Super Street Network

Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit www.motortrend.com for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM
 |   |  2021 Polaris Slingshot Update: More affordable base model and an automatic transmission that doesn’t suck
Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter

2021 Polaris Slingshot Update: More affordable base model and an automatic transmission that doesn’t suck

3-wheeled Slingshot now comes with paddle shifters and a starting price of $19,999 MSRP.

Sam Du
Dec 10, 2020

To most seasoned car guys, the three-wheeled Slingshot comes across as being a bit odd-looking and somewhat pointless. Half of us wouldn't be caught dead driving/riding one, considering we know the project cars we're accustomed to building will be faster and more tunable. I shared the same exact same sentiment, - that is, until I popped my Polaris cherry in 2017. Quite frankly, I was giggling like a little kid inside my helmet the second I was buckled in. Equipped with a five-speed manual that transferred 173hp and 166 lb-ft of torque from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder GM engine, its wide rear tire would break loose each time I accelerated out of a corner or punched it from a stoplight. It was a fun toy that I could scare my friends with thanks to a passenger seat, open-air motorcycle-like cockpit and very low proximity to the ground. Despite mediocre power numbers, it weighed less than 1,800 lbs, which made it feel like I was going super-fast even though the speedo read 60 or 70mph. It's a vehicle I didn't dare creep into triple digit speeds (for safety and stability reasons), but as a weekend toy, I could appreciate it.

014 2021 polaris slingshot review lime green Photo 28/28   |   2021 Polaris Slingshot Update: More affordable base model and an automatic transmission that doesn’t suck

Jump to February of this year and I was back in the saddle of the redesigned 2020 Slingshot R. Polaris ditched the old Ecotec engine for a more efficient, in-house engineered 2.0-liter ProStar motor rated at 203hp and 144 lb-ft of torque. What was special was the new powerplant could rev up to 8,500rpm and reach 0-60mph in 4.9-seconds - enough to keep pace with the likes of a Mitsubishi Evo X or BMW E46 M3, half a second faster than the Civic Type R, and, if you're in a Subaru BRZ, forget about it.

006 2021 polaris slingshot review steering wheel paddle shifters Photo 28/28   |   2021 Polaris Slingshot Update: More affordable base model and an automatic transmission that doesn’t suck

Polaris also introduced a hydraulic actuated AutoDrive tranny (only a manual gearbox was offered since Slingshots were introduced in 2014). I didn't care much for the auto as its shifts were delayed and sluggish, and it also lacked paddle shifters. Little did I know though, making the Slingshot appeal to a larger pool of customers that didn't know how to operate a third pedal would transform their business model moving forward, which brings us to today's announcement Polaris has unveiled a few key improvements geared toward attracting more curious riders with a quicker-shifting automatic, much-needed paddle shifters and a lower priced S model (starts as low as $19,999 MSRP with a manual).

Since Polaris introduced its AutoDrive 10 months ago, 80% of new Slingshot purchases are automatics (this is despite journalists like me bashing on them). New customers also consist of more women and a multicultural audience, which is why the 2021 models boast more accessories (there's now 100+ you can buy directly from Polaris), limited edition trims (with neon fade paint) and three different audio packages powered by Rockford Fosgate.

004 2021 polaris slingshot review night ride Photo 28/28   |   2021 Polaris Slingshot Update: More affordable base model and an automatic transmission that doesn’t suck

It seems Polaris has hit their stride as the Slingshot continued to evolve more as a fashion figure and lifestyle statement than a high performance machine (although I can attest it can still rip when you want it to). I won't dive into the different color combinations and customization options because you can spend hours on their website looking at that stuff anyway. I was more concerned about how the new automatic stacked up, and right away, it shifted smoother, quicker and more consistent. The previous AutoDrive tended to be jerky and also bump you out of gear when you were engaged at an RPM it didn't like, especially if you weren't full throttle. The tuning and mapping was off; however, that's been fixed along with the addition of paddle shifters which I strongly preferred over keeping it in automatic mode (note: there's also a "Slingshot Mode" that improves throttle response and tightens steering which I recommend). After the first few corners of getting accustomed to the motorcycle-automobile hybrid, I was bouncing the Slingshot off redline, pushing the limits of those Kenda tires and hugging the corners of Malibu as tight and I could, all while up- and downshifting using the paddles. Don't expect it to be as quick as a dual-clutch tranny, but it's also not as pedestrian as the CVT in your mom's Prius. The updated automatic has progressed, is tolerable, and perhaps best of all, it doesn't suck.

