Those of you who have traveled abroad, especially to Europe, will likely be familiar with the car you see before you. If not, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. If you’re part of the latter group, prepare to meet the Lancia Delta Integrale.
If you’ve been to the Old Country anywhere between yesterday and 1979, you may have seen this five-door hot hatch careening through the roundabouts of Napoli, Nice or Notting Hill Gate. That’s when the car made its debut both in Europe as the Delta and in Sweden as the Saab 600.
The model you see here is an HF Integrale Evoluzione, a highly enhanced version of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s original design. Many of the changes came about as a result of Lancia entering the Delta into Groups A and B in the World Rally Championship. Once pretty much everyone died in Group A, Lancia rose to the top of Group B in the mid to late ’90s, seriously emasculating the Mazda 323 and Ford Sierra XR 4x4 as well as the rear-wheel-drive Ford Sierra Cosworths and Bimmers. Anyone who’s played SEGA Rally may have experienced the Lancia’s other main rival firsthand. In 1992 Toyota came along with an AWD Celica that gave the Lancia’s slightly dated design a run for its money until the next year when the Integrale finally quit the game—but not before Lancias won 46 WRC championship rounds and six manufacturer’s titles. Of which the latter record still stands today.
One reason the Integrale dropped out was because of the encroaching competition from the Subaru WRX and the Mitsubishi Lancer that brought more modern technology to the game, as well as slightly less nose-heavy configurations. The transversely mounted motor in the Integrale contributed to that nose-heaviness, and as you can see it’s pretty crowded in the engine bay with a Garrett turbo and a front transmission to accommodate.
Having a thick snout, however, was the only real mechanical defect. Other than that the Lancia was, is and will remain one of the most badass cars ever to roll rubber across the road. In many cases all four stripes’ worth.
Why’s it so badass? Besides the rally heritage there’s what lies in that crowded engine bay and the method in which it propels the Lancia’s utilitarian yet sinuous shape through narrow European streets. No matter how mechanically adept a car is, you have to admit the body is always important. I mean, I love driving a Caterham, but it’s a bug-eyed, redheaded stepchild compared to the Delta, isn’t it?
The EVO you see here utilizes a 16-valve turbocharged 2.0-liter engine putting out 207 hp. Zero-to-60 times were sub-6-seconds and the top speed was around 140 mph. You can always spot a 16V because of the accompanying hood bulge. Other bulges in the body include those fine-looking flares. The EVO employed a wider track than previous Deltas so wider wheel arches became necessary. Other functional body changes made to the EVO include the adjustable rear spoiler above the tailgate, lateral slats in the hood and new grilles in the front bumper to improve cooling. And compare the rims on this EVO to that of the racecars… notice any similarities? Yes, lots. The Lancia you’re looking at is the beefiest, studliest Delta there is. They stopped making them this year. Of course, there is a newer version but it looks—how can I put this delicately—like crap.
The AWD system is what makes this Delta really special, though. The torque-sensing differential system transfers power between the rear wheels—to paraphrase a catchphrase, from the one that slips to the one that grips. A Ferguson viscous coupling transfers power from front to rear. While many AWDs have a 50/50 torque split that induces understeer, the Delta EVO has a 47/53 split. This allows it to incorporate a mild oversteer characteristic while cornering, allowing it to be “pitched” into corners.
I would know, having been addicted to SEGA Rally for many, many years.