2015 Polaris Slingshot Review – First Ride/Drive + Video

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2015 Polaris Slingshot

Editor Score: 86.5%
Engine 18.5/20
Suspension/Handling 13.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score86.5/100

The not-so-secret 2015 Polaris Slingshot has a steering wheel and bucket seats. So we shouldn’t even be reviewing it, right? I kinda felt that way when given the assignment. In hindsight, though, I’m glad I had the opportunity. The Slingshot’s an absolute blast, and at $19,999 for the base model, it’s gonna give Can-Am’s Spyder ($18,999 for the ST) some stiff competition.

Discuss this at our Polaris Slingshot Forum.

It’s not just the Slingshot’s price that’ll lure owners, or possible owners, of Spyders away from Can-Am dealerships and into Polaris ones. There’s some crucial performance advantages of the Slingshot, specifically in the claimed 173 crank horsepower at 6200 rpm and 166 ft-lbs. of torque at 4700 rpm emanating from its 2,384cc inline-Four Ecotec engine. Can-Am claims 115 hp at 7250 rpm and 96 ft-lbs at 5000 rpm from the 1,330cc Rotax Triple powering the ST. At a claimed 1,725 pounds full of fluids, the Slingshot weighs substantially more than the RT’s approximate wet weight of 1,100 pounds, but the extra weight of the Slingshot is negligible when it comes to having fun.

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The key to the Slingshot’s grin factor is its combination of low CoG and the superbly defined algorithms upon which its sophisticated electronic rider aids operate.

With supercar-like ground clearance of only five inches, the Slingshot tenaciously clings to asphalt with all three of its wheels. At least it did during the legal speeds of our road test and in the unrestricted environment of Polaris’ cul-de-sac test track. Resembling a giant lollipop, we inhaled the tire smoke of first gear burnouts, and managed second and third gear chirps down the track’s short straight (with TC on). In the big circle of the lollipop we tried everything we could to overwhelm the Slingshot, but its bevy of electronic aids (ABS, traction control [TC], electronic stability program [ESP]) managed to balance fun with safety and control.

Stripped of its bodywork, it's easy to see the minimal amount of space between arse and pavement. The top of the roll bars (which can support 5-times the vehicle’s weight) measures 51.9 inches from tarmac. The spaceframe is constructed from high-strength steel. The 9.8-gallon fuel tank resides behind the driver’s seat.

Stripped of its bodywork, it’s easy to see the minimal amount of space between arse and pavement. The top of the roll bars (which can support 5-times the vehicle’s weight) measures 51.9 inches from tarmac. The spaceframe is constructed from high-strength steel. The 9.8-gallon fuel tank resides behind the driver’s seat.

It is here, with the electronics, where we can draw a significant difference between the workings of the Slingshot and the Spyder. Like an overprotective parent, the Spyder’s Vehicle Stability System (the same combination of ABS, TC and electronic stability) promptly retards enjoyment as soon as the fun really gets going. While you can get the rear wheel spinning in a straight line on the manual-clutch versions of the Spyder, the vehicle’s electronics, in the name of safety, kick in at a much lower threshold compared to the algorithms Polaris has produced.

The Slingshot, on the other hand, with its electronics in play, allows a greater amount of rear-wheel spin compared to the Spyder, and enough cornering force to get the front tires squealing. Like the Spyder, the Slingshot’s ESP maintains a level plane (you’re not gonna lift a front wheel or flip the vehicle) but turn the steering wheel hard enough and you’ll hear the front tires howling in protest.

The Slingshot’s electronics make you a better driver without actually improving your skills. More excitement can be found by simply switching off the electronics with a push of a button.

The Slingshot’s electronics make you a better driver without actually improving your skills. More excitement can be found by simply switching off the electronics with a push of a button.

Without a real track, or even the twisty canyon roads of our normal testing grounds in SoCal, we can’t say unequivocally that the Slingshot is gonna make Arial Atom owners run and hide, but initial impressions are favorable, and the Slingshot costs half the price of an Atom. Polaris reps said at the press launch that media models will be available soon, so hopefully we’ll be able to get a Slingshot and Spyder to compare and contrast on equal footing. As for the Atom … it has four wheels so we’ll let our sister site, Autoguide.com, make that comparison.

