Polaris makes toys. A lot of these toys appeal to boys from the age of about 18 to 80. Polaris has a history of knowing what guys want even before they do. This $3.8 billion dollar power-sports powerhouse gives its designers a lot of rope to create vehicles that tickle the imagination of toy-loving outdoor enthusiasts. Ten years ago Polaris reinvented the off-road all-terrain vehicle market with their innovative side-by-side RZR and RANGER products. Their line of Victory motorcycles gave cruiser riders a genuine alternative to Harley Davidson. The new Indian line is getting rave reviews for not only being true to the original Indian brand, but introducing leading edge technology at the same time. And this, without mentioning their award-winning snowmobiles. Of course, women ride too, but out on the road or the trail, it seems as if there is a slightly higher percentage of men and boys on these roar-toys than women and girls.
This week Polaris is doing it again with the Slingshot. Here is a vehicle somewhere between an Ariel Atom sports car and a Ducati GP motorcycle. Its 3-point geometry consists of a 173-HP front-mounted engine, a single rear wheel connected to the transmission with a belt, ultra wide-stance front wheels and ground clearance just inches above the pavement. The Slingshot exhibits super-car angularity and looks like it came off the set of a Terminator movie. With a 105-inch wheelbase and 69-inch track width, this baby is wide. Weighing in at just under 1,700 lbs. and with just 10 lbs. for each horsepower to pull, the Slingshot accelerates like a rocket.
According to Mike Jonikas, the Polaris VP overseeing the Slingshot, it was “designed from the ground up for people with a passionate thirst for an adrenaline-filled driving experience. It’s the perfect vehicle for those days when you crave a drive in the open air with the asphalt screaming beneath you and the head-turning exhilaration that comes from driving something incredibly unique.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) both classify the Slingshot as a 3-wheel motorcycle. This means all federal and state regulations pertaining to the licensing and safety for motorcycles apply, including local helmet laws.
The Slingshot’s space-age steel frame has a sport-tuned double-wishbone front suspension with a sway bar and coil over gas-filled shocks. Electric, power-assisted steering is designed to provide for fatigue-free driving. ABS coupled to 298mm diameter rotors at all three wheels will slow this beast down in seconds and do it safely. Peak horsepower comes at 6,200 RPM and the rev limiter caps RPM at 7,000 RPM.
A lightweight aluminum swingarm and massive rear shock hold the rear wheel and drive train in position. Electronic stability control helps avoid unwanted wheel spin or skidding which could be a concern in a three-wheel vehicle. Wheel size varies slightly for each model, but are forged aluminum in front and back with custom designed, low-profile, high-performance tires. The clutch is a single plate dry clutch, hydraulically activated and mated to a 5-speed gearbox. Power is delivered through the transmission and then to the rear wheel via a carbon fiber reinforced belt.
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You step into the car (there is no door) and sit on race-like waterproof seats, and settle yourself into a futuristic frame with rust-proof polymer body panels. Close proximity to the pavement amplifies the sensation of speed. When you’re surfing down the asphalt with your backside only 11 inches off the ground, you get a whole new perspective on velocity and the true meaning of ground clearance. In a modern sports car one can quite easily accelerate down a highway onramp and inadvertently find one’s self at triple digit speeds. Not so with the Slingshot. Here 50 mph feels like 90 and even at modest speeds you’ll find yourself grinning ear to ear while passengers raise their arms in the air as if on an amusement park thrill ride.
Available in two models, the Slingshot and Slingshot SL, both have five-speed manual transmissions. Power comes from a 2.4 liter (2384cc) dual overhead cam engine with a bore and stroke of 88mm X 98mm and variable-value timing for better fuel efficiency. The compression ratio is 10.4:1 on the 173 HP power plant, which means you’ll be parking at the premium pump when you fill up.
The Slingshot is available in a “Titanium Metallic” paint scheme and features 17-inch wheels upfront and an 18-inch wheel in the rear. The Slingshot SL comes in “Red Pearl” with larger 18-inch wheels in front and a larger rear wheel as well. All wheels are forged aluminum. The SL model also includes a windscreen, integrated backup camera, and a six-speaker Bluetooth-enabled audio system — all of which can be ordered separately on the base model.
Pricing is forecast to be in the $22 – $25K range. Polaris dealers will begin taking deposits in August with deliveries expected to begin as early as October. Accessories include car covers, different windshields and lighting kits, smartphone mounts and a media console, and, presumably, coordinating apparel.
There are innate human reasons that convertibles, motorcycles and ATVs are so popular. On a beautiful day there’s nothing better than the sun in your face and the wind in your hair as you experience firsthand an unforgettable urban or rural landscape. The Slingshot is born of a recipe that is equal parts of each of these genres, with a pinch of Batmobile and F1 race car thrown in to turn heads, and I suspect buyers will love the taste of it.