By Mike Cupp
I picked up the Polaris Slingshot in Newport Beach, California, directly off Pacific Coast Highway, next to a marina on a beautiful sunny day. Cruising home down PCH, I was surrounded by expensive luxury vehicles; Mercedes, Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Jaguar, etc. That’s not surprising for this area, but I was surprised that the drivers of these vehicles were checking out the Slingshot as we passed one another (note: I may have been doing most of the passing, this thing can do zero to sixty in five seconds, but more on that later).
Regardless of the setting, the Slingshot gets a ton of attention everywhere it goes. As I was driving home, stoplights became opportunities for people to ask questions. What is that? Who makes it? How much does it cost? What’s it like to drive? All good questions, and since I was still in the honeymoon phase with this vehicle, I was happy to share my experience with all my newfound friends. Stopping for lunch on Main Street in Huntington Beach, the looky-loos began circling the Slingshot almost immediately. As I ate lunch on the patio, a steady stream of people stopped to look, take pictures and admire the blue beauty. Seriously, the entire time that I had this vehicle, I was barraged constantly with questions and comments from the public. If you have trouble meeting people, or really like meeting random strangers, then you’re going to absolutely love the Slingshot! Otherwise, avoid making eye contact at stoplights.
Driving the Slingshot is a visceral experience, that compares to driving an open-wheel race car. It’s low to the ground, with an open cockpit, and it feels fast even when it’s standing still. The engine redlines at 7k rpm, giving a nice rush as you’re working the five-speed manual transmission. As I mentioned earlier, acceleration is nice off the line, and you’ll easily hit fifty mph in second gear, with some room to take it farther. Steering is responsive and agile, although the turning radius seemed to be a bit on the wide side. The single rear drive wheel proved to be sticky under most conditions, but second and third gear chirps have been reported by others (and just between you and me, I may have gotten a few of them in there too, for testing purposes only of course). The single rear tire also gives the three-wheeler a fairly predictable oversteer characteristic that is ideal in drifting circles today. The traction control senses when the back tire loses grip and slows the tire rotation until it regains control, so if you don’t try to over-correct, the Slingshot should autocorrect on its own and make you look cool at the same time.
The interior is made with marine-grade materials, so it’s safe, even if you get caught in a rainstorm on the way home or leave it out in a snowstorm overnight.
The seats and overall comfort level were pretty good for my 6’4” frame. Plenty of legroom, and all the controls were at the right distances. The steering wheel (and gauges) tilt, and that allowed me to get a straight-on view of the gauges. The entertainment and sound system were what you would expect, with AM/FM, Bluetooth, USB, navigation and a rear-view camera (which is a must, since it’s almost impossible to look over your shoulder). Storage is ample, with a storage hatch behind each of the seats (ideal for storing a helmet), along with a large glove box on the passenger side. All compartments lock for security. The wind screen was a bit of a problem for me and my height. At higher speeds, the wind buffeting off the screen and onto my face was pretty brutal. Passengers shorter than me didn’t experience the same phenomena, and the Sling forums mention replacing the stock windscreens with slightly taller after-market products that eliminate the problem for taller people. The brakes were adequate at stopping the Sling, but if you’re the type of person to regularly push a vehicle to its limits, an aftermarket brake upgrade could literally get this thing to stop on a dime. The headlights/running lights are always ON, which is probably a good thing, and night driving was just as enjoyable as daytime driving.
I’m going to let my racing friend, Gordon Edwards talk about the performance, but I will share that I drove the heck out of the Sling during the three week loaner period. I got pretty good at doing a second gear burnout that would swing the back end to the side a bit before traction control kicked in and straightened everything out. I hope the cars behind me enjoyed the show, and thank you Huntington Beach PD for missing any exhibitions of speed that may (or may not) have occurred while I was in possession of this vehicle.
Champagne Performance on a Beer Budget
By Gordon Edwards
Owner of Safehouse Security
Well that was a pleasant surprise…
Being a skeptical “you got to show me” kinda guy, I had the opportunity to test drive a Polaris Slingshot after some delay. I can’t lie, it was a big surprise. The more I drove this motorcycle/car or carcycle as I call it, the more I enjoyed it.
The ample power was supplied by the EcoTech 2.4 inline four cylinder; rated at 170+ HP at 6,200 RPM with 166 lbs of torque at 4,700 RPM used in many racing applications, mated with a very smooth shifting 5-speed manual transmission. With a curb weight of 1,700 lbs this hotrod pulled hard and I was all too happy to turn off the much-needed traction control for the novice or faint of heart. I can’t lie, I had the traction control turned off the whole time.
Now being a law-abiding driver it was hard to really lean on this machine to realize its true potential, I really needed a test track for a complete evaluation. But I tell you this: when the speed limit said 45 mph – 55 mph I was all too happy to get up on it and get there as fast as possible and bang some gears, most times achieved still in 2nd gear . They claim the 0 – 60 mph rating is under six seconds and I can attest to that! The braking seemed very responsive and equal but I didn’t have the environment for any panic stops. Being a three-wheeler front-steer, single drive-wheel in the rear configuration, this bad boy cornered pretty darn well. I was all too happy to dive into some corners to feel the response which is very different– absent of body roll. Now if I had a track situation to work with I would have liked to see the contact patch breaking point in the rear cuz it did get happy on me a few times when I was getting up on the wheel and smoking the rear. I think I could drift this sucker with a smooth safe surface away from onlookers and gawkers.
There are some improves I could suggest from the test drive but no deal killers. I did not like the gloss painted center console; the reflections were extremely distracting and could be easily remedied with flat/satin finish. My neck hurt from articulating left ‘n’ right when something flashed from the light refraction. I’m a 6’1” 205 lb driver (the same as when in high school, I might add, forty years ago) and fit very well in the comfortable side-by-side bucket seat. The tilt wheel was great but needed a telescopic option which I don’t think it had. Now being a racer I would like a five-point harness but I’m sure it would be too much hassle for the average driver. I’m sure it has a nice radio but I was so stoked to be playing with this rocket I never even turned it on. We did have a small problem with the hood latch when I was trying to show the power plant to interested parties but again, an easy fix.
The biggest needed upgrade is to include a flyer easily pulled off a tablet so when you drive around town you don’t have to repeat yourself at every stop light, 7/11 or gas station; I spent half my time testing it telling people about it, I tried to ignore them after a while so I could drive!
You’d be hard pressed to find this much fun under $25K. What a pleasant surprise!!