Review: 2022 Polaris Slingshot SLR
I have a confession to make: I’ve always been an enemy of Slingshot.
I’ve been a motorcyclist all my life, and when these three-wheeled anomalies started appearing on public streets in 2015, my first thought was: there’s a midlife crisis motive if I’ve ever seen one. a. Another eye-catching three-wheeled vehicle that masquerades as a motorcycle. Something for polo-wearing dads living in gated communities to park in their three-car garage between the Suburban and the Camry.
I saw Slingshots driving around Atlanta on I-285, decked out in neon lights, deafening music, much to the chagrin of everyone but the driver. Do they really think it’s cool? I believed the Slingshots were built to grab attention in Hooters parking lots, not carve up mountain roads or race tracks. That being said, I’m not too proud to admit I’m wrong, and I was wrong on the Slingshot.
Or, at least, mostly wrong. Make no mistake: the Slingshot isn’t a motorcycle, no matter what the crash plate between its two bucket seats tells you. It’s also the definition of an attention-grabbing vehicle, right up there with little red Corvettes (RIP Prince), giant jacked-up 6x6s and Lamborhini SUVs. What the Slingshot isn’t, however, is boring. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the Slingshot is without a doubt one of the most thrilling and engaging riding experiences I’ve ever had.
After spending three weeks doing everything from races to squealing yellow lights in the 2022 Polaris Slingshot SLR, I have to say this is an uncompromising hooligan that’s mobile through and through. Say what you will about its ostentatious styling, loud paint job and even louder stereo, but you’d be foolish to say this thing isn’t an absolute riot to drive.
If you’ve ever poked a sleeping bear with a pointed stick, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it feels like to climb into the Slingshot and hit the start button. The thing springs to life with a raspy mechanical growl, and you feel every little vibration of the engine through the steering wheel, shifter and pedals. A message pops up on the dash urging caution, but somewhere inside you know you can’t wait to see how hard you can push the thing before it bites you.
As a result, your first few hours with the Slingshot are best taken in small steps. Despite the massive 12-inch-wide Kenda tire on the rear of the SLR model, grip and traction are relative concepts here: at the end of the day, you’re pushing over 200 horsepower out of a single rear wheel, and I’ve never ridden or ridden anything that liked leaving big rubber bands on the pavement as much as the Slingshot. I assumed Polaris was ironic when it said you “leave your impression on every road you ride,” but now I know better.
Now, 200 horsepower (or 203, to be exact) might draw ridicule from the elite motoring crowd, but it’s important to remember that the Slingshot weighs just 1,656 pounds. That’s nearly 700 pounds lighter than other popular “driver’s cars” like the Mazda Miata, to which it’s often compared. In total, that means you’re working with an impressive power-to-weight ratio of 8.1 pounds per horsepower (assuming you opt for the manual transmission), which is better than the latest 455-hp Camaro V8 and just short of that. 460 horsepower. Mustang GT.
Admittedly, the limited grip of the Slingshot’s single rear tire won’t quite pull the same stand-up acceleration times as a new pony car, but at 4.9 seconds the Slingshot is no slouch either. Red fire. Once you get it out of first gear and into the higher gears, the little four-cylinder engine is just the kind of fast-revving engine that driving enthusiasts crave, with gobs of mid-range passing power. every time you put your foot in it.
Speaking of engines, Polaris had unexpected success with the Slingshot when it first introduced it in 2014, and by 2020 sales had increased enough to justify ditching the 2.4-liter engine. GM’s original and replacing it with Polaris’ own ProStar 2. liter power plant. The latest version increases the Slingshot’s maximum horsepower up to 203 ponies and also raises the engine’s redline to 8,500 rpm.
I spent most of my time with the Slingshot exploring twisty mountain roads, and found the riding experience similar to taking a supersport bike through the turns: spin it skyward , let the engine brake reduce speed as needed, then whip it as hard as the rear tire can handle exiting the corner. Wash, rinse, repeat: the feeling never gets old.
A taut double-wishbone front suspension keeps the Slingshot level and planted through corners, giving you all the confidence you need to push it close to its claimed 1.02G of lateral grip. Suspension travel is short, and even small bumps in the pavement feel a little jarring, but somehow that all just adds to the Slingshot’s devilish charm.
