Remember when a slingshot was a “Y-shaped” contraption, usually made of wood, with a couple of rubber bands attached to a cloth or leather patch, that was used to hurl projectiles at a target of some sort? Well, those are still around, but the concept of hurling an object forward at speed has a new twist for those with a spirit for adventure and a surplus of spendable income. It’s the Polaris Slingshot, a motorized vehicle with two wheels up front and a single driving wheel in the rear.
Polaris has been an innovator for quite some time now in the powersports arena, having developed the Victory motorcycle line, having purchased and revitalized the iconic Indian motorcycle legacy, and having taken over the Brammo electric motorcycle and GEM electric vehicle operations. The company also produces snowmobiles and side-by-side off-road vehicles.
The Slingshot is one of the latest powersports crafts to come from Polaris, making a bold and creative statement with a new and different approach to motorcycling. But is it really a motorcycle? Some would emphatically say no, but ironically, it is classified as such.
Why ironically? Well, for starters it accommodates seating for two in a side-by-side arrangement, and you sit in it, not on it. There are seat belts and cupholders, and it’s controlled directionally by a steering wheel with Polaris’s speed-sensitive Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS), and power comes from an automotive engine.
The transmission is an automotive five-speed manual gearbox with a foot-operated clutch. There are two wheels up front with an automotive type suspension and a single driving wheel aft – the latter being the only real trait linked to a motorcycle.
The engine is the same type that piloted both the now defunct Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice. It is a front, longitudinally-mounted GM Ecotec 2.4-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, VVT inline four-cylinder engine with port fuel injection that makes 173 horses at 6,200 rpm, while developing 166 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. Final motive energy is geared to the rear wheel by a Carbon fiber reinforced belt – (36mm x 147T) via a five-speed synchromesh manual transmission with reverse, and a dry, single-plate hydraulically actuated clutch.
The Polaris Slingshot is based on a high-strength steel frame with suspension componentry consisting of a sport-tuned double wishbone with a sway bar and coil-over gas-filled shocks up front for the two wheels, and a lightweight forged aluminum swingarm in the rear with a coil over shock.
Rolling stock features 5-“Y”-spoke lightweight cast alloy wheels shod with low profile, radial directional performance tires – Kenda 700 205/50 R17x7” tires up front and a 265/35 R 20×9.5” tire in the rear. Brakes are discs with ABS, traction control and electronic stability control.
The body is made up of polymer panels with a reverse-tilt hood, and when everything is in place, the Slingshot takes on a persona resembling a Transformer vehicle or George Barris’ Batmobile. It displays a truly futuristic image, with wing-like front fenders and projector-beam headlights that look arachnid-like, and LED taillights.
The cockpit is out in the open, so it really can’t be called an interior, features adjustable waterproof seating with 3-point seat belts and locking storage bins behind each that are capable of holding full face helmets and other gear, a locking glove box, tilt steering, forged aluminum roll hoops.
The Slingshot’s wheelbase is105.0 inches, the overall length is 149.6-inches, width measures 77.6-inches, and the height is 51.9-inches. It tips the scales at 1,718 pounds (curb weight), and the ground clearance is 5.0-inches. Fuel capacity is 9.8 gallons.
My test 2016 Polaris Slingshot’s base price was $26,499 with the final sticker coming to $27,549. After adding the dealer prep and handling charges. It wore a black metallic exterior impregnated with blue flecks of metal, with a red frame.
The 2016 Polaris Slingshot SL LE delivers a totally unique and different driving (riding) experience. As already indicated, it’s classified as a motorcycle in most states, so helmets are required – full-face recommended. As far as operation is concerned, operational license requirements vary from state to state. Some require only a regular driver’s license, while others require 2 or 3-wheeled motorcycle licenses.
There are no doors, so one would think that getting in and out of it would be a breeze, but due to the framework, gracefulness is not a keyword, particularly for those with long legs in excess of 6 feet. Stepping into, and standing on both feet and sliding down into the seat worked best for me, with the reverse order applying to egress. Once in however, the driving or riding position is really quite comfortable.
Handling characteristics border on sports car agility, and the ride quality is comfortable and compliant as well, soaking up bumps and rough surfaces with aplomb.
The entire cockpit is essentially waterproof, and is protected by a low blade polycarbonate wind deflector and comes with a 4.3 LCD screen and a six-speaker audio system. There’s a backup camera, key ignition with push-button start, an accessory power outlet, a speedo and tach, with idiot warning lights for crucial functions, and a hand operated park or emergency brake.
The engine compartment may be accessed by pulling the clamshell hood forward and up once you know where the release is. I had no owner’s manual and had to call a dealer for instructions. A locking fuel filler cap would be a plus, as would a locking steering for added vehicle security.
Besides not having a top and no doors, the Slingshot feels safe and secure even at higher speeds. Nailing the throttle and dumping the clutch instantly breaks the rear tire loose and the Slingshot wants to go sideways, so paying close attention is in order. In fact, the Slingshot is capable of smoking the rear tire in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears. The gearbox makes it changes smoothly and steering is positive and on-center.
Piloting the Slingshot provides a fun experience, blending the open-air freedom of a motorcycle with the driving characteristics of an automobile, while seated seemingly almost on the ground. For the sake of argument, let’s call the Slingshot a roadster that comes with a 2-year factory warranty. Whatever you decide to call it, since many observers likened the Slingshot to the Batmobile, parking is available in the Bat Cave, and there is a host of accessories options available including cover, bags, etc. for personalization.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2016 Polaris Slingshot SL LE
Base Price: $26,499.
Price as Tested: $27,549.
Engine Type and Size: GM Ecotec 2.4-liter, DOHC, 16-valve,VVT inline four-cylinder with port fuel injection.
Horsepower (bhp): 173 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 166 @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed synchromesh manual with reverse, dry,
single-plate hydraulically actuated.
Drive Train: Longitudinally mounted front engine / Carbon fiber reinforced belt – 36mm x 147T rear-wheel drive
Suspension: Sport tuned
Front – Forged aluminum double wishbone, coil-over gas-filled shocks and sway bar.
Rear – Lightweight aluminum swingarm.
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel vented discs with ABS, ESC and Traction Control.
Tires: Kenda 700 205/50 R17x7” front / 265/35 R18x9.5” (Base) mounted on 8-spoke cast alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 105.0 inches
Length Overall: 149.6 inches
Width: 77.6 inches
Height: 51.9 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.0 inches
Curb Weight: 1,718 lbs.
Turning Circle: Not listed
Fuel Capacity: 9.77 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: Not measured. 20+ mpg combined estimate
Drag Coefficient: Not listed
0 – 60 mph: 4.6* seconds *est