Meet the Rare Volkswagen Golf 4x4 You Didn’t Know Existed
Galileo was called a heretic for claiming the earth revolved around the sun. Austrian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis was ridiculed for his advocation of hand washing in hospitals. And meteorologist Alfred Wegener certainly found little traction for his theory of continental drift. What do they all have in common? They were all ahead of their time, forward-thinkers who challenged the status quo. And in many ways, this odd vehicle shares that mentality. Meet the 1990 Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro. First produced in ‘90, these were all-wheel drive crossovers before “crossovers” were even a thing, and though they were never officially sold on US shores, that hasn’t stopped this Country Syncro from arriving in the USA. RELATED: It's Official, the 400-HP Volkswagen Golf R400 is Dead
Curious as to how this oddity came to be? The Country’s story begins in 1989 at the Geneva Motor Show. Volkswagen had been building all-wheel drive Golf variants since the mid-1980s, but for 1989 VW swung for the fences and released this teeny off-roader as a concept car. Unsurprisingly the press and public loved the plucky little Golf 4x4, and for 1990 it was pressed into production.
Like many Volkswagen Golfs, initial assembly began at VW’s Wolfsburg production line, however that’s where things take a turn. The Golf Countrys were then sent to Graz, Austria to be outfitted with their ‘Syncro’ all-wheel-drive gear, courtesy of Steyr-Daimler-Puch.
All Volkswagen Golf Country Syncros came exclusively with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a five-speed manual, and readied a handful of unique exterior mods. These included tubular bumpers front and rear, a swing-out tire carrier, skid plates, big fender flares, and a high-riding suspension.
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Under typical conditions, the Countrys would putter around in front-wheel drive, but when wheel slip was detected, up to 50 percent of engine power could be routed to the rear axle via the Syncro viscous coupling all-wheel drive system. This made them impressively capable, though not fast (they tipped the scales at over 3,600 pounds).
Just over 7,700 Volkswagen Golf Country Syncros were produced in total, with the last one rolling off the line at the end of 1991. This rather squeaky clean Syncro is said to be a 1990 model with only 19,258 miles on the clock.
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