010 2021 polaris slingshot review rockford fosgate audio Photo 28/28   |   2021 Polaris Slingshot Update: More affordable base model and an automatic transmission that doesn’t suck

I returned my Slingshot after three hours of good rompin' feeling satisfied and maybe a little fatigued. I can report that it's still a thrilling driving experience even with the absence of a clutch. I still have to ask myself if I would ever own or buy one. I've heard of some crazy owners turbocharging Slingshots and there are a couple LS- and 2JZ-swapped examples floating around. I'd still like to see what one would look like in the hands of the right tuner, perhaps with some different body panels and a familiar set of wheels. Until then, I'll continue to appreciate the Slingshot for what it is and respect them as they become more openly available to the masses with a commendable automatic transmission and with Polaris' ongoing legislative push to make them legal in all 50 states with a valid driver's license. A part of me shuns every time I see one with its radio blasting and neon lights flashing, but then I remember the excitement of driving one in the canyons and the undeniable smirk it left on my face.

THAT NEW AUTOCYCLE SMELL

2021 Polaris Slingshot

THE STICKER from $19,999 for the Slingshot S; $24,999 for the Slingshot SL; $31,299 for the Slingshot R

POWER 178hp, 120 lb-ft of torque (S, SL); 203hp; 144 lb-ft (R)

ENGINE 2.0-liter ProStar four-cylinder engine

DRIVETRAIN five-speed manual or AutoDrive automatic transmission (paddle shifters are standard on R, optional on S and SL models)

BRAKES vented cast iron rotors

WHEELS & TIRES 18" front, 20" rear cast aluminum wheels; Kenda tires

WHEELBASE 105"

LxWxH 149.6"x77.9"x51.9"

CURB WEIGHT from 1,633 lbs

 

By Sam Du
1034 Articles

BROWSE CARS BY MARKET

MORE FEATURES

As if to pour a little salt into the wound that the hottest hatch in ages, the AWD Toyota GR Yaris, is not being brought to North America, the interwebs has begun to conspire against us by teasing us with modified versions from some of the biggest tuners in the biz. In December, those sneak
Bob HernandezJan 15, 2021
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just go to a local dealership to buy a JDM hero car? Well, if you live in or around the Naples area in south Florida, that is now a reality. Craft Sports, the Nissan Skyline and GT-R specialty store and dealer that started in Gunma, Japan, recently opened
Bob HernandezJan 14, 2021
Run down the entire list of modifications made to San Diego native Alex Lawn’s Pandem widebody 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 and it won’t take you very long to get to the end. Where you’ve often spent quite a bit of time sifting through various turbo trim numbers, engine internal specs and different JDM “doo-dads,” this
RodrezJan 14, 2021
Superstreet: If there’s one thing you guys hate with all of your soul, it’s the idea of OEM vehicle manufacturers teaming up with one another on new vehicle offerings, the way that GM and Honda/Acura have agreed upon. We’ve seen it with the Subaru and Toyota “86” experiment that was lit ablaze when first announced
Greg FinkJan 12, 2021
Unlike most builds that are a product of some grand scheme of daydreaming and sometimes documenting plans for picking up a specific car and applying a headful of parts and changes to it, this turbocharged 1995 Mazda Miata is the exact opposite. Its owners and builders, brothers Alex and David Wong, had no intentions of
RodrezJan 11, 2021
Sponsored Links

SEARCH ARTICLES BY MAKE/MODEL

Search
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS
TO TOP