The thought of a 3 wheeled vehicle takes me, like many of you, back to the late 80's when the 3 wheelers were putting the off road enthusiasts in the hospitals for a short stay while their bones were getting set and casted. Fast forward a few years, and the not-so-lux priced, Reliant Robin rolls into our collective consciousness, literally. Yet another leap through the years will bring us to the track day Morgan toys and the T-Rex that occupy the stables of those that live in a stratosphere of income that not many mortals live in.
Manufacturers have always equipped vehicles with an even number of wheels to achieve real and sustainable success. Two wheels allow the rider to experience a freedom that cannot be fully explained to anyone that has never rolled onto the throttle on a perfectly temperate evening with no other vehicle on the road in front or behind. Nothing but the roll on of power, two wheels, and blacktop between this rider and an ear to ear grin. Add another pair of wheels and you find yourself in a realm that has been pushed in every single possible niche of power, shine, high, fast, low, and slow. Drivers can find themselves on that same stretch of perfect tarmac and crack the windows to savor an experience that is comparable to that of the rider on two wheels, just they have the luxury of a seatbelt, steering wheel, three pedals and a gearbox at the command of their right hand. Six and eight wheels conger thoughts of utility or going places that most persons would not drive. An even number of wheels has been so successful for so long, so why buck the norm? Why not?!
Polaris has asked this exact question. How can they combine the freedom experienced by the rider swinging a leg over that motorcycle with the accessibility of the car? Polaris, being a company that has pushed the envelope so many times before and introduced products that we didn't even know that we needed, and then redefined them by smashing the mold and redesigning the whole paradigm with vehicles like the RZR, and the ACE.
Welcome to the future. In 2015, Polaris will smash the status quo again and rework the components of what works into something that works better. Something that was designed for one purpose: Exhilaration. The all-new, never before seen, Polaris Slingshot is a 3-wheeled machine that offers an experience unlike any other mode of transport on the market today. The Slingshot gives a driver and a passenger a front row seat to a 360-degree rush of adrenaline that comes from virtually all of the senses. A Rush of Sight, Sound, and Smell coming from the open air cockpit that virtually glides just inches above the pavement as you dip into corners at speed. The Sport Tuned Suspension, with it's massive sway bars, inspires you to hammer out of the corner and charge into the next corner even harder than you thought was possible.
The Slingshot's 2.4L dual overhead cam four cylinder motor produces 173 horsepower, and tips the scales after oil and fuel at 1725lbs. The math shakes out to 1 horsepower for every 9.97lbs. Let me say that again, 1hp per 9.97lbs. That is on par with some of the fastest cars on the market. The Lotus Elise, who often touts that "Light is Fast," steps to the table at 10.03lbs per horsepower. Leap way up the line to the Porsche 911 Carrera and that German road carver has 9.07lbs per horse. Head down the line to the "Working Man's Hero" track day car, the (2008) Miata, and that has 15.06lbs per horse. The Slingshot stands it's ground with some "heavy" competition that is for sure.
Open-topped C5 Corvettes hit the scale to power ratio at a hefty 9.41lbs per horse if you would like to compare apples to apples of open topped road goers. Then at the end of the day, you have a dated Corvette in the driveway, not something that will cause your neighbors to stop and stare. Not something that people will take pictures of at the fueling station. Not something that sips gas like a 4-cyl when you are just taking a relaxing drive to the in-law's house. You have the stigma-ridden Velocity Yellow Chevrolet Corvette with it's big, thirsty V8 in your driveway.
When setting about the arduous task of re-imagining the status quo of virtually everything that goes into a sports and performance vehicle, Polaris has to literally start from the ground up. They are so committed to the Slingshot, they worked an exclusive deal with Kenda Tires to develop and brand a tire specifically for the Slingshot. The result was the Kenda "Slingshot" 799 that comes stock from the dealer.
The next order of business was how to do the "Go." Polaris has a storied history of making some of the best and most powerful motors in the off-highway vehicle market, and they stepped on to the pavement in a big way with the all new Thunder Stroke 111 last year with the re-introduction of the Indian Motorcycle lineup. They have opted to not use one of their big, 999cc RZR motors, or the new 111. Instead, they sourced a 2.4L 4-cylinder motor from GM. It was then mated it to a 5-Speed gearbox instead of their proven CVT clutching system so that the driver could have that more visceral feel of swapping cogs as the road gets tight and twisty.
