Wild style: Polaris debuts three-wheeler Slingshot

Publish Date: 
Jul 27, 2014
By Bruce Steever

WYOMING, Minn. - …And now for something completely different.

Polaris Industries, not content with being a dominant force in SxS and ATV sales, nor with manufacturing a well-regarded range of motorcycles with its Victory and Indian brands, has unleashed a stunning three-wheeled road vehicle, the 2015 Slingshot.

Even with the patent approved and posted earlier this year (#8,695,746 B2) for all the world to see, the unique motorcycle design was still a surprise thanks to its wild styling and unusual specification. Compared to conventional trike designs with paired rear wheels, the Slingshot uses a pair of front wheels with the third wheel on a motorcycle-style swingarm, a layout shared by the Can-Am Spyder and the Campagna T-Rex. But that’s where the similarities end.

Like the Can-Am, the Slingshot will be legally considered a motorcycle, and will require a motorcycle helmet in states with helmet laws on the books. But unlike the Can-Am tripod, the rider and passenger sit in tandem, in automotive-style bucket seats with three-point harnesses, a steering wheel and conventional car foot controls. Compared to the more enclosed T-Rex, the Slingshot’s occupants are also more exposed to the elements, and unlike the rear-engined T-Rex that uses a donor motorcycle powerplant, the Slingshot uses a front-mounted General Motors motor.

The 2.4L DOHC Ecotec engine that powers the Slingshot is rated at 173 hp @ 6,200 rpm, with 166 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,700 rpm, and a 7,000 rpm redline. Power is transferred via a hydraulically actuated, single-plate dry clutch and a gated H-pattern Synchromesh five-speed-plus-reverse transmission, delivered to the rear wheel via a driveshaft “secondary” and a 36mm carbon fiber-reinforced belt final drive.

According to Polaris, the relatively narrow belt is more than up for the task at hand, as it only needs to transfer as much torque as the rear wheel can grip, with burnouts being quite easy to achieve in the first three gears. Car folks also tell us that GM has a huge range of go-fast parts for the Ecotec engine, too, so the Slingshot tuning industry should be able to take off rather quickly.

The Slingshot’s chassis is also unique, a tubular spaceframe built around the front-mounted motor and central driveshaft. Suspension uses the single-sided swingarm for the rear wheel, while the front wheels are controlled by paired A-arms, a sway bar and independent shocks. Front track is a massive 69.1 inches, with an electronically-boosted rack-and-pinion steering system. The tires are supplied by Kenda, in automotive sizes and profiles: the standard Slingshot runs 205/50R17s up front with a 265/35R18 rear, while the upmarket Slingshot SL runs 255/45R18 fronts and a 255/35R20 out back.

Peak cornering is claimed to be around 0.88 G on the skidpad, firmly placing the Slingshot into high-dollar sportscar territory. Finally, braking is provided by 298mm vented rotors at each wheel. To maintain control of the wheels, and the chassis as a whole, the Slingshot mounts several rider (or is it driver?) aids, including Electronic Stability Control and ABS. Total curb weight for the Slingshot is claimed to be just over 1,700 lbs.

The styling of the Slingshot speaks for itself. There are obviously angular bits and pieces that ape other Polaris products, but the end result is a wide, low and compact vehicle that puts its riders into the wind. Aluminum roll protection sits behind each rider, but there are no doors, no roof, and a windscreen is an optional accessory.

The entire vehicle, inside and out, is waterproof, so when things get dirty, just hose it off. Despite the non-existing rear overhang, there are small luggage compartments behind each seat. Auxiliary lighting is provided by LEDs with four projector beam headlights to illuminate the road.

Inside, things are quite spartan, but a central display unit with Bluetooth capability offers infotainment.

The new Polaris Slingshot aims to carve itself a niche of buyers from both the two- and four-wheeled worlds. Pricing for the new three-wheeler may also surprise many, with the base Slingshot retailing for $19,999 while the upmarket, windscreen- and audio-equipped SL model will sell for $23,999. Compared to a well-equipped Spyder RT at $22,999, or a K1600-powered T-Rex at around $65,000, the Slingshot looks to be very competitively priced as well.