2021 Polaris Slingshot review: Still crazy after all these gears

Nicely, that is awkward. Simply by taking a look at our pictures of this 2021 Polaris Slingshot, you have little question already determined whether or not you prefer it or not. My guess is you have already discovered whether or not or not you are occupied with taking a experience in a single or — gasp — shopping for one. Heck, that’d most likely even be true even when this explicit instance wasn’t painted like a Nerf gun. 

Since you are still studying, I’ll assume you have acquired greater than a passing curiosity on this funky three-legged roadster. Perhaps you have been eying the Slingshot’s substantial progress over the previous few years. Heck, you would possibly’ve even learn my intensive first-drive review of the overhauled 2020 Polaris Slingshot. If you have not already achieved so, test it out. Go forward. I will wait.

Nonetheless with me? What it is advisable know is that Polaris, an organization best known for its snowmobiles and off-road side-by-sides, dramatically retooled its Slingshot trike final yr — about 70% of the automobile was new, and it drove prefer it, too. By no means thoughts the truth that it seems to be just like the smash-hit mannequin that is been stunting round since 2014, the brand new Slingshot is a correct second-generation mannequin. That is thanks principally to the fitment of the corporate’s first internally designed engine, Prostar, and AutoDrive, an automated-manual transmission. The gearbox is especially essential, as a result of it lastly opened up the Slingshot Life to patrons who’ve been unable or unwilling to contemplate a stick shift. Great things.

Whereas I discovered the 2020 Slingshot miles higher to drive and reside with in practically each regard, it was nonetheless removed from good — particularly the aforementioned AutoDrive, which was frustratingly rough-edged. So when Polaris reached out to me and stated it had fitted paddle shifters and fully reprogrammed its hydraulically actuated, single-plate, dry-clutch five-speed transmission, I simply needed to give this mannequin one other go. The truth that Polaris additionally stated it had improved the 2021 Slingshot’s Rockford Fosgate audio system and ladled on much more personalization choices would transform icing on this technicolor tube-frame cake.

Prostar energy and AutoDrive enhancements

By the use of refresher, the Polaris’ Prostar coronary heart is a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine constructed on aluminum-block, dual-overhead-cam structure. For 2021, the Prostar is as soon as once more out there in two outputs relying on trim. Base fashions, now often known as Slingshot S, in addition to midrange Slingshot SL fashions, generate 178 horsepower (at a sky-high 8,500 rpm) and 120 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm on 91-octane fuel. Uplevel Slingshot R fashions churn out 203 hp at 8,250 rpm and a more healthy 144 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm, with these variations realized primarily by software program tuning.

In relation to sporty machines, I am a diehard manual-transmission lover for his or her superior engagement quotient. Nonetheless, this time, I made some extent of asking Polaris to mortgage me the up to date AutoDrive mannequin to see whether or not it’d exorcised the gearbox’s sluggish, jerky and sometimes ill-timed shifts. I might additionally lobbied particularly for paddle shifters in 2020, so I wished to see how effectively these updates labored.

Little youngsters have a look at you such as you’re a superhero on this factor.

Nick Miotke/Josh Krzywonos/Roadshow

Whereas I did not have final yr’s mannequin useful for back-to-back comparisons throughout my time with the 2021 Slingshot, I discovered it straightforward to understand the tuning progress that is been made. Whereas nonetheless jerky and sluggish by fashionable automotive transmission requirements, gear-changes are considerably smoother and faster than earlier than. Whereas cog swaps in final yr’s AutoDrive would set your entire physique lurching backwards and forwards like a kind of inflatable tube guys dancing in entrance of a used-car lot, the 2021’s gearbox will solely depart your head bobbing such as you’re nodding alongside to a slick beat on the stereo. (Earlier than you ask, Polaris did not have the room to put in a traditional torque-converter computerized.)

