Clean Energy Futures

The 2020 Polaris Slingshot—still a conversation starter on three wheels

The Polaris Slingshot was definitely the most unusual vehicle I reviewed last year. Classified as a motorcycle, this three-wheeler looked like nothing else on the roads. In fact, it would be hard to draw more attention without the help of some sirens and a bullhorn. For 2020, Polaris has substantially revised the Slingshot. Well, on the inside, that is. There’s an all-new four-cylinder engine, unique to the vehicle, and an optional automated gearbox for those who want three wheels but only two pedals. But it still looks like nothing else on the road, and as I discovered over the course of a few days, it still isn’t the vehicle for you if you want to blend in.

Instead of using a 2.4L Ecotec engine from General Motors, Polaris decided to create its own in-house. It’s a 2.0L four-cylinder design called the ProStar, and in addition to being smaller than the old engine, it’s also about 65lbs (30kg) lighter thanks to an aluminum block. It’s also more powerful, and it likes to rev, too. In SL-spec, it makes 177hp (132kW) at a heady 8,500rpm; we tested the Slingshot R which packs 203hp (151kW) at 8,250rpm. Both SL (120lb-ft/163Nm) and R (144lb-ft/195Nm) are less torquey than the old Ecotec (166lb-ft/225Nm), although that never felt like a problem as there’s just that single 20-inch rear tire with which to apply it.

The other major new addition is the AutoDrive automated manual transmission, something the company says has been its most common request from potential customers. It’s a five-speed with a hydraulically activated clutch and is the only gearbox available for the $26,499 Slingshot SL. The R offers buyers the choice of AutoDrive ($32,699) or a conventional three-pedal manual option ($30,999). Polaris says that AutoDrive only weighs about 14lbs (6.3kg) more than the regular manual, and at 1,645lbs (746kg) the 2020 Slingshot R is about 100lbs (45kg) lighter than a 2019 model.

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