While Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have all given us superb performance wagons (yes, even in the U.S.!), the German manufacturer with “Wagen” in its name has managed to skirt a really the opportunity to engage 5-door fanatics of ‘Freedom’.
But wait, you say, what about the Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed?
Yeah sure. It was a really cool concept, and with the sport package BBS wheels it even looked really neat. But it wasn’t really a performance wagon. The follow-up 3.6 4Motion Variant actually did offer a bit more sport, but only came in automatic form. The more serious R36 never came here.
However, a few years ago Volkswagen launched an even MORE potent option – the Golf SportWagon R. With a 300 horsepower version of the 2.0 TSFI linked to the 6-speed manual or DSG dual-clutch box and utilizing the same Haldex all-wheel drive as the regular Golf R, the result was no surprise – a slightly bigger Golf R equaled a small performance wagon with few peers. 0-60 could be topped in 4.5 seconds and the quarter was gone in 13.3 seconds with the DSG, it topped out at 155 mph and yet would return 30 mpg on the highway. Eat your cake and have it too, indeed!
Of course, it hasn’t come here. But since it’s a VW and VW enthusiasts are swap-happy….
Last week’s “Right Hooker” week passed a bit too quickly to allow me to fully explore all of the unique options available to European customers. For example, one car I really hoped to feature was to locate an original Golf Syncro. Starting in 1986, Volkswagen partnered with Steyr-Damiler-Puch and made a unique alternative to corporate partner Audi’s quattro drivetrain utilizing a viscous center differential. Puch was also responsible for design and manufacturing of the T3 Vanagon Syncro, which used a different viscous coupling system because of the rear-drive platform and nature of the Vanagon. In addition to the transmission of power forwards, the T3 also offered a rear differential lock while both center and front were viscous.
But in 1986, there was a third option. Because the Volkswagen Quantum (née Passat) shared nearly all of its internal architecture with the B2 Audis, fitment of the quattro setup from the Quattro and 4000S/CS quattro was possible – so Volkswagen did it. As there was no Audi B2 Avant, Volkswagen offered the new Quantum quattro – also badged Syncro – in Wagon form, and only in wagon form. This meant that there was no competition crossover between the 4000 quattro and Quantum Syncro in the U.S. market. The Quantum also continued to run smaller 4x100mm hubs versus the Audi, which allowed it to utilize the same “snowflake” Avus wheels borrowed from the GTI. Pricing was on par with period 4000 quattros, though – base price was $15,645, but equip the Quantum similarly to the standard 4000 with power windows, mirrors, locks and sunroof and you’d quickly crest $17,000 – about $4,000 more dear than a standard GL5. Unlike the 4000, Quantum Syncro Wagons came standard only with power steering, brakes, cruise control and air conditioning. You had to opt-in the power package to get the other items.…
There was nothing particularly revolutionary about the B3 Passat G60 Syncro. The prior Quantum (née Passat) had borrowed Audi’s full quattro setup in the Syncro model. The G60 supercharged engine had debuted in the Golf in Europe as early as 1988, but it wouldn’t be until late 1989 and the new Corrado model’s introduction that the G-Lader would become better known on these shores. But the G60 Syncro Passat was the first time that all three were combined, and it took the more exotic drivetrain setup from the Rallye and brought it to a mainstream market.
The PG G-Lader devoted to the Rallye, G60 and Passat Syncro wasn’t the most powerful unit VW of the time period at 158 horsepower and 166 lb.ft of torque (the 3G 16V version in the Golf Limited had 50 horsepower more), but the combination of these items seemed awesome at the time to U.S. fans because, of course, in the midst of VAG’s early 90s sales slump they opted not to bring the package here. Like the Corrado, based on Mk.2 underpinnings the Passat’s engine configuration had moved from longitudinal in the B2 to transverse in the third gen, meaning that Audi’s quattro system remained unique to that brand. The Golf’s transverse engine placement precluded use of the Audi longitudinal design, which used output shafts and mechanical differentials. Instead, Volkswagen turned to Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch for development.
Noted for development of four-wheel-drive systems and probably most recognizable for the Pinzgauer military vehicle, Steyr’s solution to the transverse problem was to utilize a viscous coupling similar to the AMC Eagle. However, while the Eagle’s system was all-wheel drive, all the time, Volkswagen’s system would only engage when the front wheels slipped.
