Taking a ride out to Nielsen Enterprises in Lake Villa is always a treat. They're the ultimate big boy toy store. You can buy anything from ATVs to UTVs, personal watercraft, snowmobiles, all four Japanese motorcycle brands, Can-Am Spyders and Polaris products. If it's fun, and it goes fast, Nielsen's got it.
Today's mission is to take a Polaris Slingshot out for a test and find out why they can't make them fast enough.
The Slingshot is a three-wheel vehicle, with two wheels in front and a single wheel in back. It is 150 inches long, which is 4 inches shorter than a Mazda Miata, although I'd swear it was 6 feet longer by looking at it.
The wheelbase is 105 inches versus 91 inches for the Miata, and the Slingshot's front footprint is 77 inches while the widest part of a Miata is 68 inches. The Miata generates 155 horsepower and 148 foot-pounds of torque and weighs 2,450 pounds, so there are some reference points.
The Slingshot is powered by a GM Ecotec 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, which puts out 173 horsepower and 166 foot-pounds of torque. That's a lot of power considering the Slingshot only weighs 1,749 pounds! That should be good for zero-to-60 times of only 5 seconds, which would blow the doors off a Miata. Not superbike fast, but supercar fast.
The Polaris Slingshot really can't be compared to a motorcycle, other than being out in the wind with no doors and a short windscreen. And it can't even be compared to a Miata, my favorite all-time affordable sports car. It reminds me most of a Can-Am open cockpit race car. It has a spartan interior, and there's not many bells and whistles. It is wicked fast, and sitting low to the ground just enhances the feel of speed.
The Slingshot has a boisterous exhaust note, especially when it's on full boil. It's well balanced, so it corners like it's on rails with very little body lean, and provides a unique, visceral motoring experience. The Slingshot rides on cast aluminum wheels shod with Kenda 225/45R18 tires in front, and a big 265/35R-20 out back. You really wouldn't know there's only one tire out back by the way it handles.
The electronic power assist, rack and pinion, speed-sensitive steering is light and quick with excellent feedback. The power gets to the ground via a five-speed manual gearbox, with a light clutch effort and short, smooth shifts. Final drive is through a carbon fiber reinforced belt.
The ride quality is very firm, but not as punishing as a race car. All I kept thinking about during my ride, was how much I wished I could get this thing on the racetrack at Road America to really set it free. And the brakes won't let you down, either. Good feel and feedback, and anti-lock braking (ABS) is standard.
The Slingshot comes standard with electronic stability and traction control for safety, and that gives the driver confidence to drive it like you stole it. Shut off the traction control and you can easily lay down a single fat track of rubber on the pavement in first and second gears. The Slingshot begs to be driven like a hooligan.
The cockpit is comfortable, with excellent rubberized waterproof seats that are nicely bolstered. Rubberized flooring make the entire cockpit waterproof. There is plenty of legroom, and of course, unlimited head room. The windscreen sends the airflow up and over the heads of the occupants, and different sizes are available. (The Slingshot is classified as a motorcycle, so helmet laws apply in states that have them.)
Two large round dials (tach and speedometer) sit in front of the driver, with an LED screen to show a trip meter, fuel economy, distance to empty, etc., just like a car. And the turn signal stalk operates the headlights. There is even a set of cupholders between the seats.
Storage is tight, but the glove box in front of the passenger seat is large, and behind each seat is a locking storage box that can fit a full size helmet and some other items. Polaris makes some optional hard case luggage that attaches to the rear, and Corbin makes aftermarket cases, as well. Polaris also offers lots of accessories to dress up the vehicle and enhance performance.
There is a small screen on the center stack to operate the radio, a phone and device hookups. And the radio's volume increases with speed, which is a great feature because once you get going, you'll need the extra volume to hear it above the exhaust note and wind noise. The mirrors are large and steady, and produce an excellent field of vision of what's behind you.
From a styling standpoint, the Slingshot looks like something Luke Skywalker would drive on one of the moons of Endor, if he had to have a terrestrial vehicle. If you want to drive something under the radar, this ain't it. It looks wild and crazy, and it's beautiful. And I suspect 20 years from now, just like a Lamborghini Countach, it will still look outrageous and cool.
So who is buying this Slingshot roadster? "Everybody," said Matt Meridith, Slingshot sales manager at Nielsen's. "For some folks this is their first powersport toy, and they use it for hopping around town on errands, and for long, spirited weekend rides, for a lot less than a convertible car. Others also have motorcycles, snowmobiles and other go-fast toys, and this is just one more fun thing to enjoy."
The base model starts at $21,999. My test vehicle, the SL, starts at $25,499 (and mine had no options). The SL-LE starts at $26,999, and the SLR starts at $28,499. Most of the differences in trim levels deal with tires, windscreens, and paint and graphic upgrades.
The fit and finish is also top shelf, as you'd expect from a manufacturer like Polaris. And they back it up with a two-year warranty.
In closing, the Slingshot is a hoot to drive, and no other vehicle I've ever ridden or driven is like it. And the price tag is very reasonable for a fair-weather commuter, or a Sunday toy with this amount of performance and style. By comparison, the base Miata starts at $32,285. Take one for a test ride. You won't forget it.
• Email Glassman at KGHawkeye650@aol.com.