Automotive

Review: Polaris Slingshot aims at the gap between car and motorcycle

It's easy to see from this angle why the Slingshot brings the Batmobile to mind
It's easy to see from this angle why the Slingshot brings the Batmobile to mind
View 16 Images
The Slingshot features dual sets of LED lights that come on automatically when you start the vehicle
1/16
The Slingshot features dual sets of LED lights that come on automatically when you start the vehicle
A required motorcycle helmet and license varies by state
2/16
A required motorcycle helmet and license varies by state
The Slingshot is designed to look fast no matter how quick it's moving
3/16
The Slingshot is designed to look fast no matter how quick it's moving
A view from the driver's seat through the Slingshot windshield
4/16
A view from the driver's seat through the Slingshot windshield
The analog speedo and tach are easy to read, but the digital readouts are difficult if not impossible to see in the sun
5/16
The analog speedo and tach are easy to read, but the digital readouts are difficult if not impossible to see in the sun
The entertainment system and backup camera are easy to use, but hard to see when the sun is shining
6/16
The entertainment system and backup camera are easy to use, but hard to see when the sun is shining
From the rear, the Slingshot is never going to be confused with a car
7/16
From the rear, the Slingshot is never going to be confused with a car
From the side, the Slingshot looks like a big bucket wrapped in sleek angular plastic
8/16
From the side, the Slingshot looks like a big bucket wrapped in sleek angular plastic
Double wish-bone suspension and anti-sway bars keep the Slingshot hugging the road
9/16
Double wish-bone suspension and anti-sway bars keep the Slingshot hugging the road
A surprisingly generous sized storage compartment behind each seat is big enough for a couple of helmets or a small overnight bag
10/16
A surprisingly generous sized storage compartment behind each seat is big enough for a couple of helmets or a small overnight bag
The Slingshot seats do a good job of cradling driver and passenger, and can be easily wiped down when dirty
11/16
The Slingshot seats do a good job of cradling driver and passenger, and can be easily wiped down when dirty
The two-person cockpit has a generous amount of leg and shoulder room, but heat from the engine bay can build up quickly on hot days
12/16
The two-person cockpit has a generous amount of leg and shoulder room, but heat from the engine bay can build up quickly on hot days
It's easy to see from this angle why the Slingshot brings the Batmobile to mind
13/16
It's easy to see from this angle why the Slingshot brings the Batmobile to mind
The Slingshot is powered by a 2.4 liter, in-line four-cylinder GM engine
14/16
The Slingshot is powered by a 2.4 liter, in-line four-cylinder GM engine
A top-down look at the suspension system at the front of the Slingshot
15/16
A top-down look at the suspension system at the front of the Slingshot
The hood is easy to raise and provides good access to the engine bay
16/16
The hood is easy to raise and provides good access to the engine bay

When Polaris unveiled the Slingshot in 2014 as a 2015 model, even the company itself was hard-pressed to categorize it. So much so that some states wouldn't let it be licensed until Polaris worked with them to either define a new category, which became autocycle, or allowed it to be licensed as a motorcycle. Either way, no one then or since has denied just how different this vehicle is.

Visually, there's no way anyone's going to confuse the Slingshot with a motorcycle. That long hood, two wheels up front, side-by-side seats, and steering wheel are dead giveaways.

But it's also not a car. The lack of side doors, a trunk, any kind of top, no safety features – other than three-point seat belts and individual rollbars behind each seat – and a single rear wheel leave you wondering ... what is it?

The hood is easy to raise and provides good access to the engine bay
The hood is easy to raise and provides good access to the engine bay

And that's probably its greatest defining feature – its ability to attract the kind of attention that makes people stop you and ask exactly that. The best response we could come up with is that it's a three-wheeled go-kart on steroids.

Powered by a 2.4-liter, inline 4-cylinder GM Ecotec engine coupled to a five-speed transmission, the Slingshot weighs in at just over 1,700 lb (790 kg). Producing a claimed 173 hp (127 kW) and 166 ft. lb. of torque (225 Nm), there's more than enough power to weight regardless of what you want to call it.

