Remember when the Slingshot first debuted and motorcyclists poo-poo’d the contraption as a waste of money that nobody would want? Well, it’s three years later and our roads are now spattered with some 20,000 Slingshots being driven by all sorts of people, many of them motorcycle enthusiasts.

2015 Polaris Slingshot Review – First Ride/Drive

As for the Slingshot’s initial designation as a motorcycle because it has fewer than four wheels, some 40 states in the U.S. now deem the trike to be an autocycle, a distinct term that places it in an area somewhere between a motorcycle and a car. The Slingshot looks like a Le Mans prototype race car from the front and, from the rear, like a plastic chairlift with wheel stuck on back.

Less obfuscatory is the Slingshot’s fun-to-drive factor, which is soaringly high when pointed down a twisty road on a sunny day. Polaris rolled out its latest Slingshot range to the media last week and sent us off to Malibu and the sinuous roads that climb into the Santa Monica mountains. Although the Slingshots lean the wrong way in corners and can never be as fun as a motorcycle, they are a LOL hoot when carving up a canyon road.

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Polaris Slingshot vs. Morgan 3-Wheeler vs. Can-Am Spyder F3

The 2018 Slingshots start at $19,999 for the new S model, a $2,000 reduction from last year’s entry-level Slingshot. Having already tested the lower-end Slingshots, we jumped past the SL version ($25,499) and into the upper-range SLR with forged-aluminum wheels and a navi package added to the newly larger (7-inch) Ride Command infotainment system, retailing at $28,999. Later, we’d hop into the top-range SLR LE ($30,999).

2018 Polaris Slingshot Lineup Announced

All Slingshots are powered by a 2384cc four-cylinder motor sourced from GM – old Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice owners (anyone…?) will recognize it. The DOHC mill isn’t particularly sonorous, but its 166 lb-ft of crankshaft-rated torque is plenty enough to overwhelm its lone rear tire, upsized in width on the SLRs to 305mm. Polaris uses its own ECU tuning to extend the engine’s rev ceiling to a fairly lofty 7200 rpm, with 173 hp peaking at 6200 rpm.

Ghost Gray and Lime Squeeze paint and graphics remind us of Yamaha’s FZ-10 and reveal this Slingshot as the top-line LE version, which adds adjustable Bilstein shocks and an extra 100 watts of power to the regular SLR’s 100-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system.

So, no wheelies here, but some seriously impressive pace on Latigo Canyon and the surrounding environs. Turns with mid-corner bumps or gravel that would terrify a motorcycle rider are shrugged off without worry in a Slingshot, as the pair of 225/45-18 front tires will never fold in and threaten the structural viability of your collarbones.

Tanner Foust drifting a 400-hp Slingshot

Helping keep the Slingshot from sailing off a cliff are electronic safety systems for when its girthy 69.1-inch front track runs out of grip – that’s inches wider than a Corvette. Polaris tells us the traction control has been tuned to allow a generous 20% slip rate, which allows a decent entertainment factor. Happily, the TC can be switched off by a button on the console, which enables the longest, safest rolling burnouts of any “motorcycle.”

Are helmets required in a Slingshot? Well, that depends on the laws of each state, and even then there’s some confusion. CHP officers we spoke to during our ride were unaware of the law in California, but we believe helmets aren’t necessary here in reverse trikes with seat belts. Forged aluminum roll hoops will do more to protect your head in a rollover than any helmet could.

If you’re patient enough to hold down the TC button for more than a few seconds, your inner hooligan will be delighted to see the Slingshot’s stability-control warning lamp illuminate, completely eliminating the reins of electronic nannies. Big kudos to Polaris for avoiding the grip of legal counsel and placing a priority on driving entertainment.

A colleague at a car magazine posed the potentially Slingshot-killing question: For $30k, would you rather have a Miata or a Slingshot SLR?

Well, if the choice would be for a one-and-only car, the Miata and its roof and doors would be the easy decision. But if it was a choice for a second or third vehicle – a recreational one – I might choose the 1750-pound Polaris. First off, the Slingshot is capable of slinging itself through the quarter-mile sprint in the mid-13-second bracket, which is a full second quicker than than possible in a 500-pounds heavier Miata. While that’s slow by sportbike standards, it’s modestly quick for a modern car – or actually quick for a 50 year old muscle car, like Hemi ’Cuda quick.

The Slingshot is half a foot shorter than a Miata but has a wheelbase 15 inches longer, at 105.0 inches, which aids stability for the reverse-trike layout. Skidpad grip has been tested to a decent 0.85 G. All Slingshots have a two-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.

