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Chevrolet's Venture offers a willing engine and a car-like ride. It is neither the most economical minivan you can buy, nor the most powerful, but it is competitively priced for a van with V6 power. Traction control is either standard or optional on the upper trim levels.
The Venture offers a wide range of seating and cargo configurations, plus an integrated entertainment system that's almost guaranteed to take the "Are we there yet?" out of family travel.
The drivetrain of the Venture shines in being nearly invisible. It's isolated, and offers good response in traffic, even though the Chevy is less powerful than the Ford or Honda minivans. You can hear a distant growl from the engine, a pleasant muted sound that appeals to the closet hot-rodder in some of us.
The traction control system, which came standard on our LT, engaged under hard acceleration. You are reminded constantly that this is a front-wheel-drive vehicle, especially when there is a lot of weight in the back, like a motorcycle, for example. The front wheels spin easily, and in corners this feels like small tugs on the steering wheel.
The load leveling system compensated for the extra weight of the motorcycle, so our headlights weren't pointed to the stars. Nor did our Venture wallow or lean excessively during quick maneuvering through downtown Chicago.
The brake pedal of the Venture feels more spongy than in Chevy's sedans. The anti-lock brake system engaged smoothly and without drama on loose surfaces.
The touring suspension, standard on LT and optional on LS and the Warner Bros. Edition, makes the Venture a good highway cruiser. It does hop around a bit on bumpy metro surfaces, but you won't notice this if you do most of your driving on well-paved suburban roads. We also drove Ventures with the standard "smooth ride" suspension, and did not see a big difference.
The Chevy Venture is ready to haul a bunch of folks or a load of hardware from the home-improvement center. It seats seven or eight comfortably. The longer wheelbase models add more cargo space. Lots of storage bins and cubby holes on all models add convenience. On the road, the Venture is smooth and quiet with good throttle response and car-like handling.
The LT combines luxury and load-hauling features, and is the only model to offer full leather. The Warner Bros. Edition makes an earnest attempt to entertain those restless rugrats, which is luxury in another form.
The minivan market is tightly competitive, and so a lot of minivans offer similar features. It helps to know your own needs very well before you select the van that's right for your family. Only you can judge whether Venture is the best minivan for your particular needs-but we think any minivan shopper ought to at least give it some consideration.