Slingshot Construction

The Slingshot will be available in two variations: the standard version ($19,999) and the SL ($23,999). Some key differences between the two are wheels sizes 17- and 18-inch, front and rear, respectively, on the standard, while the SL sports a larger 18- and 20-inch, front and rear, combo. Those larger wheels on the SL are also forged aluminum, 10-spoke jobs, where the standard receives cast, 8-spoke hoops. The SL also comes equipped with a media console that features a 4.3-inch LCD screen with a rearward camera, USB input and Bluetooth integration, and a six-speaker audio system. The Blade windshield is also standard equipment, but there’s a cool, Batmobile-esque double-bubble windshield available (we’re told this windshield doesn’t provide the quiet pocket of air as the Blade windshield).

The audio/video interface is simple but efficient. The fit and finish of the pre-production models we drove was a little sub-par, but we were assured that consumer versions will be up to the quality standards you’d expect of a Polaris product.

The audio/video interface is simple but efficient. The fit and finish of the pre-production models we drove was a little sub-par, but we were assured that consumer versions will be up to the quality standards you’d expect of a Polaris product.

Beyond these luxuries, the standard and SL models are identical twins distinguishable mostly by their paint schemes; Slingshot Red Pearl for the SL, while the standard model gets Titanium Metallic.

As mentioned above, and obvious by its appearance, the Slingshot is sporty. Inside the cockpit you’ll notice short, fluid throws from both the foot clutch and manual five-speed transmission. Steering is made easy by way of electronic power assist. Acceleration from the Ecotec engine’s abundant amount of torque is brisk. You move through the first three shorter gears in rapid procession, utilizing the taller 4th and 5th cogs for freeway cruising.

Not as attractive as the exposed V-Twin powering the Morgan three-wheeler but a helluva lot more powerful is the DOHC, 2.4-liter, GM Ecotec engine. Entry is gained via a reverse-tilting hood. Polaris estimates a 26-mpg average.

Not as attractive as the exposed V-Twin powering the Morgan three-wheeler but a helluva lot more powerful is the DOHC, 2.4-liter, GM Ecotec engine. Entry is gained via a reverse-tilting hood. Polaris estimates a 26-mpg average.

Besides the SL’s LCD screen, instrumentation is kept to a minimum with a large, white-faced analog speedo and tach. An optional smartphone mount is available. The Blade windscreen does an impressive job of diverting wind over the driver and passenger, keeping wind noise low enough for casual conversation even while wearing full-face helmets.

The seats are adjustable fore and aft, while the backrest tilts a few degrees (similar to coach airline seating), as does the steering wheel. Folks above six-feet in height may get somewhat cramped. Behind both seats you’ll find a lockable compartment large enough to fit a full-face helmet. There’s also a lockable glovebox, but that’s it when it comes to storage space.

The rear wheel is attached to a single-side swingarm. Front and rear suspenders are of the non-adjustable, “sport-tuned” variety. Tail lights are LED.

The rear wheel is attached to a single-side swingarm. Front and rear suspenders are of the non-adjustable, “sport-tuned” variety. Tail lights are LED.

The open-air, no-doors cockpit gives the Slingshot a motorcycle-like immersion into your surroundings – seeing, hearing and smelling things you’d otherwise miss inside a regular sports coupe. Like a motorcycle, all the switchgear, instruments, seats, etc., are weatherproof, and the body panels are molded from a polymer compound that’s been tested for numerous hours and said not to fade over time from exposure to direct sunlight.

Using the success of Can-Am’s Spyder as a guide, it’s probable the new Slingshot will be a homerun for Polaris – a company that’s been batting 1000 with its recent acquisition/relaunch of Indian motorcycles as well as its side-by-sides and ATV models. Consumer greenbacks are the final measuring stick, but Polaris dealers with a Slingshot in their front window should prepare for an influx of foot traffic.

+ Highs

  • Relatively affordable
  • Manual transmission!
  • Kick-ass fun
- Sighs

  • Requires a helmet
  • It’s not a motorcycle, it’s a car
  • Worse Power-to-weight ratio than a Can Am Spyder (and many sportscars)
2015 Polaris Slingshot Specifications
Base Model SL
MSRP $19,999 $23,999
Horsepower 173 crank horsepower @ 6200 rpm (claimed) 173 crank horsepower @ 6200 rpm (claimed)
Torque 166 ft-lbs of torque @ 4700 rpm (claimed) 166 ft-lbs of torque @ 4700 rpm (claimed)
Engine Capacity 2,384cc 2,384cc
Engine Type DOHC Inline-Four Ecotek DOHC Inline-Four Ecotek
Bore x Stroke 88mm x 98mm 88mm x 98mm
Compression 10.4:1 10.4:1
Fuel System EFI EFI
Transmission 5-speed manual 5-speed manual
Steering Rack-and-pinion with electronic power assist Rack-and-pinion with electronic power assist
Final Drive Belt Belt
Frame High-strength steel frame High-strength steel frame
Front Suspension Double-wishbone with sway bar Double-wishbone with sway bar
Rear Suspension Monoshock, single-side swingarm Monoshock, single-side swingarm
Front Brakes Twin, vented, 298mm discs Twin, vented, 298mm discs
Rear Brakes Single, vented, 298 disc Single, vented, 298 disc
Front Wheel Cast, 8-spoke Forged, 10-spoke
Front Tire 205/50-17 225/45-18
Rear Wheel Cast, 8-spoke Forged, 10-spoke
Rear Tire 265/35-18 255/35-20
Ground Clearance 5.0 inches 5.0 inches
Wheelbase 105.0 inches 105.0 inches
Curb Weight 1,725 lbs 1,743 lbs
Fuel Capacity 9.77 gal 9.77 gal
Electronics ABS, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Program ABS, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Program
Warranty 2 Years 2 Years

