It must be the future, because Polaris’ outlandish, 3-wheeled Slingshot is real

Coming on the heels of their successful re-introduction of the iconic Indian motorcycle brand and their popular Victory motorcycle line, Polaris has really gone bonkers with a unique and hyper-futuristic street legal three-wheel machine called the Slingshot. A mashup of a reverse trike, snowmobile, go-cart, a Miata and something that escaped from a Tron or Batman movie set, the Slingshot looks like an absolute blast and will likely give sports cars absolute fits when the roads start to twist.

While rival Can-Am has been populating roadways with their more motorcycle-like Spyder series of three-wheelers for several years now, Polaris is looking to change things up with the Slingshot, which seats a driver and passenger next to each other in an open-air cockpit – and features a steering wheel instead of handlebars. The closest thing you can get to it right now is the Canadian T-Rex Roadster or the decidedly retro Morgan three-wheeler from the U.K., which should run and cower in fear if it sees a Slingshot anywhere nearby.

With a curb weight of just over 1,700 pounds fueled, go-cart seating and over 170 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque coming from a GM-sourced DOHC EcoTech 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, the Slingshot is clearly made to corner … and corner and corner and corner. But with that much power pushing less weight than even most track-prepped cars, it likely won’t be a slouch in a straight line either. Unlike the taller, sit-up Spyders, the Slingshot’s two bucket seats place your buns just inches off the tarmac, giving drivers more of an Indy Lites racecar driving experience. Let’s hope there’s a lot of bolstering.

The Slingshot’s power flows through a five-speed manually stick-shifted transmission and terminates in a motorcycle-style kevlar belt final drive, something Polaris has extensive experience with. Clawing for traction are three very wide Kenda “Slingshot” tires, which Chad Nibbelink, Slingshot Product Manager for Polaris, said were developed specifically for the machine.

The Slingshot isn’t short on tech, either. On the more premium SL version of the Slingshot, a central 4.3-inch LCD screen controls a marine-grade six-speaker audio system that incorporates AM/FM, USB and Bluetooth connections. It also links to a backup camera. There’s even a handy (but optional) mount for your smartphone so you can power up GPS or more easily control the tunes while shredding switchbacks.

LEDs light up brake and marker lights while a spider’s share of projector beams light the way ahead. Standard ABS brakes, traction control, electronically assisted power steering, throttle by wire and electronic stability control will work together to keep aspiring Andrettis in their lane. There’s even cruise control. Traction and stability control can be shut off by the driver, while ABS is always on.

All that high-tech goodness will ring at $19,999 for the base model and $23,999 for the fully optioned up SL version.

The differences between the dark-colored base model and the red SL version includes 1-inch larger uprated 5-spoke wheels, the LCD screen, audio package, backup camera, a windscreen and some other bits. However, Nibbelink said the base vehicle performance is the same in both versions and anyone buying the “regular” model can add any of the SL upgrades as options. Plus, there’s a full line of casual clothing, helmets, gloves, rain suits and vehicle covers to choose from – but no hard or soft top.

Polaris Slingshot

The look of the Slingshot is all future-tech and comes across as a mix of ideas from Batman, Terminator, Tron and Battlestar Galactica. The angular, vented hood props open for engine care, but the back of the Slingshot is essentially naked, with the final drive and mono-shock rear suspension out in the wind for the world to marvel at. The chassis is all steel tubing and while Polaris doesn’t note anything about crash worthiness, it’s likely more substantial than any motorcycle on the road.

Nibbelink said the Slingshot has been in development for the past couple of years and grew out of their success with their side-by-side ATV machines and their desire to produce a street-legal machine to compete with the Spyder and other 3-wheeled competitors. He also thinks the timing for the Slingshot is right. “It’s the confluence of several trends” he said they were seeing in ATVs and motorcycles, especially regarding traditional trikes and the new inverted trike trend. He said the Slingshot, while having three wheels, is designed to give rider and passenger a very motorcycle-like experience in terms of exposure to the world around them while driving.

So who does Nibbelink see in the Slingshot’s driver and passenger seats? Riders and drivers already familiar with ATV and motorcycles, but also tech-savvy urban dwellers looking for a unique, highly maneuverable vehicle that isn’t a car or scooter – and one that gets a lot of attention.

Despite the Slingshot being “street legal”, just how it will be classified – as a car or motorcycle – may vary from state to state. The side-by-side seating and steering wheel scream out “car”, but that single wheel out back and a stance in line with the Can-Am Spyders already on the road may put it in the motorcycle box in some places. Nibbelink said that “all states know how they will classify Slingshot. We meet ALL requirements to be a 3-wheel motorcycle!” Where it is classified as a motorcycle, perspective buyers will need to get a motorcycle endorsement to be fully legal pilots. Nibbelink said they think of the Slingshot as closer to a motorcycle than a car and they encourage riders and passengers to wear helmets if not already mandated by state law.

No matter how it ends up being classified by the powers that be, the Slingshot looks utterly unique and is most likely an absolute hoot to pilot on a curvy road, and we are working to arrange a test-thrashing at the earliest opportunity.

Product Review

Ford’s reincarnated Ranger feels like a car that does everything a truck can do

The 2019 Ford Ranger aims to be a tool for weekend adventures, and goes head-to-head with midsize pickup trucks from Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. Ford hasn’t sold the Ranger in the United States since 2011, so it has to make up…
Product Review

The all-new 3 Series proves BMW can still build a compelling sport sedan

Seat time in the entry-level BMW 330i ($41,425) and M340i xDrive ($54,995) will test the German automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, and cutting edge technology.

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti has released a teaser image to preview a concept it will unveil at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The yet-unnamed design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language.

What’s next for in-car entertainment? Audi believes it knows

Audi is bringing two technologies to CES 2019. The first turns a car -- a luxury sedan, in this case -- into a drive-in movie theater. The second is presented as a new entertainment format that turns the journey into the destination.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

California wants all-electric public bus fleet on its roads by 2040

California approved a regulation that targets an all-electric public bus fleet for the whole state by 2040. The effect of the full implementation of the regulation is equivalent to taking 4 million cars off the road.

1,000-mph Bloodhound supersonic car project finds a last-minute savior

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has found a buyer. The project was going to be disbanded after running out of funds, but its assets were purchased by British businessman Ian Warhurst.

Ford’s prototype Quiet Kennel uses noise-canceling tech to keep dogs stress-free

Ford is ending 2018 by venturing into the doghouse market. The company's European division has built a kennel equipped with active noise-canceling technology and soundproof walls that help dogs sleep through fireworks.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.

The best compact cars pack full-size features in fun-size packages

The best compact cars on the market rival their counterparts in many ways, proving that bigger isn’t always better. Here, we've rounded up some of the better options available, including an SUV and an electric alternative.

Lincoln revives its coolest-ever design feature for limited-edition Continental

The 1961 Lincoln Continental became a design icon thanks to center-opening "coach doors" (also known as "suicide doors"). Lincoln is bringing those doors back for a special edition of the 2019 Continental.