If the only toy (heavy emphasis on toy) you’re looking to buy is the Polaris Slingshot, buy it. If you’re choosing between multiple vehicles in different categories and you’ve thrown the Slingshot into the mix because it looks something of a two-for-one, well, maybe you shouldn’t buy it…… Not until you read this anyway.
Human beings are masters at categorizing things. It’s something we do automatically. When we look at something new, we can’t help but decide for ourselves where it might fit. Case in point, a tow truck, a fire truck and an 18 wheeler look nothing alike. Albeit, a six year old boy will tell you without discern that they’re all trucks. Any adult’s brain will start deciding what the Slingshot is at first glance, but make no mistake, the Polaris Slingshot does not fit well in a category with anything else.
A three wheeled motorcycle?
In the beginning, before Polaris brought the Slingshot to production, I would daydream while drooling over the early concept renderings. I saw the Polaris Slingshot as a vehicle that some other people might use as a substitute for a motorcycle. For me, it seemed more akin to a best bang for the buck open top sports car. Then I thought, hell, it could be a cool looking commuter that some people might use as primary transportation.
Fast forward to around 5000 miles after my purchase, and it became abundantly clear to me that the Polaris Slingshot is none of the aforementioned. I suppose if someone wanted a motorcycle, but they were physically incapable of riding one, I could understand the draw toward the Slingshot as an alternative. I’ve been riding motorcycles for decades though, and I can tell you that driving a Slingshot is vastly different. Sure, the Slingshot gives you an open air experience, but you don’t hang off of it through the curves. It doesn’t wheelie or endo. Nor does The Slingshot scream through the quarter mile anywhere close to 10 seconds. If cruisers are the wind beneath your wings, the Polaris Slingshot does not have the same potato, potato, tomato, potato sound of the latest greatest big twin. Nor does it give you the same instant biker status / street cred included in every purchase of a Hardley Movinson. That said, if a motorcycle is seriously what you’re after (and you’re able to ride one) you should probably buy a motorcycle.
First, the Slingshot gets 25mpg. While that’s okay for what it delivers, it’s not a fuel sipper by any means. By comparison, a new Ford Fiesta costs between $5,000-$10,000 less (depending on model) and it can squeeze out 40+mpg on the highway if you keep your foot out of it. Moreover, while the Polaris Slingshot’s longevity hasn’t really been tested, it’s probably not reasonable to expect 200,000 to 300,000 reliable miles from it. While the engine and drivetrain are sourced from General motors, there are many components designed by Polaris Industries. Some of which have already proven to be problematic. An Internet search won’t reveal much more than an early recall for roll hoops and steering rack. However, Slingshot owners from the forum community continue to toil over finding solutions to failures and weak points. Needle/axle bearings, EPAS (electric power assisted steering) quirkiness, soft/weak brakes and brake light sensors are some of the main culprits. In all fairness, maybe problems are expected to manifest with any first year vehicle. The point however, is that none of those issues/characteristics would be acceptable for a reliable and efficient commuter car. Even without the first (and second) year teething issues, you’d still want to consider the inherent drawbacks such as, the lack of a heater, air conditioning, top, doors, airbags, crumple zones and a non existent safety rating.
Is the Polaris Slingshot a sports car?
The current generation of buyer hold todays sports cars to a pretty high standard. Reviewers look for perfection in some if not all categories. A sports car without precise steering and good handling would fall very short in today’s comparison tests. Good power is a given, but more importantly, it’s expected that a car should be able to put the power to the ground. Especially since more and more sports car enthusiasts are gravitating toward auto-cross. The Polaris Slingshot is a wheel spinning machine in the first two gears.
It’s also become commonplace for sports cars (and even family sedans) to come equipped with different drive mode options programmed into their ECU’s. These mode options enable the driver to change the cars performance characteristics at the push of a button. Track mode, sport mode, and weather mode, are a few examples. Tesla Motors actually has an “insane mode” programmed into the ECU of their P85D model car. The drive mode option in the Polaris Slingshot is your right foot. That’s just the way I like it, but others may expect more.
“A sports car cannot perform like a Polaris Slingshot….”
At this point it probably sounds like I’m trying to talk you out of buying the Polaris Slingshot. Quite the contrary actually. In order for me to really capture and illustrate my point, I need to briefly mention a vehicle that I owned when I was very young.
I bought, sold, and horse traded a long list of cars as a kid. I had some pretty cool cars. Then again, I had some hoopties too. You’d think I’d explain my point by comparing the Slingshot to my old Z28, or the ’68 Mustang (that I sold too cheap), or maybe even the 455ci big block Delta 88. I don’t want to compare it to those cars because that’s my brain attempting to toss the Slingshot into a specific category again. I don’t want to blur the lines. I know this sounds terrible but I’m going to write about my 1986 Hyundai Excel hatch back. I know…. I can almost feel the tomato’s hitting me, but bare with me.
It’s not the least bit sporty, sexy, or cool. I was a little bummed at first when I bought the car, because the front shocks were completely blown…..But I wasn’t bummed for long. In the 1990’s, having hydraulics was all the rage where I grew up. As a poor teenage kid with very little money, blown front shocks was as close as I was going to get to hittin’ them switches.
With the right timing, I could get going about 40mph, then I’d stab the brake pedal to get the front end to dive. Once the springs compressed, I’d let go of the brake until the front end shot back up. As soon as the front end reached it’s peak, I’d hit the brake again to compress it even further. After about three brake pumps, I’d have that car’s nose in the air, bouncing the entire front of the car like a rubber ball. It never failed to make me laugh hysterically. At times, I’d have a whole car full of teenage kids, pissing their pants with laughter as we violently bottomed out the car with every bounce. Even though I couldn’t afford hydraulics, In my youthful ignorance, I felt like I had the next best thing. To the average onlooker, I imagine I just looked like a complete idiot bouncing a 10 year old piece of junk down the street.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not equating the Slingshot to some old shitbox car. The Slingshot is light years ahead of that vehicle, In every single way. They really only have one thing in common. The Slingshot extracts the same raw silly mischevious emotions from me while I drive it. Not only does it extract those childish emotions, but it magnifies them tenfold. I’ve literally giggled like a kid again while thrashing the Slingshot down the back roads where the hard numbers really don’t matter. When I’m not taunting every Vette and Boxter I can find, I’m doing burnouts, cookies and drifiting. The Polaris Slingshot embodies the fundamental reasons I became a performance enthusiast in the first place. Fun, and lots of it. A sports car cannot perform like a Polaris Slingshot when it comes to outright fun. If you’re looking specifically for a sports car (somewhere) near the Slingshot’s price range, consider an Fr-s, BRZ, WRX, Fiesta ST, MX-5, or even a used Honda S2000. However, if you’re looking to stir up the old immature fun and laughter from the days when you and your friends would have drawn a big penis on the face of the first kid who fell asleep at the party, you should consider the Polaris Slingshot.