In this job, I get to drive a lot of fun and interesting cars — however, nothing made my inner narcissist happy the way the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R did.
For those who don’t know, the Slingshot an open-air, three-wheeled vehicle that’s part car and part motorcycle. In this case, open air means no roof, not one that tucks away into the trunk, which is good because that doesn’t exist either.
The Polaris Slingshot is a difficult-to-miss three-wheeled vehicle that’s seemingly half car and half motorcycle. There are some advantages to each. Like a motorcycle is sleek, nimble and quick. Like a car it comes with some additional protection for the occupants, who sit side-by-side rather than one behind the other.
Conversely, if you’re required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, it’s likely you’ll need to follow suit while driving the Slingshot. Then again, like any brightly colored, high-revving machine, it also means plenty of attention in the form of thumbs ups, and “cool car dudes” from an adoring public.
The Slingshot is difficult to miss — as it should be. No one will mistake it for a Ford Mustang, Mazda Miata or with any other three-wheeler (there are a few) available on the market. Much of that is attributable to the VERY aggressive styling — starting with the sunrise orange and cobalt blue exterior — makes certain you won’t be ignored.
But its more than the bright colors that draw you in. The nose with its center-mounted headlight and angled LED running lights is unmistakably surly … almost angry. To be clear, one friend asked me, “Are you Batman?” Not Adam West, campy Batmen, but fighting with Bane and hanging out with Anne Hathaway Batman. (Officially, I’m not Batman … not that I’d tell you if I was.)
This is the big surprise: it’s comfortable and I’m going through out a surprising word: spacious. I’m a large round man and I had no problem getting comfortable behind the wheel. Also, after taking some long drives, the seat was relatively comfortable.
If you’re looking for scads of leather and open-pore wood and haptic-feedback buttons, this isn’t the machine for you. It seats two and does it well. In fact, the exterior and the interior meet here in ways one never sees in a more conventional car, including seeing the vehicle frame next to your thigh. One should also know that its waterproof so, yes, you can drive in the rain, but I don’t recommend it.
Also missing is sound deadening material. You hear everything in this car. Roar of the engine? Check. Wind rushing by? Check. The push-button automatic change from reverse to drive? Check? Er, check! Engine sounds are good, but the others, especially the clunking of the auto — which I’ll get to next — not as compelling.
The 2021 model is powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine Polaris developed internally called the Prostar. It puts out 203 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque — all in a package that weighs less than 1,700 pounds.
The zero to sixty time is reportedly just under 5 seconds, but I’m not certain that’s doable with the terrible 5-speed automatic transmission it calls AutoDrive. It’s clunky and never seems to know what gear it needs to be in — even the new-for-this-year paddle shifters only made a marginal difference. Fortunately, a manual is an option and I’ll bet one of those is a laugh riot, although this one was plenty of fun.
The top speed is 125 mph, which I never approached, but at 80 mph is felt solid, although the hood may bobble a bit, but it didn’t impact the car’s performance.
Safety and Technology
When driving in a teeny-tiny, close-to-the-ground car, safety takes on a new level of importance. To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot, in terms of high-tech equipment. It’s not really designed for that. It does feature anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, which given it rides on three wheels is a bigger deal than one may realize.
That said, it does come with a pleasantly large number of convenience technologies, such as Apple CarPlay and an excellent 100-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, which are standard for the R model. The navigation system on the 7-inch screen is easy to use and see, plus can get a slew of information about the vehicle, such as engine temperature and other metrics.
This thing is meant for fun in the sun and that becomes clear when you realize there’s no heater or air conditioner; however, you can get heated and cooled seats.
One might think any vehicle with the frame exposed would be harsh to ride in, but it’s pleasantly comfortable and surprisingly easy to get in and out of — even if you’re larger like I am.
Is it hard to drive a three-wheel vehicle? No — largely due to the aforementioned traction control preventing the single real wheel from breaking loose every time you step on the gas.
Shut it off and shift from Comfort mode to Slingshot mode and you can do donuts to your heart’s content. I found leaving the nanny on and riding in Slingshot mode was the best combo, providing sure-footed handling and plenty of power on the curving, winding road I like to test vehicles on near my home.
2021 Polaris Slingshot R specifications:
|Dimension||L: 149.6 inches/W: 77.9 inches/H: 51.9 inches/Wheelbase: 105 inches|
|Powertrain||2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine; 5-speed automatic transmission with belt drive|
|Fuel Economy||Not available|
|Performance Specs||203 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $31,299; As tested: $33,299 not including $400 dealer prep fee|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
What does it cost to be the center of attention while driving? In this case, it starts at $33,299. However, you can get the base model, the Slingshot S, for a very reasonable $19,999. You can also add plenty of accessories, like a roof or a higher windscreen and push it closer to $40K. Now you know how much it costs to have fun.
2021 Polaris Slingshot R — Frequently Asked Questions
How much is a Polaris Slingshot R?
The Slingshot starts at $19,999 and wends its way through four trim levels with the R being the second most expensive starting at $31,299. If you want to add the AutoDrive with paddle shifters, that rises to $33,299.
How fast does a Polaris Slingshot R go?
Powered by 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine developed by Polaris, the 203-horsepower racer goes from 0-to-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, the company claims. We couldn’t replicate that time in the test model. It has a top speed of 125 mph.
Can you drive a Polaris Slingshot in the rain?
The Slingshot is an open-air three-wheeler with waterproof seats and other components as well as forged aluminum roll hoops. In short, yup, you can drive in the rain, but you’re hair’s going to look terrible once you arrive.