2022 Polaris Slingshot SL MC Commute Review

We return inside of the cockpit of Polaris’ wild-looking Slingshot SL autocycle in this review.

We return inside of the cockpit of Polaris’ wild-looking Slingshot SL autocycle in this review. (Polaris/)

Polaris offers powersport enthusiasts something different with its 2022 Slingshot SL ($26,799). Although it looks like a backward trike, it’s categorized as a three-wheel-equipped autocycle in California. To operate this vehicle in the Golden State, you only need a standard driver’s license; no motorcycle endorsement is necessary, though DOT-labeled helmets are required for drived and passenger.

Editor’s note: We tested the automatic transmission-equipped version in the 2020 Polaris Slingshot SL MC Commute Review. Legal restrictions and vehicle classification vary from state to state. Check your state’s local laws before operating this vehicle on public streets.

Polaris says it designed the Slingshot to look like a predatory bird. If there’s one thing Polaris gets right, it’s the industrial design; it did a great job with the styling. This Slingshot rolls on 18-inch front cast aluminum wheels and a 20-inch rear cast aluminum wheel. The wheels look nice and are equipped with low-profile Kenda rubber. The two-front, single-rear configuration lets it have side-by-side seating and accommodations for a passenger. There’s plenty of storage behind the seat and inside the glove box, where there’s also a USB and a 12-volt charging port.

Like most new automobiles, the Slingshot employs an electronic proximity key fob, which is used to start the engine. A mechanical key locks the internal storage cases.

Starting the Slingshot reveals a strange glitch; occasionally, when the starter button is pressed, the trike won’t immediately start. The dash display reads, “Proximity key fob not in range.” As Polaris has been manufacturing this vehicle for the last two years, this is an odd hiccup.

While the Slingshot may loosely resemble an automobile from the front, there are no doors. Low frame rails on either side require interesting contortions to get inside; for those with limited mobility, traditionally a notable part of the trike-driving demographic, this vehicle likely wouldn’t be a good fit. The seats do have forward and aft mechanical adjustability and the backrests also adjust forward and back, just like most cars. Another nice touch is tilt steering, though there isn’t a telescope function.

This Slingshot’s 1,997cc water-cooled inline-four was engineered and manufactured by Polaris in Minnesota and replaces the GM Ecotec four-cylinder used since the Slingshot debuted for the 2015 model year. This engine doesn’t benefit from variable valve timing like the GM unit, but feels very similar in terms of power, vibration, and sound. There’s also a red button which Polaris calls “Slingshot mode.” This adjusts the engine calibration for added response. Realistically, we couldn’t really tell the difference between either setting. The major perceivable difference is the new I4 has a bit more torque. It’s a cool-sounding engine, and it’s really fun to row through the gears.

Those gears live in a Japanese-sourced five-speed Aisin AR5 transmission, an older design that’s been manufactured for well over a decade and used in vehicles including the Chevy Colorado and old-school Isuzu Trooper. It may be an aging design, but it’s a proven one, and this gearbox functions well. We love how close the lever throws are between each of the five gears though there’s a bit of a longer gap between second and third. We also think closer ratios would be an improvement in this application. Still, it’s a very nice, positive-shifting unit. Those who don’t want to work the clutch pedal can opt for an auto-drive transmission ($1,750 option) that adds hydraulic actuation via a Magneti-Marelli system; still a manual transmission, but with automated operation.

We’re typically manual shifting enthusiasts, unless it’s Honda’s DCT, so we wouldn’t spend the extra $1,750 for the AutoDrive transmission. It’s worth noting that, since this is a rear-drive trike, it doesn’t have the torque steer effect of vehicles like Vanderhall’s autocycle (as noted in the 2020 Vanderhall Motor Works Venice GT Review MC Commute). Traction control keeps the 20-inch wheel and tire in contact with pavement, though it can also be manually disabled for burnouts or lurid fishtailing.

The suspension has just over 4 inches of travel up front, and 4 inches out back via a motorcycle-style swingarm. The rear suspension and rear end is very similar to a motorcycle with its swingarm and belt final drive. And below 60 mph, the Slingshot is a real hoot. Handling is lively and it almost feels like a kart. There’s a pleasing level of front grip and a nice, low roadster feel, almost like driving a low-slung convertible. At those speeds, the Slingshot rides acceptably over decent roads. Get on a rough patch of asphalt, however, and it delivers a jarring ride; you’ll feel a lot of the bumps and pavement imperfections. And above 60 mph, the Slingshot’s chassis really gets unhinged and feels loose and unstable. Buyer beware, or at least aware.

