For most people, four-wheel drive equates to one of two things: off-roading or high performance. Volkswagen, though, is not most people.
With this new Golf 4Motion, the emphasis is on safety: its permanent four-wheel-drive system brings extra traction, primarily for greater security in tricky conditions, but also for towing.
At its heart is a revised version of the previous 4Motion’s Haldex transmission. This automatically splits the power between the front and rear axles, with 90 per cent going to the front in normal driving. When conditions change, the system directs power to the wheels with most grip and, in extreme circumstances, 100 per cent can go to the rear.
It’s very effective, as we found on some damp roads snaking their way up the mountains in Austria. Exiting tight hairpins there was no scrabbling for grip and, on a snow-covered demonstration area, the system combined extremely well with the Golf’s traction and stability systems to keep the car safely under control.
Day-to-day, however, there’s little to tell the 4Motion apart from the front-wheel-drive models – it’s safe and very secure. But keen drivers will feel short-changed. There’s no great agility through bends and little feel through the steering. Tight, twisting roads make it feel stodgy and nose-heavy, although things are better on faster, sweeping roads where its slower reactions are less of a problem.