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  • Kevin

    Who knew the styling of a ’59 DeSoto might ever re-emerge?

  • Luke

    any MPG numbers?

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      The article says they are expecting 26 mpg. Pretty sad really.

      • srsquidizen

        Yep in spite of hugging the ground its aerodynamics must be as awful as some of the most beastly cruisers out there to get 26 mpg. But then it’s not going to be real popular as a commuter and I suspect those who plunk down 20+ g’s for a vehicle of such limited usefulness don’t care. They’ll probably trailer it behind a 6mpg Winnebago most of the time.

  • SRMark

    Reminds me of a Super 7. Good luck with the GM engine. Paddle shifters would be fun.

  • Reid

    The Sky/Solstice drivetrain lives on as a three-wheeler. I’m sure it would have cost more in terms of development and the cost to buyers would have been higher too, but it would have been cool to see this with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine GM has in several RWD models. It’d be good for 100ish more HP anyway.

  • Luke Applegate

    I used to have a Cobalt SS with the 2.0L supercharged engine (200hp). That car was great fun and the engine was reliable and strong. I averaged about 32mpg on the highway, low 20′s in town (it liked to be driven properly). Simply swapping to a turbo w/air-to-air intercooler opened it up to ~375hp, though I never took the dive on that one.

  • tjsutton

    I’m not seeing it as a competitor of the Spyder. Whole different riding experience. Similar to a convertible car, without the car features and safety items. Similar to a Spyder in that it has three wheels and wind in your face, … but totally different ride. Similar to a UTV side-by-side, but I can’t take it off road. I think this is in a class of its own. And its ugly to boot.

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      Like I said to the other commenter above, tastes differ. But you are right about competitor for the spyder. I don’t see that either. What I see is more people into Motorcycles. That’s gotta be good. As for off road, Maybe if the street version is successful they would consider a “adventure” model. You never know.

      • tjsutton

        Totally agree on tastes differ. I have a Spyder and have heard all the “ugly” and “for old ladies” comments. But it is fun to ride and safer than 2 wheels. So, for me, its perfect. I wanted to love the Slingshot … but I don’t even like it. But you can bet, I will take a test drive, given the opportunity. :)

  • Daryl M

    Glad to hear that it’s supposed to be a blast to drive…it HAS to in order to overcome the looks. Looking dead-on it looks great but the quarter angles are fugly as hell!

  • Tim Quinn

    OMFG, is that thing ugly as hell!
    I’ll bet that I could visit any high school detention class and find doodles on random pieces of paper that look better than this thing does.
    I’m reminded of an episode of Frasier where he tells his brother, Niles, that when you sit in their father’s chair, you don’t have to look at it.
    I’m positive that in the salesman’s data/information book this will be written in large red letters on the top of every page: “Inform your customers that when they are driving the slingshot, they don’t have to look at it.”
    I WANT to like it, but I can’t get past the styling. In some of these pics, it looks like a red and black fiberglass bathtub with three wheels stuck on it!

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      Heh, tastes differ. You hate it, I think it looks cool. Some with hate it, some will love it. That’s why there’s so many different things for sale.

  • frankfan42

    Pretty cool, and maybe a very interesting niche market for Polaris. Perhaps they will next buy up and produce the Elio?

  • AlligatorsTail

    It’s totally Juvenile… It’s a dune buggy with a GM powerplant??. It looks like something a Power ranger would drive. Why make it three wheel? Must be so it can cheat on emissions and safety. No catalytic converter, no airbags. I’d like to see it when you hit a truck. You can’t even lay it down. The Can Ams are stupid also, but you at least sit in the center like a bike. You have no clue that it’s only got one wheel behind you, so Motorcycle magazines shouldn’t even look at it or review it. . Two wheels are a bike, 4 are a car, 3 are tricycles for people with no sense of balance. …

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      It’s legally a motorcycle so it’s certainly in the purview of a motorcycle magazine. Some people like 2 wheels. Some like 3, some 4, some 6. I like them all. Why close your mind to different options???