The Slingshot comes outfitted with Polaris’ awesome 7-inch color TFT display. It’s known as Ride Command on its Indian motorcycles and has similar functions here, including touchscreen capability. It’s easy to pair via Bluetooth to a smartphone, and you can then listen to music and access turn-by-turn navigation. There’s also a neat GPS-enabled ride setting where you can monitor the metrics of your ride. It’s a slick interface. And of course there’s also an analog-style speedometer and analog tach, plus a little digital readout with fuel information and ambient air temperature; it’s perfectly functional, but the gauge cluster does look a little old.

Although it looks like it has bright headlamps when viewed from the front, at night, the headlamps don’t throw a deep swath of light. It’s easy to overdrive the headlights, even at legal highway speeds.

It’s worth noting this autocycle falls into a unique category in which it isn’t subject to passenger vehicle safety standards like automobiles. So, besides a three-point, automobile-style safety belt, there’s no other protection. This vehicle doesn’t employ crumple zones, there are no airbags, there hasn’t been crash testing, which safety-conscious buyers will want to keep in mind. And because it’s so low, other motorists tend to see you a lot less often than other vehicles.

Triple-disc hydraulic brakes keep speed in check. It employs vented disc brakes all the way around, like an automobile, with single-piston calipers. The brakes work much better than the original Slingshot, but they’re still not great; larger, multi-piston calipers are called for here. Fixed, always-on ABS mitigates any instability during braking—and you definitely want ABS on a vehicle like this with its questionable stability.

In the creature comfort department, there’s cruise control, plus controls to operate the Bluetooth-enabled stereo. Oddly enough, this vehicle does not include a heater. When driving at night, in chilly conditions, occupants definitely feel the cold. The windscreen helps block a good amount of wind, but you’re still in an exposed cockpit, and you’re going to get chilly after dark. Conversely, when the mercury is above 80–85 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re going to feel the heat.

Without a doubt, the Slingshot is certainly a head turner. In the grand scheme of recreational vehicles, there are 2022 cars that cost $100,000-plus and garner less attention at stoplights than this $26,000 Slingshot. Its look is just so unique that it attracts eyeballs, good or bad.

So our feelings are mixed. Below 60 mph, the 2022 Polaris Slingshot SL with the five-speed manual gearbox is a hoot to drive. We also appreciate its stunt factor. However, it takes up way too much space in the garage and it’s limited in terms of its safety. You also don’t get any of the benefits of a motorcycle. No lane filtering, no hauling butt around the streets, and it’s not as fun as a streetbike.

But if we were über-rich types with the space to store it, then yes, we would buy one of these things. Kudos to Polaris for trying something different and making something that looks cool and has some degree of function on the road.

Gear Box

Helmet: Shoei RF-SR

Jacket: Saint Unbreakable Denim Shearling Collar

Gloves: Rev’It Kinetic

Pant: Zara

Boots: TCX Rush 2 Air

2022 Polaris Slingshot SL Technical Specifications and Price

PRICE $26,799
ENGINE 1,997cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-4; 16-valve
BORE x STROKE 93.0 x 73.5mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.5:1
FUEL DELIVERY Direct injection
CLUTCH Dry, single plate; hydraulically actuated
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed w/ reverse / belt
FRAME Steel
FRONT SUSPENSION Independent double wishbone w/ forged aluminum control arms; 6.3 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Twin-tube gas-charged coilover; 6.3 in. travel
FRONT BRAKES 1-piston calipers, 298mm discs w/ ABS
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 298mm disc w/ ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Die-cast aluminum; 18 x 7.5 in. / 20 x 9.0 in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR Kenda SS-799; 225/45-18 / 255/35-20
RAKE/TRAIL N/A
WHEELBASE 105.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT N/A
FUEL CAPACITY 9.8 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 1,649 lb.
WARRANTY 24 months, unlimited mileage
AVAILABLE February 2022
CONTACT slingshot.polaris.com/en-us/slingshot-sl/
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