Feast your eyes on the Polaris Slingshot, one of the strangest but most fun vehicles I've ever had the pleasure of driving. Part car / motorcycle / go-kart, this three-wheeled autocycle looks, sounds, and drives like nothing else on the road. And after spending a weekend in Austin with one, I'm officially hooked and want one for myself!
Introduced back in 2015, the Polaris Slingshot is a three-wheeler that bridges the gap between motorcycle and car and delivers the best of both worlds. Unlike a trike, when you hop into the Slingshot, you're greeted by a traditional steering wheel, gas and brakes pedals, making it easy for anyone to drive one, even if they've never ridden a motorcycle before.
Not only that, but while the Slingshot is still technically classified as a motorcycle, nearly all of the states in the US allow you to drive one with a standard driver's license, so you don't need a motorcycle endorsement. Helmet laws vary from state to state, but I would suggest wearing one anyway, as that tiny windshield does little to protect you from bugs and road debris.
While I've seen the occasional Slingshot cruising around town, I never had the chance to drive one for myself. So when the folks at Polaris asked if I would be interested in coming to Austin for an action-packed weekend where I'd get to drive their new 2022 Polaris Slingshot models, rock out at Austin City Limits, and eat some delicious BBQ, it was a no-brainer for me.
Upon landing in Austin, I caught an Uber headed over to the Colton House Hotel, my home for the weekend. Pulling into the lot, I was stunned to see a whole fleet of Slingshots in various colors and configurations perfectly lined up in a row, it was quite a sight to behold. Needless to say, a huge grin spread across my face just thinking of all the fun that we were about to have.
After a quick briefing, we headed downstairs to find our assigned Slingshots, donned helmets (which we later got custom painted by Skratch's Garage), and set a route downtown for a nice leisurely Friday afternoon cruise. While there were all models of Slingshots there, I was lucky enough to score a top-of-the-line Slingshot Signature LE model with a 5-speed manual, so I was pretty excited about that.
For 2022, there are 5 Slingshot trim levels to choose from: Slingshot S ($20,799), Slingshot SL ($26,799), Slingshot SLR ($29,699), Slingshot R ($33,299), Slingshot Signature LE ($35,799). The S is the base model, a blank canvas if you will for those people who want to customize their ride themselves, or for those on a budget who still want to have some three-wheeled fun. Each model up from there adds more style, comfort, and performance, so you can go as crazy as your wallet allows for.
Polaris offers a ton of accessories as well so that you can customize your vehicle to your liking, including a couple of top options, a vented hood, a Rockford Fosgate sound system, interior lighting, and much more. And of course, the Slingshot comes in a variety of different colors, with some really bold paint schemes that are sure to catch people's eye as you zip on by. As you can see in these photos, our rides were all distinctly unique and colorful, so as you can imagine we were quite a sight to see rolling down the street like so.
And that's actually a huge part of the Slingshot driving experience, the attention that it draws. When we drove through downtown Austin, all eyes were on us, and I can't tell you how wild it was seeing people hanging their phone out their window to take photos of our sweet rides. This was something that happened again and again throughout the weekend, as most people have not seen a Slingshot before. Needless to say, when you're behind the wheel of a Slingshot, you are going to get a lot of attention, so be prepared for that. You almost feel like a celebrity.
On Saturday morning, we headed into Hill Country to really test out the performance aspects of the Slingshots, and it's pretty insane. On paper, 203HP and 144 lb-ft of torque might not sound like a lot compared to your average car, but keep in mind that the Slingshot weighs just 1,651 pounds, giving it a wild power-to-weight ratio of 8.1 lb/hp. This sucker screams down the road (literally and figuratively), and if you're not gentle leaving in first gear, you'll light up that massive 305/30R20 rear tire and leave a massive smoke cloud in your wake.
