So, yes, it still feels fast. Even more so because of the Lancia’s comically binary power delivery: floor the throttle at low revs and you can count the lag out loud. But do so beyond 3750rpm and the turbo kicks in more quickly with a heady, bracing spurt. High revs and a spooling turbo are to this engine what tinned greens are to Popeye.
The low-inertia, twin-scroll turbocharged engine in the Focus – with its extra Coke can of capacity – is far more responsive across the board. There’s some low-rev lag, but that soon dissipates, the engine packing a swift and mighty punch from the mid-range upwards. The sturdy, short-throw gearshift is obedient even when slammed, contrasting with the Integrale’s more languid action via a long gearstick that’s topped with a clod of rubber. Still, it is accurate and feels sweet when not manhandled.
The Lancia’s engine note is more authentic-sounding than the Ford’s, with a robust growl that might be more enjoyable were it not for the wall of sound emanating from other parts of the car. Driveline fizz, scuttle shake, squeaking leather, wind noise and a chassis that resonates when any wheel meets a sharp edge are loud enough, but then there’s the exhaust, whose downsized aftermarket silencer is bassy in traffic and vents a howling gale when the turbo’s toiling.
All that racket is what dates the Lancia more than anything else. You can enjoy the Ford’s warble, roar and contrived pop and bang more readily but, in truth, neither engine is an aural charmer.
On track, the Focus RS flexes its technical muscle to scythe rings around the Integrale. Its combination of incisiveness, poise and traction mainlines that 345bhp to the ground with remarkable ease and efficiency, especially with the dampers in ultrafirm Sport mode. Turn in late and hard and rather than submitting to understeer, it just digs in and swallows the apex whole. In Drift and Track modes, you can have a benign kick of the tail upon exit, too.
The Integrale feels sloppy in comparison, its main on-track flaws being an over-abundance of suspension travel and 25% plumper tyres yielding copious body roll and a greater appetite for understeer. It can’t hold a candle to the Focus here.