The Sacramento Bee's view

I figured I had passed that point in my life where I would be driving a minivan with the image of Bugs Bunny on the side of it.

But the chronology of life is never perfect so I approached the 2001 Chevrolet Venture Warner Bros. Edition as just another vehicle in the long gray line of test models out there.

By the time I was finished driving it around, I was left with this thought: Where were you when I really needed you?

The Warner Bros. Edition is, simply put, a General Motors minivan distinguished by its special entertainment features. This makes it perhaps the prototypical family travel vehicle — with extra-special appeal to those families that like to take long road trips.

If you have kids who constantly ask, “Are we there yet?,” this is the minivan of your dreams.

You get the idea that this is not your typical minivan right off the bat. That chrome image of Bugs Bunny leaning on the Warner Brothers logo on the front door panels is the tip-off.

Inside, mounted on the ceiling between and just behind the two front seats is a fold-down liquid crystal display video screen. The flat screen, about six inches across, is hooked up to a VCR installed at the base of the front console.

What a concept! Pop a movie into the VCR, and the kids’ eyes are glued to the screen for the next couple of hours. Thankfully, the screen is positioned far enough behind the driver’s right ear to override the temptation to sneak a peek at the on-screen action while, say, driving 65 mph.

What about noise?

Yes, the video system sound can be pumped through the minivan’s cabin, but video-viewing passengers also have the option of plugging headsets into the system for private listening. Sound and other VCR functions can be controlled by a remote.

Boy, I sure could have used this technology when my kids were little. Where were those clever General Motors engineers back then?

It would have made those one-day 600-mile drives so much less stressful — on me and the kids. Bad timing. Story of my life.

So, big deal, you say. It’s a minivan with a VCR and a little screen in it. Actually, it’s a little more than that.

The tested model was an extended-wheelbase version, and the 201 inches of length vs. the standard 187 inches do make a difference in a minivan designed for serious family use.

Removable seats can transform the Venture Warner Bros. Edition into a dedicated cargo hauler. My Venture had a trailering package to boot, which translated to a maximum capacity of 3,500 pounds.

The Bugs Bunny-clad minivan contains other entertainment features besides the VCR, of course. The radio, compact discs and audio cassettes can be played while a video is in progress. That’s one of the charms of the WB Edition — the ability to mix and match entertainment forms.

In other words, mom and dad can catch up on the broadcast news while the kids are w atching the VHS of “Toy Story” for the 45th time.

With family and safety taking high priority in General Motors’ marketing of the 2001 Chevy Venture Warner Bros. Edition, it was virtually ordained that an OnStar communications system would come as standard equipment. Once again, it’s a great feature for a long trip — a little extra measure of security.

I guessed that the WB Edition’s emphasis on electronic gadgetry would leave little room for other necessities — engine power, for example.

I was wrong.

The 3.4-liter V-6 (rated at 185 horsepower) mated to a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive is decidedly robust. It briskly maneuvered through traffic like the Roadrunner zipping around Wile E. Coyote when asked. (Sorry, you drive this thing any amount of time and you start talking like a cartoon.)

Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are efficient, with very little loading on the front end during a hard stop.

The usual lineup of electrical outlets and cupholders are there, and the dual sliding passenger doors (power driven, with a remote or a cockpit switch, on the passenger side) make life easier — whether you’re loading/unloading cargo or people.

Other notable standard features on the tested model included front side-impact air bags, battery rundown protection, heated outside rearview mirrors with power, a rear parking assist/warning system, a roof-mounted luggage carrier and rear climate controls. All this made the $32,110 bottom line easier to absorb.

Gripes are comparatively minor. The special-edition Venture could use a little less plastic on the interior, and the suspension had a tendency to rock and sway on sharp turns and even on gradual turns taken at high speed.

One other complaint I have is with the marketing of the Warner Bros. Edition. It’s heavily pitched to “soccer moms” and as an entertainer of young children (every image on the LCD screens in Chevy ads shows a cartoon character).

This can be a vehicle for the guys too, you know. Put a “Greatest Sports Moments” tape in the VCR, and you probably won’t hear a word from your buddies as you drive to a sporting event in Oakland or San Francisco.

And that silence sure beats listening to yet another rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Latest news

Toyota Joins List of Automakers No Longer Eligible for Full EV Tax Credit
How Do Car Seats Fit in a 2022 Ford Escape PHEV?
Exploding Plastic Inevitable? Hyundai Recalls 72,500 Venues for Seat Belt Pretensioners