In the December issue, I teased you with a pic or two of Polaris’ latest creation, and with a few words, like “It is kick-ass fun with a small price tag. It’s not a car, not a bike but something in between…” Well I wasn’t doing the usual media thing like “Asteroid headed for Earth! News at eleven!” I wasn’t trying to get you on the hook so you’d wait with baited breath for the next issue, etc. I was truly, sincerely excited about something new and cool and wanted to share a little about it, in the time and space I had… Now that I have some more room, let’s get into it.
If you ever drove a go-cart as a kid, and wondered what that would be like on the street, just add more power, actual comfort, technology and head-turning looks and you have the Polaris Slingshot.
The whole “Is it a car, or is it a motorcycle?” thing may be fun to throw around, but the truth is we know what it is – it’s a reverse trike but with an automotive “roadster” design (meaning, two seats side by side and no weather protection). In fact, power comes from Ford’s Ecotec engine, which has been around for about 10 years and is super reliable, making about 175 HP. That said, the driving experience itself IS somewhere between that of a car and a motorcycle, in the sense that it’s easier to operate than a motorcycle while far less refined than a typical automotive experience.
But that “rawness” is what makes it so exciting! You’re basically talking frame, engine, tires and seats. Even with a windshield, you are getting that “in the wind” ride we’re all after. Sure, you may see bodywork and turn signals and a radio, but when you punch the gas and take that first turn, those things melt away. When I got clear of traffic and nailed the pedal, I felt that tightening in my gut from the sudden acceleration, and the extreme widening of my smile that came on quite involuntarily, and never left. Oh well there was that one tense moment on Mulholland, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
There’s some ambiguity on how this “vehicle” (the only safe word for it) will be classified – all states (with the exception of Texas, for the moment) are calling it a motorcycle, but that’s due to all the automotive safety elements it doesn’t have, like airbags, doors, proper bumpers, etc. Some publications have claimed that California won’t require a motorcycle enforcement on your license, but we’re pretty sure that’s false. However, we hope to be the first to test local PD’s willingness to write a helmet ticket in this seat-belted, frame and rollbar-protected ride – the thought of wearing one in this is absurd. hence our decision to wear the “beanie” to satisfy the Polaris folks.
So as a result of this motorcycle designation, you need your M1. But I think that’s a good thing – that raw feel of the vehicle doesn’t just describe the impressions; it also means you can get into trouble if you don’t take control…Yes, it is well built and well engineered, with ABS and traction control and Electronic Stability Control, but you still have to DRIVE it. On one particular twisty on Mulholland Hwy., going down and to the right hard, I had gotten lazy on my shifting and went for the brakes, only to find they weren’t going to help me. I downshifted during the turn (what a newbie) and got control back, but later I tested the brakes again and found them woefully lacking. I discussed this with the production guy, and despite his techy explanation, I think they saved a few bucks in the brake department.
But don’t get me wrong – I LIKE this. I like that I have to have some skills. I like that they built this fun beast to sell for about 22k. I like that it’s raw. The exhaust is loud, the gearbox isn’t fluid and there is understeer in the turns, but I want all of that! If I wanted a BMW or Lexus, I’d buy one, but you wouldn’t be reading about them, because they’re predictable and kinda boring. This vehicle never is, and that’s why I want one.
That’s one reason it reminds me of a Dodge Viper, the “Harley” of sports cars. In addition to the above, there’s the in-your-face front end – it’s wide, low and mean. See this in your rear view and you’ll probably move out of it’s way. Conversely, the rear end looks like a black bath tub. It’s rather unfinished, including paint. Ahh, but I believe there’s a plan – it’s the perfect spot for some curved, painted saddlebags. I shared this with the production guy that day, even showing him the lines to follow. That one’s for free, Polaris! Actually I’d love to believe I’m a visionary, but I suspect they had a similar plan or at the very least, left it unfinished by design – when you’re trying to hit a price point, and you also want that raw feel, you leave some things for the buyer to customize.
The interior is well designed, comfortable as previously mentioned, great looks and good ergonomics, and can be hosed down like a boat (or in my case, a ’79 MGB where I’d permanently removed the convertible roof – only to a teenager could that move make sense) yet the seats are excellent. Behind the seats is about 5 cubic feet of storage (I dunno, but it looks small) which is why some may look for saddlebag options.
Let’s get back to the experience – the twisties are where this thing lives. I mentioned the understeer but again, that means Slingshot needs more from you – when you give it, you have a ball. It is extremely well balanced and capable in all cornering situations, and try as we did, we could rarely get that single tire in back to break loose. We got a little chirp once in a while, but otherwise we were glued to the road.
I know you gear heads and spec junkies are dying for more, but I’m telling you – drive it, don’t read about it. It’s not like anything on the road, and as it compares to previous reverse 3-wheelers, it’s far less expensive and better designed and produced. But get out there now – dealers took delivery last month, and Polaris has sold it’s full production for the first year I’m told. Demand exceeded expectations – orders that were placed before shipment were all were filled at launch time, and then some but not all dealers were shipped Slingshots.
Like I said, I want one too. I’m thinking another few test drives are required to fully document this experience for you guys. To my friends at Polaris – I will need a lot more seat time, please.