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

That makes for a pretty impressive power-to-weight ratio—slightly better than a Porsche 911 Carrera S if my math is correct. With only a single wheel to deploy that power, it’s not quite as fast off the lights, but Polaris says the Slingshot R should hit 60mph from rest in 4.9 seconds. In practice, that might only be possible with the manual version.

Our test Slingshot might also have needed a bit of a tune-up, as its exhaust smelled quite rich. Yet again, I can’t help thinking how much better a Slingshot would be with an electric motor and some batteries; Polaris already makes electric UTVs, so perhaps that might happen in the years to come.

AutoDrive still needs work

The problem is that AutoDrive just isn’t great. Although it features two different modes, I wasn’t able to detect any real difference between them; in either case, the transmission called for a new gear at about 4,500rpm, well short of the ProStar’s peak power. And you have no option other than to surrender your choice of gear to AutoDrive’s algorithm; there is no manual control other than selecting drive, neutral, or reverse.

The early upshifts aren’t the only problem. The shifts themselves are never subtle, regardless of the speed you’re traveling. Polaris warned me that this was a transmission tuned “for the masses,” but I have to say I think they deserve better. The addition of paddle shifters to the steering wheel might help some, but either way, it could use some recalibration.

Despite the major revisions to the Slingshot’s powertrain, the overriding experience of driving one remains unchanged from last year. Even with less torque than last year’s model, the rear wheel will chirp and spin if you are too greedy with your right foot. The unassisted steering still reminds me of a go-kart, and I still feel quite exposed while driving it.

But most importantly, if you’re an introvert or just don’t want people to come up and talk to you when you’re stopped in traffic, you should not buy a Slingshot. You’ll have more fun on a winding road in a Mazda MX-5, which should also be slightly cheaper (and definitely more useable in winter). Nothing else I have driven all year—not even a bright blue McLaren GT—has turned heads or prompted questions from passers-by the way this machine did. Considering the Slingshot costs a small fraction of the supercar’s price, that’s a remarkably good deal if you are an extreme extrovert.

Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin

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