The speedo goes up to 130 mph (209 km/h), which we didn't get to, but it definitely had no problem hitting 90 mph (145 km/h) in fifth gear with plenty of room left before it would reach the 7,000 rpm redline. Braking comes via ABS, and we had no complaints there.

Double wish-bone suspension and anti-sway bars keep the Slingshot hugging the road
Double wish-bone suspension and anti-sway bars keep the Slingshot hugging the road

It takes corners like it's on rails, thanks to a double wishbone suspension and anti-sway bar upfront, as well as a 5-inch (12.7-cm) ground clearance. A generous amount of rubber doesn't hurt either. The base model comes with two 17-inch front wheels and a single 18-inch wheel in the rear, while the Slingshot SL and SL LE editions have two 18-inch forged aluminum front wheels with a 20-inch rear wheel.

From the rear, the Slingshot is never going to be confused with a car
From the rear, the Slingshot is never going to be confused with a car

We slid the back end out a couple of times trying too hard to do so, and that was with the traction control on. But chances are the average person isn't going to be coming into a controlled intersection hitting a green light at 30 mph, while trying to bank a hard left to stay in the proper lane.

We drove our demo Slingshot on freeways, neighborhood side streets, straight country roads and twisty foothill asphalt. If there wasn't a constant grin on our face, we weren't aware of it. It seemed to be equally at home anywhere we took it.

We thought that its low-to-the-ground stance would evoke some butt-thumping rides on rougher pavement, but the suspension did a nice job of evening most of it out. We also weren't expecting it to be a super-silky ride anyway.

The Slingshot is designed to look fast no matter how quick it's moving
The Slingshot is designed to look fast no matter how quick it's moving

Other features include a simple-to-use cruise control that worked as you would expect, and fairly generous storage, including a big glove compartment and locking cubicles behind each seat that are big enough for a couple of helmets or a few small bags of groceries.

This isn't to say it's not without its issues, primary of which is the extensive heat that comes up into the passenger compartment from the engine bay. A passenger wearing open-toed sandals actually got too uncomfortable, and we worked up a sweat just driving around on a warm summer day. This is definitely a problem we think Polaris should fix, either by increasing the cabin ventilation or making the firewall thicker between the engine bay and cabin.

The entertainment system and backup camera are easy to use, but hard to see when the sun is shining
The entertainment system and backup camera are easy to use, but hard to see when the sun is shining

We had the Slingshot SL model, which comes with the entertainment system and backup camera. The former also allows you to sync to your phone with Bluetooth, and pair a music player via a cable in the glove compartment. However, if the sun is shining at any kind of angle you can't see anything on that screen. That means the backup camera is essentially useless unless you're in the shade, or the sun isn't fully out.

A solution might be to put some type of visor above the screen, but we gave up trying to use the backup camera and were just really careful reversing out of parking lots and driveways.

We likewise weren't wild about the gas gauge. It consists of a series of bars across the top of the digital screen embedded in the speedometer, where you can also see your overall mileage, trip meter and related readouts. When the gas tank is full – slightly under 10 gallons (38 liters) worth – all of the bars are black. They each turn white as you drive until the low fuel light comes on.

The analog speedo and tach are easy to read, but the digital readouts are difficult if not impossible to see in the sun
The analog speedo and tach are easy to read, but the digital readouts are difficult if not impossible to see in the sun

This sounds good in theory, if you could see those bars. But again, any kind of sun shining on that part of the dash makes it nearly impossible.

We also didn't care for having to wear a helmet, despite the fact that you don't need a motorcycle license to drive a Slingshot in California. State laws vary, and the dealer where we picked up our demo said some owners have told him they've gotten tickets, so check state and local laws beforehand.

The closest vehicle you'll find to the Slingshot is the V-twin powered 3-wheeled Morgan, but at 82 hp (61 kw) and 103 ft. lb. (140 Nm) of torque, it's underpowered in comparison. It's also more expensive with a base price of US$36,000. By contrast, the base Slingshot is listed at $21,499, the SL model we tested that was stock comes in at $25,499 and the most expensive LE model starts at $26,999.

