Despite its seat belts and steering wheel, the Slingshot “reverse trike” falls into the gray area between car and motorcycle, skewing more toward the latter. The Polaris Slingshot is classified as a three-wheel motorcycle, a standard motorcycle, an autocycle, or an unconventional vehicle in all but two states (Hawaii and Maryland still need to be sorted out) and, as such, licensing requirements vary. You can sift through your state’s legal jargon or simply do what we did: Grab a full-face helmet, step over the Slingshot’s tube-steel frame onto its waterproof driver’s seat, and slide under its rubberized steering wheel.
This thing is seriously chintzy, from its spongy shift knob to its flimsy plastic bodywork to its tires specially designed by oh-so-legendary manufacturer Kenda. It’s chintzy even under the hood, where rust had eaten away at the exhaust manifold on our trike’s GM-sourced, 173-hp, 2.4-liter inline-four, which looked like it might’ve been plucked from a wrecked Pontiac Solstice at Pick-n-Pull. It’s chintzy as it is ugly. Obviously designed by a nerdy teenager, the Slingshot looks like a Lego, a “Transformers” robot, a pod racer from “Star Wars” from the front, and, from the rear, it looks absolutely abhorrent, like a matte black hot tub with a training wheel tacked to the back.
Press the Slingshot’s red plastic starter button, and the engine’s gritty, tinny clatter, the indolent blat from the exhaust dumping directly behind the right-front tire, and the shrill whistle coming from the belt whipping around the rear wheel create a vile cacophony we wish could be unheard.
Turn-in is remarkably sharp, and seeing the front tires from the driver’s seat lets you comfortably put rubber on the ragged edge of the road. A super-slow steering ratio means the Slingshot needs a lot of hand-over-hand wheelwork, and a seriously overprotective stability control system that neuters performance with just a whiff of wiliness needs to be completely defeated to have tail-out fun. But tread carefully. Carving through the long, flowing curves in the canyons of California’s San Jacinto Mountains, the Polaris Slingshot felt perfect, sliding around predictably, but we were petrified when we came to a set of tight, blind hairpins.
The meat of the Slingshot’s weight sits over its front end and, while the trike’s wide stance gives it an impressive amount of hold, the lone rear tire will inevitably break loose, and the Slingshot will slide. Controllably, if you’re calm and meter out power slowly, but don’t coax it over rotate. You can recover from a tank-slapper in a car. Tank-slap a Slingshot, and you’ll likely put its thick, metal roll hoops to the test.
Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, there are far better performance vehicles than the Polaris Slingshot, but very few of them will make you smile when you’re scared senseless as well as capture the attention and imaginations of friends, neighbors, the nurse on her lunch break, the 4-year-old in her “Dora The Explorer” T-shirt, the couple visiting from Trinidad, and the hound dogs howling in the bed of rusty Chevy C10. The Polaris Slingshot isn’t great, but it is awesome.
2015 Polaris Slingshot SL LE Specifications
|Price:||$21,995/$25,995 base/as tested (est)|
|Engine:||2.4L DOHC 16-valve I-4/173 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 166 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm|
|Layout:||0-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD reverse trike|
|Suspension F/R:||Control arms, coil springs/swingarm, coil spring|
|Brakes F/R:||Vented discs|
|Tires F/R:||225/45R-18 / 255/35R-20 Kenda Slingshot 799|
|L x W x H:||149.6 x 77.6 x 51.9 in|
|Cargo Room:||2.9 cu ft|
|Weight Dist. F/R:||65/35%|
|0-60 MPH:||5.8 sec|
|1/4-Mile:||14.6 sec @ 95 mph|
|Top Speed:||130 mph|