What you see here is not some product of backwoods engineering. This is a Volkswagen Golf Country, a factory original (well, save for the Borbet wheels) offering from one of the world’s biggest brands. Yes, in the early 1990s, Volkswagen would sell you a jacked-up, all-wheel-drive Golf, straight from the factory… though not if you lived in the United States. Now, thanks to the 25-year rule, we’re starting to see more of them offered for sale in the United States.
In some ways, you can think of the Golf Country as a proto-crossover, a vehicle offering the compact size of a hatchback car with the off-road chops of an SUV. It also looks like the automotive equivalent of a ’90s Patagonia Fleece, with its dark green paint, plaid seats and truly radical side-graphics. It came with a sizeable 8.3 inches of ground clearance, as well as Volkswagen’s “Synchro” all-wheel-drive system that normally operates in front-wheel-drive mode but sends as much as half the power to the rear wheels when it encounters slip. Other specs include a 1.8-liter inline-four engine and a five-speed manual transmission. Oh and that brush guard and those extra lights? Yeah, those are stock, too.
That sounds like all you need for a hell of a good time off-road, and if you’re prone to saying “You should see the look on your face,” this is assuredly the kind of car that will leave passersby looking very confused. These cars, despite being relatively rare (just over 7,000 were ever made), aren’t particularly expensive, either; many of these that do make it to the U.S. come in somewhere close to $15,000.