Whipping a Slingshot around a twisty road is the best kind of laser-focused, white-knuckle driving experience you could ask for. It’s pure entertainment, nothing more, nothing less, and arguably the closest thing to a supercar experience for under $30,000.
You could definitely consider the Slingshot’s tendency to come loose at lower speeds/higher RPMs as a downside, but I can’t help but see it as a feature. I mean, look at this thing. If there was ever a vehicle designed to slide around corners and cut donuts in parking lots, this is it.
Admittedly, the limited rear grip was a little nerve-wracking at first, but by the end of my first ride, it was arguably my favorite part of the vehicle. You learn to hang that rear end with pride and panache. A quick kick of the clutch just about anywhere in first or second gear is almost guaranteed to trigger a controllable slide (assuming traction control is off). You don’t have to work for the Slingshot to do something it wasn’t meant to do: it was built for bad decisions.
Let’s talk about the look
So yeah, there’s nothing subtle about the Slingshot, and that goes double for its style. I’ve had seven people in two weeks tell me it looks like “a batmobile” and if I’m being honest, you might as well be in the real batmobile, because the Slingshot gets so much attention around town.
The small children stare open-mouthed, fingers pointing. The police offer a stern look, radar guns pointed. Not all attention is good attention, but the Slingshot doesn’t discriminate on that count.
It’ll be a feature for some and a detriment for others, but wherever you fall on this spectrum, prepare for an onslaught of thumbs wherever you drive and a deluge of questions wherever you park. Personally, I like the Slingshots look (although I’d prefer it in black), but I don’t care how much attention it gets. I don’t think there has ever been or ever been such a thing as a high-performance three-wheeler under the radar,” so I think that’s a fair trade-off.
A word on the inside…
Despite its street-legal status, the Slingshot’s interior shares one important feature with the rest of Polaris’ watercraft and off-road vehicle fleet: it’s completely waterproof. That means everything from the bucket seats to the 7-inch touchscreen can be safely rained down, which is important because it will eventually rain.
That being said, it’s not a stripped-down, spartan interior either. It’s not exactly plush, but Polaris has gone a long way in refining the Slingshot’s cockpit, and the soft foam seats provide enough support for all-day rides without leaving you feeling numb and chafed. However, they get particularly hot in the summer and, combined with the constant engine heat and lack of air conditioning, you might sweat through a shirt or two when the temperatures rise. Like pretty much every part of the Slingshot, though, there’s an upgrade available, and heated/cooled seats can be had for extra cash if you care enough to pay for it.
My favorite part of the interior, however, is the center console. Here you’ll only find two hilariously placed switches: on the far left you’ve got the traction control switch, or as I’ve lovingly called it, the “fun button”. Hit this and the traction control turns off completely, and the fun begins. Directly next to the fun button you’ll find the emergency turn signals, when overzealous use of the fun button goes a little too far to the side. I’m sure Polaris knew what they were doing here.
The other highlight of the Slingshot’s interior (and I can’t believe I’m writing this), is the stereo. There’s just something about driving this outrageous vehicle that demands outrageous music at an outrageous volume. The SLR model gets the upgraded “Ride Command” touchscreen with a set of smooth-sounding Rockford Fosgate speakers, and I can’t imagine it any other way. Making donuts in your buddy’s parking lot after hours is fine, but making donuts with “XYU” turned up to 11 is a whole other animal. I understand now.
The big question: should you buy one?
If you had asked me a month ago whether or not someone should buy a Slingshot, I would have said “No.” If you want a motorbike, go buy a motorbike.
I now know that the Slingshot was never claimed to be a motorcycle, despite all the legal hype that classifies it as such in some states. It’s a completely different beast, and it delivers its own unique brand of thrill.
That being said, I think the Slingshot is a viable alternative to a motorcycle or any penny sports car for that matter. Not necessarily a safer alternative, but if you’re looking for thrills and outdoor travel, this will beat the pants of any convertible anywhere near its price range.
Of course, the Slingshot is a toy at its heart, and an expensive toy with next to nothing in terms of utility or comfort. It’ll take up the same space in your garage as a Miata and cost you about the same as a Miata, assuming you opt for the best SLR package of both worlds. Whether or not it’s worth $30,000 is up to you, but for what it’s worth, I’ve never seen an 8-year-old mistake a Miata for the Batmobile, and it has to be worth something.
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