The absence of a roof (and airbags and bumpers…) is part of the reason why the Slingshot weighs less than a ton, and the interior’s exposure to the elements has a few deleterious effects because of it. First, as a car, it offers abysmal weather protection. The windshield is better described as a deflector than a shield, and combined with the lack of doors, makes for a loud and onerous place to be during freeway speeds and above. Full-face helmets with Bluetooth communicators would be a desirable option for highway travel.

With a lidless and windowless car, its interior must be made impervious to sun and rain, and this means everything inside has to be waterproof. So you won’t find leather and mahogany, but rather plastic, fiberglass and rubber. This renders several cheap-feeling touch points that will make some wish they were in a Miata.

Slingshot drivers should be prepared for celebrity-status attention, including regular brandishing of smartphone cameras and the inundation of endless questions about the vehicle. It’s a stimulating antidote for anyone with middle-child syndrome.

Upgrading to the SLR adds navigation to the 7-inch Ride Command touchscreen infotainment system, as well as a handy backup camera that is switched on when reverse gear is engaged, somewhat alleviating the dreadful visibility to the Slingshot’s rear.

The SLR upgrade pays off on the most important touch points, with noted accessory company Sparco providing the gearshifter, steering wheel and drilled pedals. The biggest benefit is the aluminum shifter, which delivers far greater precision and slightly shorter throws when rowing gears. The steering wheel boasts a racy and digitally pleasing shape, but its rubberized surface feels less than premium. Feedback through the electric power steering is modest but helpful, and it boasts much better self-centering action than the first Slingshot we drove, despite Polaris claiming there have been no geometry revisions to the front end. The brake pedal feels firm clasping on a trio of 298mm iron rotors through braided steel lines.

As an autocycle, the Slingshot resides in between two camps: motorcyclists and car drivers. People in the former category can be unwilling to consider a three-wheeled car as a proper recreational vehicle, while people in the latter will decry the Slingshot’s obvious lack of practicality and unsuitability for inclement weather.

After a full day of driving the Slingshot in an ideal environment for such a vehicle, and frequently grinning like a fool while banging off shifts and sliding its mono-wheel rear end, I believe there’s a reasonable case to me made for Polaris’ oddball trike. It’s far more accessible to passengers than a motorbike, and it’s more enjoyable to drive enthusiastically than most inexpensive sports cars. So, while it would make for a horrible sole vehicle, it makes for a lighthearted pleasure to drive whenever the sun is shining and the roads are twisty.

“We create new ways for people to recreate,” quipped Polaris’ Gary Gray during our ride day.

We believe defining the Slingshot as a recreational vehicle is apt, and one would look right at home in the garage next to a UTV, PWC or snowmobile.

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  • Starmag

    Miata. Eveybody’s ( Egan, Clarkson, Leno, etc.) funnest car to drive plus some practicality. These don’t lean anyway. I don’t get it at all. I didn’t get the Cam-Am’s either but a lot of those were sold as well. I suppose these are geat if you have a disability or you’re dying for attention though. This slingshot won’t bring down a giant (Polaris), which is good, I like their bikes.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Slingshot sales were abysmal this year. It brought the Polaris motorcycle segment down 15% even though Indian was doing well. So the slingshot *can* bring down a giant. Regardless, the issue I think is practicality. Sure it is fun, but it has the worst features of both cars and bikes. No lane splitting, leaning the wrong way, no weather protection, road noise. If you had one in your garage (if you could make room for it), you may take it out once in a while when the weather was not too hot or too cold and it wasn’t raining and you had some nice country roads to drive on. Rest of the time it will sit unused. Not useful for commuting.

  • Jason

    Plenty of blokes ride their two-wheel motorcycle rain-or-shine. Not sure what disqualifies the Slingshot from all-weather use. Zip up the ‘stitch, pull down the visor, and take advantage of the reduced friction of the roadways to save on tire bills as you oversteer your way into the office.

    • bvail

      I saw one at a local dealer with a soft top, Might just help keep one from getting prune ass from that bucket seat when it rains. As for me, don’t care for road noise much so I would stick to the Goldwing and a helmet.

  • Old MOron

    With no T-rod around, looks like the E-i-C has to do some dirt work, himself.
    This thing is not for me, but I’m glad to know it’s selling. We need enthusiasts.

  • Auphliam

    My hatred for Polaris had me hoping this segment would have burst into flames and disappeared by now. With an avg unit sales per year of less than 7,000, including a substantial drop this past year…Scott Wine must be feeling great about the decision to keep this over the Victory. Funny thing, while I do see the occasional Slingshot on the road in my area, I see more Victory motorcycles now, since the closure, than I ever did when they were in production…which leads to the only logical conclusion being that the motorcycle buying public is batshit crazy and impossible to tract.

  • Larry Kahn

    It’s a car. Keep this crap off your pages.

  • Gruf Rude

    Make mine a Miata.

