The Lancia Delta Integrale Taught Me to Love Turbo Lag

Lessons on the tao of spool from a rally racing legend.

Jonathan Harper/TheDrive.com

Steeped in heritage, hallowed in the rally racing record books. Outside, this four-door box-fender'd brick does a decent MK1 Volkswagen GTI impression. But this thing just stinks of special. It's so much better.

Jonathan Harper/TheDrive.com

Lancia first introduced the Delta in 1979, an upmarket, front-wheel-drive family sedan with some Italian flair. This one? This is a later car, a 1989 16v HF Integrale, wrapped in perfect "look-at-me" livery. Add in that blister of a lightpod that’ll turn nighttime into daytime, it plays the rally part well. But behind the wheel, it’s genuine.

Jonathan Harper/TheDrive.com

The driving experience is unmistakably Eighties. That is to say: turbo lag. Lots of it. But the boost builds in a most endearing way. Cracking full-throttle, the motor is docile… and docile… and then an inkling of spool... then SUCKSQEEZEBANGBLOW, like a nail gun to the temple. And then you’re riding into the next upshift.

Jonathan Harper/TheDrive.com

This HF is a reminder that modern turbo cars take the fun out of the driving experience. Efficiency is fine and all, but the boost is blended, disguised into the rev range. Half the draw of a forced-induction motor is actually feeling the difference between turbo and non-turbo engine power. Be what you are.

Jonathan Harper/TheDrive.com

This car begged for two things I couldn't give it: a rally stage and a full cage. I just wanted to jump it and slide it and shoot a whole mess of dirt out from under all four wheels. That’s what this car’s meant to be doing. Genuinely.

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1989 Lancia Delta HF Integrale 16v
(Classic Car Club Manhattan Fleet)
POWERTRAIN
: 2.0 liter turbocharged I-4, 200 hp, 220 lb-ft torque; five-speed manual; AWD
WEIGHT: 2,800 lbs
0-60 MPH: 6.0 sec.
TOP SPEED: 134 mph