Three-wheel Polaris Slingshot fun, memorable and adventurous

Is that a motorcycle or a car? What is that? Can you take it on the highway? Is it street legal? These were some of the questions I had regarding my tester this week. And truth be told, this is one of the most memorable “vehicles” I’ve ever driven.

The three-wheel Polaris Slingshot has an appropriate name. With two wheels in the front and one big wheel in the back, driving it feels like a slingshot. For the state of Ohio, the Slingshot is now not considered a motorcycle and therefore doesn’t require such a license, which is good because I don’t have a motorcycle license.

As such the Slingshot was delivered to me in a truck. It was small enough to fit in the back of a box truck. And, unlike other test vehicles I get, Polaris gave me two weeks with this vehicle. And special shout to Mother Nature for (mostly) cooperating with good weather since the Slingshot has no top (although you can buy one) and no doors. It’s fun to hop into it like the Dukes of Hazzard, just climbing right over the side and into the seat. Two people fit comfortably in the seats, although the seats lack cushion and are firm. But the interior comfort is just one aspect of this vehicle, that I’ll get back to.

If you’re not familiar with Polaris they are the makers of four-wheelers, side-by-sides and ATVs, so this is their first “street legal” vehicle.

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First, how does it drive and can you take it on the highway? Well it drives for sure like a blend of a go kart and a motorcycle. It’s zippy and fun and you are just inches from the ground.

There is a windshield to keep the bugs out of your teeth, but the open air hits you and it’s awesome. Note to all the “Karens” out there, I did wear a helmet while I drove the Slingshot, and frankly it just made sense to do so.

The Polaris Slingshot has a 2.0-liter Kawasaki inline four-cylinder engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission. It doesn’t sound like a normal car engine and the transmission is quirky. Polaris claims it can top out at 125 mph and go on the highway; however I didn’t have the nerve to attempt either feats. The Slingshot is ideal as a cruiser, which is why you see so many cruising around vacation areas. That’s really its sweet spot. From 20-55 mph is where the Slingshot excels.

Since you sit inches from the ground and can literally stick your hand out and touch the ground, I wasn’t going to venture on the highway, with or without a helmet. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a blast to drive because it was.

My tester was a bold color too with an orange and blue color scheme. It looked like nothing else you will see and it garnered attention out on the open road. Many neighbors wanted rides and I was happy to oblige.

There is an adjustment period for driving the Slingshot. There’s a slight pause to fire it up, thanks to a fuel pump. And you can’t just give it a little gas as it will just putt and sound like it’s going to stall. Once it’s time to go, don’t be afraid to give some gas but be prepared for it to take off.

The 0-60 mph time is impressive (and exhilarating) as it’s rated a 4.9 seconds. Yep, that’s right, this thing is like a slingshot as it takes off. The big wheel in the back gives new meaning to rear-wheel drive (singular) and is chain driven. As such, the six-speed sequential transmission has some unusual characteristics. There are moments you’re waiting and waiting for it to shift, as it can hit 7,000 rpm before moving to the next gear. That further adds to the noise of the already-noisy engine.

There are paddle shifters available which I did employ to offset the unusual shifting of the transmission.

The Slingshot R with the paddle shifters does offer more control and a sportier feel. I do have regret that I didn’t see what it would do on the highway, but I also really felt like this was a vehicle that’s best served without two ton vehicles around it since it only weighs just over 1,600 pounds.

The diminutive size is part of what makes it fun, but without doors or a roof, that turns it more into an amusement park ride than a daily driver. At age 48, I’m far less of thrill seeker or risk taker. I don’t believe there’s much of a risk with the slingshot, any more than a motorcycle. But there’s also a reason I don’t have a motorcycle as I’ve never felt the need nor had the mid-life crisis.

Inside, the Slingshot actually integrates with smart phones and runs a modified version of Apple CarPlay. I was able to play songs off my IPhone playlist and the overall sound system was good, with speakers behind the headrests.

There were certain songs that came on that really put me in the zone with the Polaris and got the goosebumps going. It’s undeniably fun and quite memorable. At a price around $34,000 it’s hard to justify that pricing for a toy. And at the heart of things, the Slingshot is a toy. But you only live once, so why not enjoy it. And for sure, the Polaris Slingshot will always be fun to drive (unless it’s raining or snowing).

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2021 Polaris Slingshot R

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $33,299/$33,299
  • Mileage.......................................... No EPA rating, roughly 24 mpg
  • Engine............................................. 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 203 hp/144 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. Five-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ Rear-wheel drive

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