Handling is another hallmark of the Slingshot. Thanks to its low center of gravity (you sit just 5.4 inches off the ground), you can take curves at speeds you never dreamed of. And between the open-air cockpit and being able to practically touch the ground beneath you, it makes the whole driving experience that much more engaging, and you feel like you're going much faster than you really are. 65 MPH feels more like 100 MPH, and triple-digit speeds probably feel like your face is about to get ripped off.
Previous Slingshot models used an old GM Ecotec 2.4L DOHC 4-cylinder engine in the past, but that has been replaced by a Polaris ProStar 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. This engine has low rotational inertia making it super eager to rev up to its 8500RPM redline and provide that immediate thrill of 203HP (178HP in S/SL models). This new engine also offers a wide power band paired with new gear ratios in the transmission, making it as enjoyable and exciting around town as it is in the sweeping corners of the open road. What's more, the new engine is actually 65 pounds lighter. With more power and less weight, the 2022 Slingshot is able to achieve a 0-60 MPH time 4.9 seconds.
On the open road, it's hard not to fall in love with the Slingshot. The three-wheeler pulls like a freight train (just drop a gear and hold on tight), tears through the twisties like an exotic car, and everyone is checking you out as you zip on by. Even the fact that I was sweating through my shirt in the 85+ degree Austin heat didn't deter me, as I was having SO MUCH FUN behind the wheel of this bad boy, with a big grin across my face throughout our ride. "Maybe I should buy one", I thought to myself.
I pictured myself taking off on the weekends, driving for a few hours along a scenic route "just because", with my girlfriend sitting next to me (another bonus of a Slingshot over a traditional bike, your passenger is next to you rather than behind you), jamming out to some tunes on our Rockford Fosgate Stage 3 audio system and just getting away from it all. Limited storage space could make a multi-day trip a bit challenging, but we'd find a way to make it work.
Yes, the Polaris Slingshot is totally impractical, but that is beside the point. This is a second vehicle for most, and I'd personally much rather have this over a motorcycle, a boat, or a UTV, as I know I'd get more use out of it. What's more, Polaris continues to improve these year after year. The 2022 models are more comfortable than earlier models, and features stuff like heated and cooled seats are great to have, especially since there's no air conditioning (due to weight restrictions required to keep it classified as a motorcycle). There's even GPS navigation, RIDE COMMAND+ connected services, Apple CarPlay, and more.
Lastly, Polaris' optional AutoDrive fully-automated manual transmission makes the Slingshot accessible to more people, and the 75% take rate on it only proves that. While I'm a die-hard "save the manuals" person who drove one of the two manuals there, I made sure to try out one with the highly-touted AutoDrive afterwards. And I have to admit, it is surprisingly great, it actually feels and engages gears like a true manual. The paddle shifters also work amazingly well, shifting up and down immediately, with that manual-type gear engagement feel.
Honestly, if I buying a Slingshot today, I would seriously consider getting one with AutoDrive, as it would give others the ability to drive my Slingshot occasionally, without me sacrificing any driving fun. For $1,800, it's money well spent in my opinion.
After two adrenaline filled days of driving, we headed down to Austin City Limits to unwind and enjoy some music. I got to check out sets from Lil Nas X, Big Boi, Diplo and P!nk, and we all had a great time. I’ve always wanted to check out ACL, so I'm thrilled that I finally got the chance to attend, even if it was just for a few hours. The festival perfectly encompassed the creative nature of the city, which matches the creative lifestyle that surrounds the Slingshot vehicle. Slingshot is as much as a lifestyle statement as it is a fun driving experience.
Overall, the 2022 Polaris Slingshot is an absolute blast, and I can certainly see the appeal of it. It's safer than a motorcycle, more thrilling than a convertible, and it elicits attention like you wouldn't believe thanks to its bold styling, loud colors, and its sheer utter coolness. It looks, sounds, and drives like nothing else on the road. Each one is as unique as its driver, serving as the ultimate platform for self-expression.
With a starting price of around $20K, the Polaris Slingshot is well within reach for most buyers. Visit https://slingshot.polaris.com/ to learn more about the Slingshot and to build your own.