Like the Audi 90 quattro it competed against, the Syncro Passat wasn’t particularly quick but was pretty expensive in period, and neither sold very well in the grand scheme.…
While legend has it that Audi popularized all-wheel drive with the Quattro, it would not have been the case were it not for the 1970s Volkswagen Iltis – a military vehicle that utilized a normal Audi 100’s underpinnings to create an all-wheel drive vehicle with lockable differentials which easily outpaced Audi’s normal production line cars in inclement conditions. It was this story which sprung the idea for the Quattro to be created, but the Iltis itself had inspiration drawn heavily from another car – the DKW Munga. As Auto Union struggled to re-establish itself post-War under first the leadership of Mercedes-Benz and later Volkswagen, the company’s diminutive DKW brand led the way with economical, smart designs. One of those designs was the paradoxically-named 3=6 model, which had a .9 liter 2-stroke inline-3. Produced in Düsseldorf, DKW helped to keep the Auto Union’s name alive in the early 1950s. Part of that rebuilding included new Auto Union facilities in Ingolstadt, and one of the first production vehicles to make it out of there was the Manga. German for Mehrzweck UNiversal Geländewagen mit Allradantrie (basically, go anywhere all-wheel drive vehicle), the Manga utilized F91 (3=6) underpinnings mated with new all-wheel drive capability. Up front, the four rings of the Auto Union reappeared proudly on the roughly 47,000 models produced between 1956 and 1968 – a full decade prior to Iltis production:
Though it was never available in the U.S. until this coming model year, all-wheel drive in a standard Golf is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around since 1986.
If you follow me around the internet, and I don’t expect you to, you might have caught my article for The Truth About Cars about all-wheel drive Golfs which predated the R32. Though the idea sounds simple enough since parent company Audi had an all-wheel drive system that was ever so popular, mounting that longitudinal transmission and drivetrain into the transverse engine Golf was impossible. Instead, Volkswagen contracted Steyr-Daimler-Puch to design a viscous coupling setup for the Golf with a new independent suspended rear. Like the contemporary Quantum and Vanagon setups, it was dubbed “Syncro”, though outside of all-wheels being driven the three systems shared almost nothing.
The result was a few fan-favorite models. Performance types love the Quattro-inspired Golf Rallye, Golf G60 Syncro and Golf Limited models. But undoubtedly the most recognizable Golf to wear the Syncro badge was the jacked-up Golf Country. Utilizing an already heavily modified Golf Syncro, Daimler-Steyr-Puch installed some 438 unique pieces to create the light offroading Golf way before the Outback was conquered by Subaru:
Well, here it is – my first car. Okay, mine was a 1986, but it too was Alpine White with Brazil Brown velour. For all intents and purposes, the opening photo for this advertisement could be the same as the one I bought back in 1995. It was a pretty popular color combination on the Type 85 quattro. Coming from a family with European cars but never an Audi, the technology was intriguing. And, being 18 when I bought it, I did all sorts of stupid stuff with that technology. Locking the diffs on the highway? Yup, I did that a few times, because light up indicators on the switchable differential board were the talk of my friends. I also redlined the car pretty much every chance I got. On my first drive, with the car not even registered, I crested 100 mph. Fall soon turned to winter, and I turned into Hannu Mikkola, sideways as every – and I mean every – opportunity. It was a particularly snowy winter in New England from 1995-6, and my work lot was covered in a solid layer of slushy ice. Every morning I’d arrive, get onto the ice, cut the wheel hard and pirouette in a 270 degree slide into my parking spot. I drove through one memorable blizzard from Westerly to Hartford and back in the high speed lane the entire way, only dipping below 65 when someone lost control in front of me. One time I challenged my lifted Jeep-owning friend to see who could make it through 2 feet of snow. By this time, my CSQ was lowered on Eibach springs, but even though the snow was up to the headlights, it didn’t stop. The Jeep? It got stuck. I’d like to think that all of this was because this was I was a driving God, but the reality was that the survival of my 4000CS quattro – and, more importantly, me – came down to how robustly that B2 was built.…
A weathered 325ix drove by yesterday missing a rear trim piece, but the unique bodykit always helps these stick out from the majority of E30s. All-wheel drive is becoming more common and readily available in most BMW models these days, but in 1991 it was a bit of a rarity and I doubt many people realize what those wider E30s really are. Their rarity makes it hard to find good ones, but this one comes with less than 100k miles and looking great. I like the four-door look, and the owner has really made this an all-year performer with Nokian tires and a clean Yakima rack. X-drive may have derived its name from these early all-wheel drives, but the simple “ix” is representative of a time when capability wasn’t confused with overcomplication.
