A VINTAGE SPORTS CAR, MINUS ONE WHEEL
The front end looks like a Lotus Seven’s might, if the minimalist roadster had been designed in 2015. The back resembles the south end of a warthog—muscular but ugly as a burnt stump. Inside you go then, stepping over the side rails and wriggling into an all-weather bucket seat, Formula Atlantic-style. Pull your helmet on, because this is technically a motorcycle. Now punch the glowing red start button, and the Polaris Slingshot thrums like a … 2.4-liter GM Ecotec four-banger?
It’s true. Hardly as exotic as the styling, the 173-hp engine—longitudinally mounted and mated to a five-speed transaxle connected to the rear wheel via a Gilmer belt final drive—turns the 1,743-pound three-wheeler into a spirited ride. The front suspension is aluminum wishbones and coil-over shocks, while a single-sided swingarm controls the rear wheel.
With each tire supporting about a third of the vehicle’s weight, the Slingshot actually works pretty well. The torquey engine sprints through the gears quickly, and the H-pattern shifter, although notchy, is likable enough. Electric power steering is light and crisp, and the system telegraphs good road feel, although the ride is choppy. The ABS brakes are highly effective, but the light clutch, mushy brake pedal and stiff throttle lack coordinated feel. Happily, you can turn the stability control off, allowing hooliganism to flower at your discretion.
Priced within $30 of a base-level 2015 Mazda Miata, the Slingshot SL predictably offers fewer creature comforts and safety features—and less versatility. But by qualifying as a “motorcycle,” (thus requiring a license endorsement in most states) it handily sidesteps certain regulations that have gradually watered down sports cars, making it an alternative to a Seven.
After recovering from the Transformers styling, Lotus founder Colin Chapman might have very well approved-even if he'd probably have liked one more wheel.
In our opinion, the Slingshot operates more like a car than a motorcycle, making it perhaps the purest little production “sports car” available. Consider it a fair-weather fun vehicle, though, not a daily driver. And be sure to check the Slingshot’s legal status in your state before looking for a dealership: Bureaucrats in Texas, Connecticut and other states are still trying to figure out how to classify the Slingshot, preventing owners from registering and driving their new toys.
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