The Venture was introduced to the market in 1996 for the 1997 model year as a replacement for the radically styled Lumina APV. In the United States, it was also sold as the Oldsmobile Silhouette and the Pontiac Trans Sport, which was later renamed as the Pontiac Montana for 1999. The Venture and its siblings were powered by GM's 3.4 L LA1 V6, rated at 180hp (134kW). After 1999, the engine was slightly redesigned to produce an extra 5hp (4kW), for a total of 185hp (138kW). All Ventures used a four-speed automatic transmission. A Warner Brothers edition, introduced in 2000, included leather seats, Warner Brothers badging with Bugs Bunny leaning against the Warner Brothers logo, and a DVD entertainment system, a novelty at the time.
The exterior was refreshed in 2001, and all-wheel drive was introduced in 2002. Reviews and sales were generally lukewarm, especially about the relatively narrow cabin due to being designed for European roads. The vans came in both short and long wheelbases, and all-wheel drive versions like the Chrysler minivans. The third row bench seat was designed to fold flat, but forming a higher floor unlike the Honda and Mazda minivans that folded into a well behind the third row.
The Venture was replaced after 2005 by the Chevrolet Uplander, which was essentially a facelift with one long wheelbase configuration, and a longer nose which served chiefly to improve crush distance and styling more like an SUV. Only the long-wheelbase Venture was sold for 2005.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 1997 Chevy Venture a rating of four stars out of five in a head-on collision. Tests on subsequent model years yielded results of four stars in most categories, and three or five stars in others. The NHTSA does not conduct offset frontal crash tests.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the Pontiac Trans Sport (a twin of the Venture) in 1997, and it got a "Poor" rating in the offset frontal crash test. This result affected the Venture's and Silhouette's safety reputations, and this slowed down sales. Its European twin, the Opel Sintra, did badly in the EuroNCAP's crash tests as well, with only two stars (out of five).