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 97,000 mi
Price: Reserve auction, $9,995 Buy-It-Now
Click for more details: 1991 BMW 325ix on eBay
Originally sold new a Gephardt BMW-Boulder, CO. One owner until last year. Original paint, Automatic (rebuilt at Gephardt) 97,XXX miles. All maintanence since new at Gephardt and Murray BMW. Timimg belt done. Upgrades since I purchased: New leather wrapped/heated recaro sports seats (original seats are included), Just refinshed the basketweave wheels, Nokian all season tires, new floor/trunk mats, top of the line Alpine sound system, Yakima rail system with flush Whisbar rack, clear bra. This is a true time capsule..has to be one of the nicest iX’s in the states..
Bidding is hot but the buy-it-now is pretty high, even for a very clean ix. Clearly very well cared for inside and out, it will be interesting to see just how far this rides the E30 pricewave. It’d be nice if the reserve could break a few grand before the BIN, but there’s no questioning that this is a prime example of the ix.…
A friend approached me with a 325ix he was interested in recently. All-wheel drive in the epic E30 chassis has always intrigued me, making a great all-season performer. The one my friend was looking at left plenty to be desired in terms of care and was an automatic; today’s ix was produced in the E30s final year and is looking beautiful and well cared for after its 22 years with the original owner. Inside and out it shows that the 116k miles it’s covered were careful and maintenance was performed with zeal and punctuality. Cleaner and more original than most E30s we see, let alone ix models, it could command a bit of a premium over most E30 325s on the market.
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 116,700 mi
Price: Auction, reserve met
For sale is a 1991 BMW 325ix. This vehicle is brilliant red over black leather. This is a one owner vehicle that was ordered by the customer and sold new by the BMW Store here in Cincinnati. The vehicle has been maintained by the dealer or a local independent BMW shop its entire life.
The engine starts immediately and idles smoothly. The car pulls strong through all the gears. Gear shifts are very crisp and positive, no slop or play is evident in the gear selector. The suspension is tight with no rattles, knocks, or creaks. The car tracks straight down the road and stops well with no pulling left or right.
The condition of the car is truly incredible for its age and originality. The vehicle has never had any accidents or paint work. The body panels are rust free.
Beginning in the early 1980s, all wheel drive started trickling its way into a number of non off-road vehicles. Audi began to perfect their Quattro system, Mercedes-Benz introduced 4matic, and BMW tested the waters with their ix models. While the E34 5 series was offered with all wheel drive in certain markets, the US received the ix prefix in the form of the two or four door E30 325i.
The ix never took off sales wise in the US and they are quite a rare sight on the roads these days. I did see a few during the years I spent in Boston, which is where I assume a good number of these cars wound up. Amazingly, here’s one of the lowest mileage examples I’ve seen and it’s a relatively short drive from where I live.
For sale is my 1989 BMW 325ix with 62,231 original miles (adult owned) that has been driven only 1000 miles in last 10 years.zinnoberrot (red) exterior with light gray interior. This is one of the nicest surviving 325ix you’ll find anywhere! if you are looking to buy an untouched e30 all wheel drive you are not going to find another one like this.
2.5 liter SOHC inline 6 cylinder. Maintenance is current, valves just adjusted. Runs great and strong without any issues.the car runs ,drives and look like a car with 60k miles.
The automatic transmission shifts perfectly and is very smooth.
The body is in perfect condition with no scratches.the paint is all original and shines just like a new car.This car has never been in any kind of accident and has the vin tag on all of the body panels and has always been garaged and cared for .There are no rust in this vehicle and the car looks perfect.I’d rate the original paint on this car 9.5 out of 10.
You don’t come across these very often, but every now and then they crop up. The all wheel drive 325iX was produced from 1988 through 1991 and was available initially as a two door model and available with four doors after 1989. The iX model had a viscous coupling to split torque to the front and rear wheels with a rear differential to provide limited slip to the rear wheels. Those who are astute with their BMWs can spot an iX instantly, as this model has flared wheel arches and, after 1989, 15″ BBS wheels. Amazingly, the iX only suffers about 1 mpg less in fuel consumption than the more popular iS model.
Description from the seller:
How is the interior?: Look at the pictures! The interior is indistinguishable from when it was new. That is a bold statement, but I will stand by it. The back seats have never been used. The front seats (super nice sport seats) have been covered for years with the sheepskin covers you see in the trunk picture. I have known this car for a very very long time and I have never actually seen the front seats until today, when I removed the sheepskins for the pictures. The seats literally look brand new! No cracking, no wear marks on side bolsters, and the leather is as soft and supple as the were in 1988. The dash is perfect…not a single crack or imperfection anywhere. The headliner is perfect–no sagging and no stains anywhere. The carpets are perfect–always protected by rubber mats, which are also in the trunk. Never ever smoked in. Still smells new–I swear. Look at the pictures. This is the nicest E30 interior you will ever see. Even the AC/Heat knobs look brand new.