kids in private, but this time I felt the VCR had taken this away from us.
Warner Bros Van Well-Equipped
In addition to the entertainment system, the Warner Bros. Van includes such standard features as seven-passenger leather bucket seats (my van had three seats in the second row and two in the third row), side airbags for front passengers, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/cassette premium stereo, air conditioning (optional front and rear fan controls), OnStar emergency assistance system, power windows, power mirrors, rear wiper/washer, anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, and other features.
Ventures can be equipped with seven or eight seats in various configurations, including 2nd row two-person bench seat or two or three bucket seats, and 3rd row two rear buckets or 3-person bench seat. All rear seats are removeable, and third row seats will tumble. Second row bucket seats will fold over for easier passenger access to the third row seat.
The Warner Bros Edition van is an extended wheelbase model, so it has more rear legroom and cargo room than the regular wheelbase Venture. I found plenty of rear legroom and headroom for my average frame. Interior storage compartments include a sliding drawer under the front passenger seat, front seat purse net, front seatback map pockets, front centre console drawer, and glove box.
When the Venture was first introduced in 1997, base models had a single, passenger side sliding rear door. For the 2000 model year, all Ventures now have four doors. My van was equipped with an optional ($550) power-operated right-side sliding rear door. With the push of a button, it can be opened and closed from the driver’s seat or from the 2nd row passenger seat. It will also open and close automatically with a tug on the door handle. To prevent young children from opening the power door, the driver has a lockout button on the overhead console. The power door also features an anti-pinch device which re-opens the door if a hand or foot gets caught in between the door and the jamb.
Unlike some other minivans, the Venture does not offer a power-operated left-side rear sliding door.
Safety features include three-point seatbelts for all bucket seats, height-adustable head restraints for each seat, rear tether anchors for 2nd and 3rd row seats, child locks on the sliding doors, and dual front and side airbags.
Comfortable, Powerful Minivan
With a standard 3.4 litre OHV V6 engine with 185 horsepower and generous low-end torque, the Venture has good off-the-line response, decent passing power (depending on how much load you’re carrying), and is very quiet and comfortable on the freeway. A four-speed automatic transmission with a column shifter is standard, and like most GM transmissions, it’s a real smoothie.
Fuel consumption is about what you’d expect for a large, 1760 kg vehicle which can carry seven passengers : 12.5 litres per 100 km (23 mpg) around town, and 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres (34 mpg) on the highway. Those are ideal Transport Canada figures by the way..real life experiences may vary.
You can tow a trailer with this front-wheel-drive minivan, up to 1590 kg (3500 lb.) with a trailer towing package, or 910 kg (2000 lb.) without a trailer
With its long wheelbase and supple suspension, the Venture offers a very comfortable ride, and handling is reasonably flat and stable for a seven passenger vehicle that’s over 200 inches in length. My test van had the optional Touring and Load Leveling suspension which adjusts van height when more weight is carried in the cargo area.
The Venture’s driving position is excellent offering good forward and side visibility from the elevated driver’s seat which has standard folding armrests. A tilt steering wheel helps the driver find a good view of the oversized gauges, and controls are easy to reach. A rear wiper and washer proved very useful because of the tendency for the vertical rear hatch to get covered in road grime.
As Tested $39,730
My test van was equipped with the $550 power sliding door, $260 Touring/Load Leveling Suspension, and $255 Traction Control system. With these options, a $100 excise tax and $895 Freight charge, my Warner Bros van came to $39,730 before taxes – a lot of money for a family van. I’d like to see GM put this entertainment system in the new Venture ‘Value Van’ which starts at $24,895.