If you’re like me, you’ve probably driven down a road and seen something unusual whiz by you – some motorcycle-looking thing with three wheels and no roof. While still trying to focus on the task at hand, the sighting probably left a variety of questions, as seeing these vehicles isn’t an everyday occurrence.
What you saw wasn’t a go-kart; it wasn’t some new environmentally friendly ride; and it certainly wasn’t anything from another planet. It was a Polaris Slingshot – and they’re a hell of a lot of fun.
Polaris Industries, a manufacturer known predominantly for its off-road vehicles, introduced the Slingshot back in 2014 as a “three-wheeled motorcycle” but it’s really in a class of its own because, depending on your state, the Slingshot is registered as either a motorcycle or an auto-cycle. It certainly has a distinct look and, features for which a typical motorcycle just cannot compete, but the 2018 will be their most innovative to date – thanks to features like Ride Command Infotainment system.
Ride Command takes your adventure to the next level, with a seven-inch touch screen – compatible with gloves – that offers customizable driver screens, along with mobile phone integration and turn-by-turn navigation, allowing users to plan their route or locate food, fuel and more. But, strip away the innovative technology, along with the bumping 200-watt sound system, and at its core the Slingshot is an exhilarating alternative to take out of the garage on a Saturday and enjoy the road. So, when the folks at Polaris wanted to send us a 2017 Slingshot SL to put to the test, we just couldn’t say no.
Having never seen one up close, the first thing I did when it was in my driveway was give it a visual inspection. Sure, I’d seen one or two on the road but it was always quick glances at most. The sleek red and black color combination on top of a steel space frame – the body work is completely removable – work well together and really complemented the black leather racing seats, which each pull up to expose a small trunk area – just big enough to store your helmet. The two side view mirrors were completely manual and the glove compartment was about the size of a normal car. There’s a medium height screen – not found on the base Slingshot model – located at the front of the vehicle to help with any potential debris and to keep the occupants from swallowing a big June bug, though drivers are required to follow state law when it comes to adhering to helmet laws. Our specific state doesn’t require helmets but we would definitely recommend it for a safer, more enjoyable, experience.
Upon popping the rear-opening hood, I got a good look at the 2.4-liter, 173 horsepower engine but it wasn’t until we started it up and heard its symphonic roar that the adrenaline began to flow. As I hopped over where the door would be, buckled-up my seatbelt and started the engine, I quickly got a feel for the clutch of the five-speed manual transmission. It took some getting used to, of course, as I have very little experience driving manual – I know, typical millennial. Equipped with a rearview backup camera, the Slingshot SL makes it simple to maneuver its wide body out of parking spots but it’s not the back you have to worry about, it’s the front – as it’s definitely wider than your typical smaller-sized car.
Out on the road, you feel a lot of the bumps and potholes, maybe even more so than with a motorcycle – which would really be my biggest gripe about the auto-cycle. The Slingshot shifts smoothly, with little push or pull between gears – once I got the hang of it, of course – and that back wheel, oh that back wheel is something to treat with an equal portion of both respect and mayhem. The rear tire follows wherever the front takes it but, even with the stability control, there’s a little wiggle now and then when switching gears and if you deactivate the control, you can pull off when hell of a burnout. It’s good in wet conditions, as we made sure to test it in a very light rain, though sharp turns can prove to be more challenging with the back wheel but all-in-all, a little rain is no big deal – thanks to the waterproof seats.
The front end sits low, so avoiding dips in the road can sometimes be a challenge as well but once you’re out on the open road, that’s really no cause of concern. The Slingshot has a loud sound to it, one that’s inviting rather than infuriating and it definitely has some major giddy-up. Polaris hasn’t officially stated what the 0 to 60 time for the Slinghshot is, but we gather it’s pretty quick – definitely less than five seconds. I know I tried to test it out without a timer once or twice. The electrically assisted steering makes for smooth turning capabilities, though high radius corners might take a couple of tries to perfect.
After nearly two weeks of driving, it’s clear how much fun the Slingshot can be. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for life in the crowded city, getting that bad boy out on the open road is exhilarating and mixing a scenic drive with some sort of windy road is unbelievably fun. At $19,999, it affordably gives occupants feeling reminiscent of a vintage roadster and people will honk and stare at any opportunity. If you’re hesitant for a motorcycle and want something a little safer, this is the perfect toy – and while it might have one or two small little issues, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it.
I know I didn’t want to give it back.