Driven: 2018 Polaris Slingshot SL

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Aug 04, 2018

My first encounter with the Polaris Slingshot was almost a year ago and going into it, I didn’t really know what to think. That was in Malibu, California, a much more exotic location than my humble hometown of Madison, Wisconsin and a place with tight, twisty, canyon roads that beg you to push the three-wheeler toward the limits of its adhesion. I left impressed with its handling and performance in an environment designed to show the Slingshot at its best. I was looking forward, however, to driving it on familiar city streets to see if the exotic looking trike was any fun at all on mostly straight and level midwest roads.

Behind the wheel of a Polaris Slingshot

Now I know fun is a relative term and there are things others enjoy – interpretive dance, catfish noodling, and Ironman competitions – that are not high on my must-do list. The same is true for vehicles. While I enjoy the over-the-top acceleration of a Hellcat and can appreciate the opulence of Rolls-Royce, I’m more at home in something small, light, and nimble. Give me a BMW M2, Mazda MX-5 Miata, or Toyota 86 with a manual transmission and I’m in my happy place.

So theoretically then, the Slingshot should be a no brainer for me. At just 1,750 pounds it’s one of the lightest two-seaters on the road. It is only available with a manual shifter. Its 173 hp GM-built 2.4L four-cylinder engine is quick enough to be interesting, turning mid-5 second 0-60 times; better than both the Mazda and Toyota. It’s nimble enough with its wide stance up front. And, the beefy single rear tire threatens to cut loose the harder you push it increasing the Slingshot’s giggle-factor. Drive it without a helmet and you have the sun overhead, the wind in your hair, and a smile on your face. It’s undeniably fun. In fact fun is the Slingshot’s only real purpose.

Unlike a Miata, M2, or 86, the Slingshot has almost no practical use. Lacking airbags and other basic safety systems, it’s not a great commuter. As an errand runner its utility is limited, a bag or two of groceries at most and that’s if you don’t have a passenger with you. You can take a weekend road trip in it but you better be prepared to pack light. I’m talking a toothbrush, deodorant, and one change of clothes light since the behind-seat storage won’t accommodate much more than a backpack or small duffel bag.

In addition to being fun, there’s one other thing the Slingshot is really good at: attracting attention. My speeding ticket red SL roadster drew smiles, waves, and confused, slack-jawed stares from everybody I passed. Everyone notices and reacts to the Slingshot, and not always in a positive way. This is a love/hate vehicle. There’s no in-between. People either think it’s the coolest vehicle this side of liquid nitrogen or dumber than an Adam Sandler comedy.

Having driven the Slingshot twice, I see its charm. But between my Ducati and Mustang convertible, I think I’ve got this covered. It also doesn’t help that I don’t have garage space for it. This is the type of vehicle that when it’s not out carving up country roads on the occasional sunny day is in the garage with the quads and the boat. It’s a toy. And not a cheap one.

The base Slingshot S starts at $19,900 and a loaded Grand Touring can eclipse $30,000. My SL with the addition of such features as wind screen, 18″ front and 20″ rear cast aluminum machined wheels, 7″ multi-touch display that you can use while wearing gloves, Bluetooth connectivity, Rockford Fosgate audio, and a back up camera stickered at $25,499. That’s about the same as a base MX-5 which has a top you can put up to keep you dry in the rain. The Slingshot isn’t weatherproof nor does it have any kind of HVAC system. If you’re out on the road in a Slingshot and encounter a cloudburst, you get wet. And, if it’s 45 degrees outside you get cold.

The interior is completely waterproof and there is a top available – they call it the Slingshade – but it’s only designed to provide protection from the sun. Other upgrades and accessories include quilted comfort seats, a Sparco performance shift knob, pedal covers, and steering wheel, and custom luggage. So between colors, trims, and other options there are a lot of ways to customize your Slingshot.

If you’re looking for a rational reason to buy a Slingshot, you won’t find one here. If you must have one, however, I wouldn’t let that stop you. I mean, I own an expensive Italian motorcycle, which is certainly less practical than the Slingshot. If you want an open air vehicle that offers no-frills fun, a fair amount of excitement, and all the attention in the world, the Slingshot fills that bill perfectly.

Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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