      • AlligatorsTail

        I’ve been riding since 1965…So, OK, no more two strokes, They may be designed with emission controls for California. In Pennsylvania There’s no Emission standards for bikes. Only the federal standards, but they don’t need it for inspection. I see 100 Harleys a day with straight pipes… It’s a car…

        • Chris_in_Kalifornia

          Yeah we do out here too. No one inspects them after they are registered (motorcycles that is). I hate the noisy darn things. The stupid politicians keep pushing quieter mufflers to keep the “average” noise level down and don’t seem to realize that the quieter the stock pipes are, the more people will replace them so they can either hear their own engine or drive everyone just as crazy as those idiots with the booming vibrating cars.

      • Kevin

        Legally it’s a motorcycle in CA, Legally in Delaware it’s a car that requires the use of seat belts and only a class D drivers license and oh, no helmet!

    • Stuki

      “…cheat on emissions and safety… ” …in CoolAid we trust…… Just like those darned cars adding a fourth wheel so they can “cheat” on helmet laws, I suppose….

      1800 pounds is a good bit lighter than any car for sale in the US. And the low seating, wide front track and lack of roll should make it plenty more responsive than most else with a car like driving experience. With that lone rear wheel, you’d think it would also be a difter-with-a-tire-budget’s dream, though the lack of weight back there may bake it too easy and anesthetized.

      In no helmet required states, the thing is even kind of practical. As a registered bike, it’s a lot cheaper than a Tesla for getting access to the HOV lanes. At least until the guys who bought the government complain that the whole purpose of that law, was to give themselves and their fancy cars a privilege in return for their campaign investment.

      Compared to a proper bike, you’ll still be stuck in traffic like some dimwit incapable of keeping upright and balancing on two legs; but in most of this great totalitarian once was republic of ours, even us more advanced motorists are being dragged down to that level regardless. So, no loss there.

      My biggest issue with it, will likely be that the ride is about as lower back comfortable as Vespa, or a slammed cruiser. Light weight, hard short suspension and legs sticking out in front just doesn’t do my back any favors.

    • vastickel@gmail.com

      Steve Cox has it about right. Just another way to have fun. Of course it isn’t a motorcycle, it has three wheels. There are many different people out there with very different requirements. There are also numerous motorcycles that aren’t “much fun” either. Each to their own. As to the lack of ability to “lay it down”, my experience has told me that ploy never worked to well for incidents in general. Would much rather stay aboard and scrub off as much speed as possible. Prefer that to abandoning all hope and control by “laying it down”. Ever hear of ABS?

    • martin

      You may have

  • Chris_in_Kalifornia

    26 MPG??? That’s pathetic. I got 33 MPG in my 96 Ford Escort ZX2 commuting to work at LAX. Rush hour traffic and I didn’t take any prisoners. My proudest moment came when I infuriated a Ferrari driver to the point of when he finally got an open spot I heard him hit redline in 3 gears… That little DOHC 2.0 would go pretty good. Speed limited to 105 which it would do in 4th or 5th. Ok, 33MPG driving like that.

    That said, I wanted so much to build one of these out of my ZX2 but that would have taken skills and money I just don’t have. So I bought a Zuzuki Vstrom instead. Best Motorcycle I ever owned.

    Last strike against this is the engine… Government Motors. I will NEVER knowingly buy another GM product until the illegal things done with it are put right.

    • ScottZ

      Hatefull little bitch aren’t you!
      Start your own damn company and rule the world, and laugh all the way to the bank. Or go sit in your broken down ZX2 and reminise
      about the good ol days, your choice.

      I think it is a sweet fun looking ride with a rock solid engine! Nice to see a new twist on something!

      • Jo ‘Heiderscheidt’ Morgan

        I sat in the red Slingshot out in Sturgis last year and fell in love. We want one, but we want to put turbo on it. The salesman told us about the turbo. We would keep our Harley, but it would be. Nice to have with my bad back.

  • Guest

    A poor man’s Citrogen – albeit 2014. This being reviewed in the wrong venue, maybe some auto mag or website. Not even close to challenging the niche of Can-Am.

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      Not a Morgan?

  • dbees

    This is a poor man’s Citrogen. Can-Am’s niche will not be challenged by this product for sure. It not a motorcycle and should be reviewed in the appropriate auto magazine or website.

