VW Golf Country Syncro: Before Crossovers Were Cool
They say there’s a personality for every car on the market. If that’s true, we’d like to meet the person that matches up with this – the Golf Country Syncro, Volkswagen’s grin-worthy 4x4 hatchback from the early ‘90s. Its story begins at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show, where it debuted as a concept in front of thousands of journalists and visitors. Unsurprisingly, people liked it and production began the very next year in 1990. Volkswagen completed initial assembly of the Golf at its Wolfsburg facility in Germany, before sending the hatchbacks to Graz, Austria to be kitted-out by Steyr-Daimler-Puch, most famous for its off-road military vehicles.
All Golf Country Syncros came equipped with Volkswagen’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual transmission, but Steyr contributed the off-road performance. Steyr dropped in its Syncro all-wheel-drive system, which supplies power to both the front and rear wheels through the use of a viscous coupling. Under normal driving conditions, 95 percent of power is sent to the front wheels, however if wheel slip is detected, power could be sent to the rear differential– with a nearly even distribution.
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This made the pint-sized Golf a capable light off-roader. The Golf Country featured a reinforced tubular front bumper and rear swing-out tire-carrier, underbody skidplate, lifted ride height, and off-road suspension. An up-market version even came with chrome bumpers and running boards, but sold at a huge 30 percent premium.
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However, the Country wasn’t what you’d call quick. Weighing in at 3615 pounds, it accelerated from zero to 60mph in 12.3 seconds.
Production ended in 1991 after just 7,735 vehicles rolled off the shop floor, and its limited run has made it rather collectible on the secondhand market. We’ve seen prices range from $6,500 all the way up to $12,000. Admittedly, that’s a substantial chunk of change, but it’s a steal compared to its older brother – the VW Syncro Vanagon.
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