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1990 VW Golf Country

You can find a good introductory article about the Golf Country in wikipedia. There were a flood of vehicles, which were described as the forerunners to today's SUVs. The Golf Country didn't actually belong to them. Since any number of vehicles that were there before it was, e.g., the Jeep Wagoneer, offered not only all-wheel drive but at the same time, much more space inside. This was not the case with the Golf Country. In fact the luggage space had been reduced by about one third, even though the spare wheel was mounted outside. The only comparable feature, that was shared with some of today's SUVs, were the rather poor off-road qualities.

The Golf Country was also not the first all-wheel drive among the modern-day VWs, it was not even the first with a transverse engine. It was based on the Synchro, which, quite different from the Quattro drive-trains, transferred it's torque to the rear via a visco-clutch. That sounds easier than it is, because only when built in, did this have the fatal effect of disturbing the ABS.

This was by the way, a sort of preparatory measure, because the first Golf Synchro didn't have ABS at all yet. So, there was a freewheel and even that wasn't enough. After all, if such a vehicle was to drive into a snow-drift forwards, it couldn't reverse out again using together only two driven wheels. Thus, with the reverse gear, a selectable electro-pneumatic lockout was also necessary.

Have a look under the car and from the rear. You can see some parts of the semi-trailing arm rear axle, which was taken over from the Passat Synchro. The fuel tank, which you can't see from here, still held 55 litres, although it had to relinquish its normal position. Of course, through the visco-clutch, this all-wheel drive had an inter-axle differential lock. Only the transverse locking front and rear were missing. If only one wheel landed e.g., on gravel, the progress was not endangered, with two wheels on different axles and on loose ground, well, then the car may have got stuck.

The newly added frame did help the stability of the Golf II, which was known for being somewhat unstable, although it didn't do much for the ground clearance. Since almost as much as the body was raised, the complete drive-train had to be lowered, which led to a somewhat larger emptiness in the engine compartment. Thus 18 centimetres higher only gave about 6 centimetres more of ground clearance, which brings us back to a parallel with SUVs: One sits higher up.

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