  • pwndecaf

    I wouldn’t compare this in any way to the Spyder. It looks like fun, but it’s a three wheel car.

    I have a Spyder, a Victory cruiser and an Aprilia Atlantic scooter – all very different motorcycles, and they all fit in my two car garage with my car and the other usual paraphernalia. This thing looks bigger than my car!

    I’ll keep my brood, but I hope this goes somewhere more interesting.

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      What kind of car?

      • pwndecaf

        Ha! Honda, of course. CR-Z.

        • Chris_in_Kalifornia

          I’m currently between motorcycles, just bought a house. But I drive a dodge 3500 dually diesel 6 speed, a 99 mustang V6 5 speed (wish I’d gone ahead and got the 8) and I have a 69 Mustang that is in the process of getting 4 wheel disc brakes. Not sure what I’ll do engine wise yet but I’m thinking a hot 6 would be cool. I’ll never have the money to have the fastest so I might as well go for different. Looking at various bikes 500 to 750 or so.

          • pwndecaf

            “Different” is generally my goal, which is why the idea of the Slingshot appeals to me.

          • Stuki

            You sound like _exactly_ the target buyer for this. Guy with a bike license who also buys cars for excitement rather than pure transportation. Say, if you weren’t into the older ‘Stang, this thing could easily take it’s place as a weekend toy.

            And, I’d be surprised if “your kind” is not over represented among existing Polaris product buyers.

          • Chris_in_Kalifornia

            “My kind”??? You have no clue what “my kind” is.

            Nah, If I had the money I’d buy a classic Honda CB700SC Nighthawk. Wouldn’t consider a 3 wheeler, lose all the advantages of a bike and not get any advantages of a car.

  • Jan Snider

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find the Slingshot unusual, but not ugly. The Ecotec four cylinder has got to be a blast to drive, in that it is light but not motorcycle light. Then, I see that the engine sits conventional, not traverse.
    This is got to be a new market, a different way of rolling down the highway. I would love to see a bunch of Slingshots heading down the highway, no worse than a bunch of Harley-Davidsons or Gold Wings. This is a super low slung convertible, not a motorcycle.
    The only thing that I see that may be a concern would be the smallish screen in the middle of the dash. It seems like that the screen should be much larger which would be easier to see while in motion. Then, I have to wonder how reliable the GM sourced four will be in the long run. A Ford Turbo or VW Turbo, even Honda has a Turbo four that would be even more powerful and hands down more reliable ( I have nothing against GM, I just know by working on them ). Time will tell, and the pricing is very good for what you get. But, will the dogs eat the dog food? Who knows?

  • oldrepo56

    I think I’ll buy an old Chevy Cavalier and cut the back half off , add a swing arm and save $15,000.

    • OC Corvette

      Yeah because that Cavalier would be the same thing. LOL

  • Lou. G. Rection

    Sorry Can-AM, your days are numbered.

  • AlligatorsTail

    I still don’t care. It’s car, not a bike. If you don’t agree, I’ll give in that it’s its own breed of “crossover”. Steering Column/wheel?, 5 on the floor, Car tires, No leaning into a turn, It’s not a Motorcycle.

  • Steve Cox

    Triking and Morgan developed 3 wheeled vehicles powered by front mounted V-twin MC engines. Primarily Moto Guzzi and Harley with a splash of Hondas in later models. They aren’t motorcycles they are three wheeled cars. Super fun to drive and they look different. The Slingshot looks different but then so does the CanAm. I own a Triumph and a Moto Guzzi. I love riding on two wheels. I also own a V12 Jaguar, a Toyota RAV4 and a Conversion van. I enjoy things that have wheels and have always been drawn to things that go fast and handle well. I look at the Sling Shot as another toy for on the road fun. Is it a true MC? No. But then the CanAm Spyder isn’t either. I’ll probably give it a whirl with a test drive and see what it’s all about. I would need a larger garage though. Is it as striking as my Triumph Street Triple? No. Is it as fast? That remains to be seen. Most importantly is it fun to drive? That’s what interests me. You can put down its appearance all day long, but the proof is in the pudding. JMHO

  • frank

    great things. I just got a job on http://yourmotorcyclejobs.com/

  • SunshineSunshineSunshine

    Their website is a joke and is annoying.

  • OC Corvette

    Better and cooler looking, more fun, safer, and more visible than a motorcycle. I’ll take one.

  • tlhIntoq

    Pretty sad when this little thing gets worse mileage than my 2014 Dodge Charger RT 100th anniversary edition. There is no valid reason for that.