The perfect factor to do to easy out the driving expertise is to make the most of the Slingshot’s properly sized paddle shifters always. They are a important improve, not simply because they assist maximize driver engagement, however as a result of by summoning gears manually, you subconsciously put together your physique for momentary shift shocks. Left to its personal gadgets, AutoDrive can nonetheless ship ill-timed shifts, however they’re far fewer in quantity than earlier than. These modifications mix for large will increase in each drivability and pleasure versus final yr’s two-pedal setup. As an added bonus, the brand new calibration features a hill-hold function so you do not roll again when beginning out on inclines. It is useful stuff, as this single-clutch gearbox behaves extra like a handbook transmission than it does a standard computerized on this regard.

Polaris considerably improved the AutoDrive transmission launched final yr, but it surely nonetheless is not a easy operator.

Nick Miotke/Josh Krzywonos/Roadshow


It is proper about now that I think 2020-model-year AutoDrive house owners can be muttering below their collective breaths. No worries, associates. Your native Polaris supplier will reprogram your gearbox to the 2021 tune without cost, and you may add hill-hold performance for $299. Paddles could be retrofit for $399, as effectively (the identical value 2021 S and SL clients can pay so as to add them). It is all 100% price your time and expense, I promise.

Alternatively, in case you’re nonetheless researching shopping for a brand new Slingshot, I like to recommend going with the less expensive, much less advanced and smoother-driving five-speed handbook transmission. Regardless of AutoDrive’s enhancements, I nonetheless assume the DIY gearbox continues to be extra enjoyable to function. Plus, it is simply as fast, and it is a heap cheaper, too (extra on this in a minute). In fact, that is my desire, but it surely doesn’t suggest you would not be in good firm in case you splurged for the AutoDrive unit as an alternative. Polaris tells me that some 70% of latest Slingshot gross sales this yr have been of the pushbutton gearbox selection, and in whole, Slingshot gross sales are up over 40% up to now throughout the first half of this yr.

Improved dynamics and enjoyable issue

Both method you slice it, the 2021 Slingshot is genuinely fast. Even with modest energy outputs, the Prostar solely has round 1,650 kilos to inspire (some 700 kilos lighter than Mazda’s feathery MX-5 Miata), so progress is brisk. Accelerating to 60 mph occurs in 4.9 seconds, says Polaris. Since you’ve solely acquired the one 305/30 20-inch Kenda SS-799 tire out again, it’s important to work to get the ability to the bottom as an alternative of up within the air in a plume of acrid smoke and rubber bits. It is enjoyable to attempt to grasp launching, and midrange acceleration is enjoyable, too.

Feeling uncovered is a part of the enjoyable. Considerably improved simply final yr, the Sling’s cabin nonetheless is not automotive grade.

Nick Miotke/Josh Krzywonos/Roadshow

High pace is a modest-sounding 125 mph, however belief me: Even in case you’re a pace demon like me, you will not frequently really feel the necessity to enter the triple digits. Driving the Alabama-built Slingshot at freeway velocities is a singularly visceral expertise, one together with your knees within the breeze and your head and physique vibrating at distinctly totally different charges. Your noggin bounces round from the onslaught of air dashing over the Slingshot’s insect-like bodywork and your physique buzzes from the chassis’ vibrations. It is hardly a serene sensation, but it surely’s good enjoyable. Plus, you are feeling nearer to what is going on on exterior than you do when piloting something this aspect of a motorbike. With its cut-down, speedster-style windshield, you will positively need to put on a helmet, if solely to stop getting clunked within the brow with an errant bug or rock (a mind bucket can also be required by legislation, relying on the place you reside).

When it comes time to exit the freeway and head for a twisty street, know that the Slingshot’s dealing with is considerably improved versus pre-2020 fashions. That is significantly true for the steering, which boasts a a lot faster rack (2.5 turns lock-to-lock, versus round 3.5) for rather more rapid responses. Even with three contact patches as an alternative of 4, Polaris says you may pull as much as 1.02 g in corners, and the experience high quality from the redesigned double-wishbone suspension is extra agreeable, too. 

Sadly, I’ve discovered that braking varies to a shocking diploma from Slingshot to Slingshot in each really feel and effectiveness, and the binders on the two-tone Dawn Orange and Stealth Blue tester seen right here have been noticeably spongier than within the 2020 check fashions I skilled on the launch.

