Somewhere between a convertible sports car and a motorcycle is where you’ll find it. The 2020 Polaris Slingshot, with its sleek silhouette, doorless access, and single-wheel rear drive, is a blast to pilot (drive, ride, whatever). The unique open-air roadster is fast, it’s fun, and on a recent test drive in the desert outside Las Vegas, proved itself a rip-roaring beast of a machine.
Do you need it? God, no. But do you want it? Oh, yes, you most definitely do. Motorcyclists, car geeks, and powersports enthusiasts take note: If you’re an adrenaline junkie who loves going fast and feeling the environment rushing around you, you’ve got to give the 2020 Polaris Slingshot a try.
The Slingshot debuted a few years back to plenty of raised eyebrows and low whistles. And it’s had a fair amount of success in finding a niche following. For 2020 though, the Slingshot debuts an Auto Drive automatic transmission, which should help it attract a much wider audience.
It’s available in SL (from $26,499), and R packages (from $30,999), whose owners can also opt for a randy five-speed manual drive. Both transmissions feature two ride modes: Comfort is a relaxed mode that softens the steering, suspension, and throttle to smoother levels of responsiveness. Slingshot mode takes the gloves off, shoring up the controls and letting the engine roar to its maximum potential.
The manual transmission makes driving the 2020 Polaris Slingshot a helluva lot more fun. But the Auto Drive is no slouch; there’s a bit of a lag, but that’s to be expected. You can still spin the rear wheel if you floor it. From what we hear.
The 2020 Slingshot also unveils a brand-new powerplant. Previous Slingshots made use of a GM-built four-cylinder. And it was fine, if not thrilling. But this new purpose-built motor draws on all the technical know-how Polaris has developed in its side-by-sides and Indian motorcycle divisions, and it’s a screamer.
The cockpit is far more user-friendly and dialed-in than previous Slingshots, too. The dash is upgraded and refined, so it’s easier to see and read at a glance. The big sedan-like steering wheel is gone, replaced by a smaller and more sportscar-like wheel that gets serious tech upgrades. Functions you previously had to reach for—cruise control, drive modes, voice commands—are now at the touch of a button without ever lifting your hands from 10 and 2.
And with this new engine, you’ll want to keep a firm grip on that wheel. If the sensation of air whirring around you and asphalt whizzing below you doesn’t exhilarate, Slingshot’s new powerplant surely will. The 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder cranks out 178 horsepower and 120 lb-ft of torque in SL models, and 203 hp/144 lb-ft of torque in R models. That’s a ton of power for a vehicle that weighs just 1,750 pounds.
This motor also features one of the highest production redlines you’ll find in any production vehicle; the powerband doesn’t even find its sweet spot until the 6,000-7,000 RPM range, and warning lights don’t start flashing until 8,500rpm. So wind it up and rip it out, to your heart’s pounding desire.
In both automatic and manual five-speed transmissions, the Slingshot is, simply put, a rocket. Floor the throttle, and it flies off the line. The only thing keeping you from whiplash is the rear tire’s grip. Or lack thereof.
From what we hear.
But while the new engine and drivetrain are thrilling, and the styling and single rear wheel get all the eyeballs, it’s the cockpit that makes the Slingshot such a joy to drive and ride in. Sitting in the driver’s seat, it’s high tech—but totally rider-friendly.
The 7-inch, color touchscreen is easy to see and intuitive to navigate, and the Bluetooth-connected Ride Command infotainment system is fantastic. With stereo controls, GPS, and vehicle gauging information, it’s easy to control even with gloves on. 2020 Slingshots also get a booming 100-watt Rockford Fosgate audio stereo system that goes to 11. (Seriously, crank it all the way up—this one goes to 11.) There’s also LED lighting all around, and a back-up camera for safety.
Which you’ll need, because this is one of the lowest-slung cockpits we’ve ever settled into. Without doors, the driver and passenger are mere inches off the ground. The visual effect of the asphalt rushing by in a blur is exhilarating. With the fresh air flowing through your helmet and all around you, the Slingshot is a joy no matter which seat you’re riding in.
Most states require Slingshot drivers and passengers to wear a DOT-approved helmet, so Polaris recommends you wear one no matter where you are. You’ll appreciate the extra sense of security the first time you feel the rear wheel slip. Which, from what we hear, happens a lot.
Speed demons, sports-car enthusiasts, and motorcyclists should find a local dealer ASAP and take the new Slingshot out for a spin. After a few years’ worth of owner input and technical upgrades, this unique Roadster is now dialed-in perfectly.
The function has finally caught up to the form. The 2020 Polaris Slingshot has come into its own.
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