There are a few factory accessories available to add some performance and personalization, but customizers and DIY owners have already taken on the task of coming up with their own variations. We anticipate more to come.

From the side, the Slingshot looks like a big bucket wrapped in sleek angular plastic
From the side, the Slingshot looks like a big bucket wrapped in sleek angular plastic

It will be interesting to see how this unique vehicle holds up over time. The body and interior is all plastic, the drive is via a carbon fiber belt, and that back tire is taking up most of the friction and traction. While the general maintenance schedule seems pretty realistic, a vehicle like this could have a tendency to be driven harder than it's designed to be, and wear out accordingly.

For anyone looking for a toy you can take on a quick trip up into the hills or for a cruise around town on a balmy night, or if you just like the attention something this unique can create, then the Slingshot may be for you. Just don't call it a car or a motorcycle.

Product page: Polaris

14 comments
Adduzer
You could compare it to Campagna Motors V13R http://v13r.com/
Mzungu_Mkubwa
They gotta be kidding targeting that price range! It's hard to see the value there, dropping that kind of change on fun/sporty. If some quick thinking entrepreneur simply hooked up a lightweight front end to the drivetrain of a maxi-scooter or Zero SR, and brought it in under $12k, they'd have the teenager/millenial market locked up. They're looking for cheap, eco-friendly and practical in addition to the fun/cool factor. (Remember the very first CRX? Think same concept, but on the cheap.) Could knock it out of the park, then. This? I'll take a low-end Civic for that price, thanks very much.
LowFlyerXX
IMHO, there is nothing that needs to be between car and a motorcycle. "Tricycles" are too wide to split lanes, or fit neatly to the side of a garage, and all these "excitement" toys are too pricey to be flooding the garages of a great percentage of population.
Island Architect
Yes, way too expensive for a Star Trek version of the Morgan 3 wheeler. Way too much overdesign nonsense here. Both are way overpriced but lots of dangerous fun. The Morgan is a true historic vehicle with clean lines. Bill Allison, the suspension designer would be wagging his finger at you and warning you about the dangers of 3 wheelers. If you saw Cars, you saw Paul Newman in his Hudson Hornet design.
gep
You'd think its too expensive for a toy like it is, but where I'm from, I said the same thing about side-by-sides (off road vehicles). I dirt bike and some friends have 4 wheelers and couldn't imagine ever having a SBS. Super expensive for what you get, yet everywhere you look they are selling like hot cakes. I think it's priced right for what it is. I'd be looking for some kind of roof or rain protection option if I'd look at this for an option compared to a motorcycle. Also, wouldn't a good comparison be the T-rex? Are those still made?
ezeflyer
It needs front wheels that tilt with a back wheel and body that incline when cornering by swiveling on the front section.
Wolf0579
I don't care how you dress it up. A tricycle is a tricycle, and as an "old skool" biker, I wouldn't be caught dead on one. They look like a thing a lawyer or a dentist would ride. They look about as stupid as a harley rider with both feet on the ground at a light.
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is really neat. It is a little expensive for my budget. If I had the money, I would get one. There are other similar three wheel cars at this site. http://www.3wheelers.com/
Jeff G
Its a great idea. According to most motor vehicle laws any motor vehicle with less than 4 wheels is a motorcycle and is exempt from automobile safety and emission laws. I expect prices to come down as more companies enter the market and volumes increase. It would be a great second car especially if someone comes up with something similar with a removable top and some weather protection.
telocity
Total new idea, nothing like the T-rex, morgan, vortex, trimagnum, tuvie energya, Grinnall's Scorpion, Campagna, FireAero, G-Max, cyclone, or host of less speedy ones, like Elio Motors. Yep, nothing like a fresh concept, maybe they can make it all electric, oh wait that would like the aptera...
Thanks for reading our articles. Please consider subscribing to New Atlas Plus.
By doing so you will be supporting independent journalism, plus you will get the benefits of a faster, ad-free experience.