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:
As the 25-year importation rule ticks on, unleashing cool new (to us) cars each year, somehow the Golf Country never really crossed my mind as one to wait for. Now that this New Jersey outfit is bringing them in with some regularity, the reality has me fully enticed. El Niño has blessed the PNW with some snow and trips to the mountains are starting to be planned. Taking the M5 up there sounds fun (especially now that he wears mudflaps) but is clearly a bad idea. So I could borrow the household Forester XT to slide through all conditions, but what if I had a Mk2 VW that was just as capable? If these low-mileage Golf Countrys keep coming up on eBay, I might have to clear out yet another parking spot in the driveway for some AWD lifted hatchback fun.
The Mk2 generation of the Volkswagen Golf holds some of my favorite Euro-only forbidden fruit. The proto-R Rallye Golf is a sexy little beast with flared fenders, all wheel drive, and a supercharged G60 engine. They sold 5000 of them, a remarkable number considering they were twice the price of a GTI. Even rarer than the Rallye is the Golf Country, an outlier whose influence could perhaps be seen in the Audi Allroads but really has no modern analogue. A revised suspension gave it 8.25″ of ground clearance with Syncro making sure traction was never a problem. Bullbars and skidplates give protection against rocks and limbs, including extra protection for the Syncro system. This all combines for a hatchback that’s even a little more rally-ready than the Rallye. The one unfortunate area of inferiority is under the hood, as the Country only came with the standard, naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter with 98hp.
This example is a recent beneficiary of the 25-year importation rule, though we don’t know exactly where it comes from. With just 25k miles, it’s about as nice as you’re going to find anywhere in the world. The only flaw I see is some potential scuffing/repair under the bumper on the right rear; otherwise the exterior and interior look outstanding. Many, including this author, think the 25-year importation rule is draconian and ridiculous, but the upside is that forbidden fruit like this excellent Golf Country becomes that much sweeter when finally available to us. With a very reasonable starting bid and a no-reserve auction, this is an incredible chance at some new-to-the-US rare.
I was in Stuttgart in 1998 when what I thought was someone’s version of a good joke rolled by me. It was a dark green Mk.2 Golf; not particularly abnormal since they were still mostly less than a decade old and Germans notoriously care for their cars better than most other nations. However, it was about a half-foot taller than it should have been, equipped with some cool looking Speedline wheels, brush guards and a spare tire mounted to the rear. Germans have an odd sense of humor, so it seemed to fit that this was one mullet short of a Hasselhoff Fan Club. I had no idea that I was looking at a factory model; remember, this was in the infancy of the internet and as an American, knowledge of every single European model of the Mk.2 was hard to come by. But the “Country” graphic scrolled down the side gave me a clue, and after some research I found out that this was more than just a one-off. Underneath the standard looking exterior was a Viscous Coupling all-wheel drive setup shared with the Rallye Golf and Golf Limited, amongst others. The engine was more pedestrian with a standard 1.8 8V, but in total an amazing 438 non-standard parts went into the creation of the Golf Country. Since new, they’ve always commanded a premium and have been the object of lust for American Volkswagen fans who like to do things just a bit different:
Any good enthusiast of foreign cars should have a list of which unicorns they want for each new year of eligible 25-year old import status. This Golf Country reminds me that 2017 will be a big year for me. Just look at it. The first time I saw and found out about the Golf Country I bled from my ears because my brain was spinning so hard. What… The… F? Lifted 4WD Mk2 Golf seemed like the coolest oddball that I’d never heard of. The one comes adorned with awesome Country decals with a ragtop sunroof and has covered just 113k miles. I’m setting an alarm to remind me to set my eBay followed searched to Golf Countrys in three years.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that we were excited to run over to German sites to check out all the cool all-wheel drive cars you couldn’t get here, because some of the most fun we have is looking at those cars we didn’t get. Falling squarely into the “Coolest Volkswagen Ever” top 5 has to be one of the many Volkswagen Golf models that failed to come to the U.S. Well before the SUV and Crossover craze grasped American’s taste, Germans were trying their hardest to exercise their sense of humor when they created one of the niche-iest Golfs – the Golf Country. As I said in the Golf Variant Syncro post, I was pretty floored in my visit to Germany in the late 1990s when I saw these jacked up Golfs rolling around Freiburg. Featuring big brush guards, an external spare tire for additional rear ground clearance (of which there was a lot!), some great looking Speedline wheels and the iconic Mk.2 Volkswagen hatchback body, the Golf Country was an instant legend among VW fans. Coveted even in their home country, many are still in great shape and come up for sale today on German Ebay, such as today’s Tornado Red example:
Model: Golf Country
Engine: 1.8 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 138,000 km (85,749 mi)
Price: €6,900 ($9,516.48 today)
A vehicle which can not be compared with the others, as the paint is not faded and in very good condition. Driver’s seat is not torn and only shows light daily use. / / * EXCHANGE, TRADE-IN YOUR VEHICLE OR MORTGAGE LENDING, AND FINANCING POSSIBLE! * Changes, mistakes and prior sale reserved.All information without guarantee
You can find more offers on our website: www.derfaller.de
More details on the car can be found here
the faller + co.
Following on to the success of the Mk1, the MkII Volkswagen Golf saw an ever expanding range of body styles and engine options to carry this popular model through to the 1990s. One variant to emerge from the MkII range, which incidentally was never sold in the United States, was the Golf Country. Designed as a light off-roader, it had a raised suspension, Syncro four-wheel drive and other off-road accoutrements such as a skid plate and brush bars. Finishing off the appearance was an externally mounted spare tire. All Golf Countrys were equipped with the stalwart 1.8 liter 8 valve four cylinder, producing 114 horsepower. In total, fewer than 8,000 Countrys were manufactured, with a handful having found their way across the pond. Here’s one of those examples for sale in California.
Selling my ’90 Golf Syncro Country. This was my car last time I was in Germany and I legally brought it back with me last year. Located in Sacramento, CA and currently registered in Maine because Cali just wants too much money! Nice driver, clean car, everything works. 135k miles. 5 speed transmission. Sunroof. All original except the wheels. Brand new mud & snow tires with less than 1,000 miles. Runs well, but could use a complete service including timing belt. It looks old and I do not have any maintenance history. There’s a muffler rattle at idle. Interior is in excellent condition. Headliner is brand new. Body is very solid. No rust execept a small spot on the windshield and a spot on the rear deck where someone had a sticker that went bad. Some scratches on the hood and a light scrape on the passenger-side, rear door. Please see the pics. Asking $12,500.
I’m a big fan of these Golf Countrys.…