A high-strength steel spaceframe provides the anchor points for the engine, suspension and seats to be hung from. The Slingshot boasts a sport-tuned front suspension featuring double-wishbones, coil over gas-filled shocks; and one of the beefiest swaybars that I have seen on a car from the factory in a while. The front end assures that you will stay flat in the corners. The drive end of the Slingshot is taken care of by the single Kenda "Slingshot" 799 out back, that is affixed to the car with a lightweight aluminum swingarm, driven by a carbon fiber reinforced blet, and kept on the ground by, what appears to be a single coil over.
Once all of the groundwork was in place, it came time to develop the user interface. Where will you be putting your butt, and how will you interact with the Slingshot? Years of making seats that are built to withstand the sun and the weather has taught Polaris how to make an interior that will be able to serve you in this open-topped roadster. Color-matched and waterproof, the seats came directly out of the angular drawings of your childhood. The duty of holding you to the seats is resigned to a 3-point harness that pulls from the inboard shoulder of both occupants, while a forged aluminum hoops halo your head for added security. The steering wheel features a generous tilt span for large and small drivers alike.
A battery of safety features and equipment keep you both on the road and safe in the event of an accident. As stated before, you get a 3-point harness, and the forged aluminum hoop over your head. To assist the driver, the Slingshot features Electronic Power-Assisted Steering, ABS Disk brakes, Electronic Stability Control, and Traction Control. Projector headlights illuminate the road ahead, and the Batman-esque LED tails keep other drivers informed of your intentions. US versions will see two projectors located centrally (to adhere US Motorcycle Laws and Standards), and two outboard projectors, while Canadian Slingshots will have a pair of lights mounted in the outboard position on either side of the vehicle and no lighting located centrally. Finally, to keep your stuff safe, there are two lockable storage compartments located behind each seat respectively that are both large enough for a decent sized backpack, and another lockable glove box located in front of the passenger.
Now the styling... The styling indeed. Remember when I talked about those adolescent drawings scrawled on your book cover? Well yeah. It seems as though the designers at Polaris got ahold of those and breathed life into them. A mix of X-wing Fighter, Batman's weekend toy, and boyhood dream fodder, the Slingshot has, what I like to call, "Presence." If you can look at this thing and say that it will not cause a stir at the gas station, I will say that you are either blind or delusional. It has polymer body panels, side mirrors that sit at the end of truly industrial looking stalks, and a hood that not only looks like it is out of a science fiction movie, but it also tilts in the reverse to give you even more attention when you are inevitably asked to pop the hood at Cars and Coffee.
In this initial offering of the Slingshot, you will be able to get it in two different trim levels. The Base model and the SL. The base model will get, obviously the basic equipment as outlined above. You get the suspension, the Slingshot branded tires, the motor coupled with the 5-speed trans, and in the immortal words of Henry Ford, "You can have it in any color as long as it is Titanium Metallic." Wait... Well yeah, it comes in Titanium Metallic.
If you are looking at that red with green eyes of envy lust and desire, you will need to opt for the SL model which will come in the stunning Slingshot Red Pearl. This option will nab you some creature comforts that the base model does not afford you. To start you will get a blade windscreen to keep the bugs out of your teeth while you virtually fly down the road. Next, the base model's 8 spoke, 17" X 7" front, and 18" X 9.5" rear wheels are swapped out for a set of premium forged aluminum 10 spoke, 18" X 7.5" front, and 20" X 9" wheels in the rear. Rubber sizes change a little as well. The Base gets 205/50R17 up front and 265/35R18 in the rear. The SL's premium wheels are wrapped with 225/45R18 up front and 255/35R20 in the rear.
Lastly, the SL gets a media console in place of the cubby on the base model. This media console will allow you to control the 6-speaker audio system so you can listen to your favorite radio station, or your own music with the help of a USB input. The system also features Bluetooth Integration so that you can hook up your phone, comms or whatever you like wirelessly via Bluetooth. The 4.3" LCD display is not just for show. The display is there to show you what is coming from behind when reversing through the lens of the backup camera! Now that is lux.
We began this journey from where the rubber literally hits the road, and gone from bare bones to backup cameras. Now for the million dollar question... How many hundreds of thousands of dollars will the Slingshot be? How much money will I have to give my Polaris Dealer so that he will let me take one home. The Slingshot MSRP has been hotly debated and speculated upon. The Base Slingshot, with it's Titanium Metallic paint, is priced at $19,999! The SL, with it's Red Pearl Metallic paint, windscreen, forged wheels, media and audio package slides in at $23,999! Polaris will also have a full line of accessories and soft goods available as well.
I will give you a moment to let that either settle, or so that you can get on the phone to find out if your Polaris Dealer is going to get a Slingshot. The Slingshot will be serviced by a limited dealer network, so make sure that your local dealer is going to get an allocation if you would like to have one of these rockets in your driveway come release time, which Polaris has said is "this fall."