  • HazardtoMyself

    Can we buy Tanner’s model? Maybe with some racing lessons thrown in as well?

  • Kevin Polito

    Miata. Less than $25,000 for base model.

  • Campisi

    It’s a Morgan 3 Wheeler for the MOPAR set. I’d rather pay extra for the former, or an MX-5.

    Partial to motorcycles, myself.

  • Andrew Capone

    I paid just a bit more than that for a used Lotus Elise, seen here, actual size, next to one of those. I’ve driven a slingshot in a spirited fashion. It was cool. But there isn’t a single criterion that I would choose the Slingshot on over a nimble, actual, four wheeled sporty thing. Or for that matter, a nimble, sporty two- wheeled thing.

    • Kevin Duke

      Congrats on the Lotus! Those are really fun! However, new to new, the only current Lotus is the Evora, and that’s nearly $100k or so.

      • Andrew Capone

        Then new to new is Miata. Or Fiat 124 (Fiata), even prettier.

        • Kevin Duke

          I’m not arguing the Slingshot is a better car than a Miata or a 124; I’ve driven both. But the Fiata does a 14.9 quarter-mile to the Slingshot’s 13.6, which can’t help but hinder its fun-to-drive factor.

          • Andrew Capone

            I don’t see either as a 1/4 mile vehicle, but all around enjoyable, fun roadster. Fun driving a slow car fast and all that. And aesthetically, I just can’t abide with the ‘shot. Not a bit.

          • Kevin Duke

            With just one rear tire, the Slingshot is actually a crappy 1/4-mile vehicle. The point I was making is that its vastly superior acceleration (even with one rear tire) and its lighter weight gives it an edge in fun factor. Now, if you hate the way it looks, then there’s simply no chance for you to consider it, and that’s totally valid.

          • Andrew Capone

            Yeah, the looks kill me. It only weighs 200 lbs less than the Lotus!

  • Don Orton

    I think you forgot to mention “As ugly as a hairy butt crack” and “You should only drive one if you have a vagina”.

    • Douglas

      Don, you sertn’ly have a clever way wit’ da words…..

  • Matt O

    I’ve driven these and I like them, but they’re just so impractical. Also I don’t see the value in the high spec models, the cost from the base to the top is enough to pay a shop to install a turbo kit. Why no factory turbo? This engine had been offered with a turbo in nearly everything GM put it in

    • Kenneth

      It might not be practical for less-friendly climates, but from watching Kevin’s video review, it looks like any more power will just result in more rear wheel spin.

      • Matt O

        They say the most expensive thing you can add to a vehicle is lightness. In all reality what is holding it back the most is not having four wheels

        • Andrew Capone

          Founder of Lotus, Colin Chapman’s obsession with light weight:
          “Simplify, then add lightness.”

  • Andrew Capone

    I’d build one of these, for under $30 grand, and get all of the open air excitement, with the bonus of a fourth wheel.

    • Campisi

      Throw a K1300 engine in one and it’ll be about as much motorcycle as a Slingshot, too.

  • Bubba Blue

    It looks great, but it needs an emergency top. wHat’s the competition like?

  • HeDidn’tWeDid

    30K is Mustang GT territory…which is what I paid for my base GT a few months ago. Here in Arkansas there are quite a few of these running around. I did get a chance to drive one and I have to admit it was fun-up to a point. It is definitely an ‘experience’. But I have a ZX14 sitting in my garage so even the Mustang feels tame compared to that. What my heart desires is something along the lines of the KTM X-Bow…oh, my, I would have fun in the Ouachitas with that for sure. However, I am glad products like the Slingshot exist.

  • Goose

    FWIW I have nothing against the Slingshot or MO testing it but I think Polaris missed a much bigger market. The styling seems to be be for Millennials (Transformers), the thing is performance oriented to the point of being useless for anything else.
    I think a more touring oriented version would have a bigger market. Styling more like the Morgan, more comfortable seats, tires with enough sidewall to improve the ride, some (OK, lots of) storage. Pretty much the a Goldwing/ FLH for when your balance goes or you can’t push it around a parking lot any more. We boomers are getting old and this could be a last “adventurous” vehicle before you are stuck in your Toyota.

  • RyYYZ

    They do look like they’d be fun to hoon around in, but there’s no way I’d ever buy one unless I win the lottery or something. I’d need to, so I could buy a bigger house with another parking spot for a toy that takes up the space of a car. Not really aimed at riders, though, I’d say.

  • Buzz

    The problem with trikes is they have all the worst features of bikes and cars. Plus, try avoiding a pot hole with one when you have wheels in two different tracks.

    That being said, I would love to rent one for a day but never buy one.

  • Support The Second

    30K for the top of the line? Gee you can have that and from what I have heard their abysmal reliability ratings too. People really will buy anything.