Sure, there’s lockable storage behind every seat, sufficient in your helmets and perhaps gloves or a lightweight windbreaker.

Nick Miotke/Josh Krzywonos/Roadshow

Pricing particulars

You should know that the entry-level Slingshot S comes normal with a five-speed handbook gearbox for $20,399 delivered ($19,999 plus a $400 “logistics surcharge”), however if you would like AutoDrive, you will have to sneak an extra $1,700 out of your kid’s faculty fund. That is additionally simply the tip of the three-wheeled iceberg. On the different finish of the spectrum, in case you’re feeling flush, you may splash out on the Slingshot R Limited Edition, a loaded-up, one-year mannequin that features light-weight solid alloy wheels and a Stage 2 Rockford Fosgate audio system that features Apple CarPlay integration and embedded navigation on the 7-inch touchscreen for the primary time. You’ll be able to clock certainly one of these particular $33,199 fashions on the road by recognizing its highlighter-like Neon Fade paint and blacked-out wheels and badges. That is all effectively and good, but when it have been me, I might keep on with a base or midrange mannequin and save a number of shekels for gasoline and for visiting Polaris’ exhaustive accessory list.

That is to not say I did not respect my Slingshot R tester’s beneficiant gear roster, which included Stage 3 roll-hoop audio package and add-on heated and cooled seating surfaces for a complete of $36,649. Nonetheless, when you get to the higher-power engine of the midrange SL, the driving expertise is nearly solely the identical on costlier fashions, and no quantity of add-on equipment will make the Slingshot’s waterproof inside a meaningfully extra luxurious or versatile place to be. (To be honest, the cabin within the 2020 and 2021 fashions is heaps higher than the unique Sling.) 

It is most likely only a private factor, however I discover the Slingshot’s worth equation to be much more engaging within the $25,000 vary. Spend rather more than that, and it is too straightforward to have your thoughts wander to ideas of one thing like a Miata, which is worlds extra refined and extra usable experience every day — even when it is a heck of much more odd and under no circumstances a automobile that the majority Slingshot intenders would even think about.

You’ll be able to’t decide a Slingshot like a automobile or a motorbike, it is its personal factor.

Nick Miotke/Josh Krzywonos/Roadshow

Slingshot EV?

Facet observe: It possible would not assist the Slingshot’s price equation, however there is a large a part of me that wishes to see Polaris supply an electrical Slingshot. Whereas I take pleasure in EVs, I am not somebody who routinely means that every thing can be higher working on batteries — I nonetheless love the snarl of engine and, as I discussed earlier, I nonetheless prize the bond created with automobiles after they let me shift for myself. On this case, although, I feel a Slingshot EV can be wonderful. You’d get quicksilver acceleration and also you’d have it with none transmission refinement points. Moreover, Slings typically aren’t long-distance machines by nature, so that you most likely would not want an enormous battery pack. 

Polaris owns each GEM and Aixiam, the latter being a French model of neighborhood automobiles which are so tiny and low-speed that they really do not require drivers’ licenses in lots of markets. Whereas each manufacturers’ fashions are far too modestly powered for one thing like a Slingshot, Polaris is also teaming up with Zero electric motorcycles for an emissions-free side-by-side. In any case, it is clear Polaris has a measure of experience in electrification. 

Area of interest, but with surprisingly broad attraction

Even with none kind of electrification, it is apparent this 2021 mannequin is not simply the perfect Slingshot ever, it is a machine with broader attraction throughout a fair wider spectrum of purchaser demographics. From grizzled previous riders who cannot throw a leg over a motorbike body any longer, to younger urbanites who deck their trikes out in mild kits and loud stereos, to On a regular basis Joes and Janes who simply need one thing enjoyable and distinctive for the weekend, the Slingshot enjoys the kind of classless attraction that the majority automakers and bike producers would kill for. Moreover, you merely cannot purchase a extra attention-getting experience for much less cash. As somebody who appreciates automobiles that coloration effectively exterior the traces, it is nice to see the Slingshot discovering so many alternative audiences. | 2021 Polaris Slingshot overview: Nonetheless loopy in any case these gears


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