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BBC Autos

The Roundabout Blog

Meet the Polaris Slingshot, the sports car that isn’t

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.

 

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There is a small disclaimer at the bottom of the webpage for the new Polaris Slingshot. It reads: “Slingshot is a three-wheeled motorcycle. It is not an automobile. It does not have airbags, and it does not meet automotive safety standards.” Words worth remembering.

Time spent with the Campagna Motors T-Rex and the Morgan 3 Wheeler demonstrated to us that although roadster trikes may cost as much (or more) as four-wheeled sports cars, and although they may turn by a traditional steering wheel and go and stop via carlike pedals, they are resolutely not cars. They are raucous and a little squirrelly, Spartan in the extreme and impractical to a fault. This is not about transportation; it’s about driving. And that, to the growing base of three-wheeler enthusiasts, is the whole point.

The front-engine, rear-wheel drive hellion you see here, from US-based snowmobile and ATV-maker Polaris, is the newest addition to this unusual category of road-legal sporting machines. No relation to 2004 Dodge or 1988 Plymouth concept cars of the same name,  Polaris’ two-seat Slingshot makes use of a 2.4-litre in-line four-cylinder car engine from General Motors. It produces a more-than-sufficient 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque, driving the single 20in rear wheel through a five-speed manual transmission and carbon fibre-reinforced drive belt.

At present, Polaris is mum on Slingshot performance figures, but with a curb weight of just 1,700lbs, it is safe to assume the roadster is very quick indeed. Anti-lock brakes, along with stability- and traction-control systems, are mercifully standard.

In the US, the base Slingshot starts at $19,999; an SL model, which includes a cut-down windscreen and nicer wheels, commands $23,999.

We feel compelled to note here that Mazda’s ever-joyful MX-5 Miata, which comes complete with windscreen wipers, a folding roof and an actual trunk, starts at very similar $23,970. No helmet required.

So, roadster fans, how do you roll: three wheels or four? To share your thoughts, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.