When the Polaris Slingshot first appeared a few years ago, it signified a bold push for Polaris with the model being the first cyclecar that the company ever produced outside their usual lineup of snowmobiles and off-road vehicles. The Slingshot’s blend of traits and its ability to be licensed as a car in some states (instead of a motorcycle) helped generate a strong surge in sales. However, the first generation Slingshot was also a crude offering and lacked some of the things that we take for granted in traditional cars. Polaris sought to remedy this with the second generation Slingshot which brings more polish and performance to the cyclecar ranks.
Slingshot Still Does A Good Impression of The Batmobile
The exterior styling of the Slingshot still looks like something that lept out of the pages of a sci-fi novel with many observers often citing its resemblance to the batmobile. However, Polaris designers have made some tasteful updates to the basic formula with an all-new set of headlights that provide brighter nighttime performance and also accent the revamped front fascias which now boasts an all-new fiberglass vented sport hood which is supposed to improve engine cooling and aerodynamics around the cabin.
The rest of the styling will be familiar to Slingshot fans with the rear of the trike featuring an all-new rearview camera to help improve the view when backing the Slingshot out of tight corners. That said, the Slingshot still lacks a BLIS system and when combined with the otherwise woeful rear styling, it makes lane changes a stressful ordeal. Thankfully the side mirrors are large enough to help provide valuable assistance in this endeavor and they are also adjustable too. Our SLR grade tester is meant to be on the sportier side of the spectrum and that’s achieved with slicker-looking wheels as well as other minor visual accents to help it stand out from the rest of the pack. The composite hood opens in a clamshell-style fashion, but it’s a heavy piece, and owners will need to use two hands to open and close the hood. An optional roof is available to help give the Slingshot better rain protection, but assembly of the piece can be challenging for newcomers.
Revamped Slingshot Interior Adds More Luxury To Riding Experience
Slip inside the the 2022 Polaris Slingshot and you’ll be greeted with a space that has clearly taken a bold step into the modern age. The interior is still weatherproof and can survive a surprise rainstorm (as we found out after a surprise shower while we were in Farmington Hills.) The SLR model adds more bolstering and lumbar support to the seats which helps improve their ability to hold occupants in place during spirited cornering.
As expected, storage solutions in the Slingshot are limited by its dimensions, but we’ll give Polaris designers credit for working with the space that they did have available. Two bins (meant for helmets) are nestled behind both seats while a small center storage bin provides a refuge for small items. The glovebox is home to the most abundant slice of space though this space is meant for light items as well as mobile devices due to the integrated USB port. The Slingshot has three of these ports with the second one located in the center console (an improvement from older models.) The third is perhaps the most inconveniently placed of the bunch and is nestled in the center of the rear pillar next to an oddly placed 12-volt socket.
The highlight for us though is the improved Ride Command system. The 7-inch screen features improved software that’s faster than before and allows owners to access more features. The lone gripe we had is that navigation is not standard and is instead a separate add-on that can be installed at your local Polaris dealer. While that’s understandable for the lower-trim models, it’s a tough sell on a version that starts at under $30,000 (before taxes) and requires you to move up to the pricier R model to make it standard. A Rockford Fosgate premium audio system is also along for the ride too, but while it does provide good vibrations, the setup is muffled when you are wearing your helmet out on a ride.
The Ultimate Thrill Machine
Performance for the 2022 Polaris Slingshot is arguably the biggest change that buyers and even loyal Polaris fans will see when they spend some time with the 2022 Slingshot. All models are now powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder built in-house by Polaris which replaces the outgoing 2.4 liter GM sourced naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine.
Power depends on model, but our SLR grad tester came with tweaked engine software that helped it produce 203 hp versus the lower 178 hp figure in lesser models. The engine can be mated to either a standard six-speed manual or an all-new “AutoDrive” automated manual which is essentially an automatic version of the fore-mentioned six-speed. The AutoDrive transmission is the company’s attempt to make the Slingshot a broader seller for buyers that might not know how to operate a traditional manual transmission and it does a commendable job of delivering the goods in that regard. Reverse, Neutral, and Drive are operated by buttons while the Parking brake serves as the park gear (like in some older supercar models.)
Unlike those models though, the AutoDrive experience as a whole is a mixed bag with the computer wallowing through the gears like an unhinged brute. As a result, finding the sweet spot to take full advantage of the engine’s full potential was difficult and required a degree of patience to achieve. A solution to this problem would be the addition of steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to give drivers control over upshifts while letting the computer go down (a trick I learned on older Aston Martin products.) While these paddles are available on the R, SLR models don;t have this feature and as a result, the driver is largely at the mercy of the clunky transmission programming.
That’s a shame since the ProStar engine itself is a very good engine to work with. The boost on hand is quite good, and the ProStar has more low-end oomph than the old 2.4 liter ever did. Handling this time around also feels sharper due to tweaks to the steering rack, but the large turning circle that still remains will force owners to do careful maneuvering to get the Slingshot turned around in tight spots. The engine even proved to be a commendable freeway cruiser when we tasked our tester with a trip to Hell, Michigan for a drive on some of the winding roads that dotted the area. Polaris claims that the Slingshot can go up to 125 mph on the freeway, but freeway jaunts should only be a last resort thing to do thanks to the wandering that the front end does on grooves, and the AutoDrive’s hesitancy to get into gear quick enough for high-speed passing. At least the cruise control feature (a new addition to the second-gen model) is a welcome feature to have when your feet need a break from operating the throttle.
When we eventually arrived in Hell, the Slingshot revealed that it’s an eager terrier when it comes to taking corners though the three-wheel layout and its hefty weight do force the driver to be mindful of its limits when tasked with very sharp cornering maneuvers. Straighter surfaces confirmed that the chassis does a good job delivering information to the driver, and our tester even got to demonstrate the stopping power of its brakes when we had to quickly avoid a wandering turkey.
Pricing for the entire Slingshot lineup has gone up slightly when compared to the under $20,000 price tags seen on the first-generation model, but Polaris didn’t want the value aspect of the equation to be lost and that’s apparent when you look at the base S model which starts at $20,799 and is supposed to be a clean slate for customers to customize. The $26,799 SL enhances the amount of standard equipment on board, while SLR models like our tester blend performance and comfort together for one easy payment of $29,699. Buyers that want maximum performance will have to go for the $33,299 R model. R models have even more horsepower and also come with wilder exterior colors.
Despite the quirks that define the 2022 Polaris Slingshot, the amount of fun that you get for the dollar is still very strong especially if you’re looking for an exciting way to add some spice to the daily commute. Polaris offers an impressive amount of options and it’s this strong pool of options as well as some of its unique character that has helped the Slingshot become a strong seller for the firm. We hope that some of the gremlins in the AutoDrive transmission will eventually be smoothed out to help flesh things out a bit, and make the SLingshot an excellent all-rounder for enthusiasts.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.