Three wheels and handling for the 2023 Polaris Slingshot SLR
From the September 2023 issue of The car and the driver.
Ask anyone who has lost teeth or has some scars, and they will tell you that life is so much more fun when you don’t take it so seriously. For proof, see our Polaris Slingshot SLR 3-Wheel. A few miles spent behind a Slingshot’s visor will have you sprinting around traffic while blasting the Inner Circle and might just be the last push needed to talk yourself out of some tribal tattoos.
The $35,286 SLR we tested is the mid trim level, presumably somewhere between exquisite and stout. It’s about $10,000 more than the 178-horsepower Slingshot S and about $7,000 less than the range-topping Roush version. Behind the grumpy plastic front is Polaris’ Prostar 203-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and the SLR uses a wider (11.0-inch) rear wheel than base models. The 1,661-pound SLR has nearly the same torque as the Mazda Miata, which is its closest car equivalent in terms of price and performance, but the Polaris hits 8,500 rpm, 1,000 more than the Miata.
Although you can get an automated manual transmission, our tester had as many pedals as it did the tires. The five-speed manual transmission sounds a little odd to us, but its shifts feel smoother than what you get in many high-performance cars. Between shifts, you’ll find a powerband that delivers plenty of oomph above 6500 rpm. It blasted to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, two-tenths faster than the last Slingshot we tested, which was powered by a GM 173-hp 2.4-liter. The updated 2.0-liter model also beat the old 2.4-liter’s time to 100 mph in 2.7 seconds. It bested the previous quarter-mile Swinger by half a second at 14.0 seconds and 101 mph.
Elevations: 203 bhp at 1,661 pounds, manual, and plenty of ‘tude.
lowest levels: Priced like a car, helmet hair, and rainy days.
We’re confident the SLR’s acceleration numbers would be more ostentatious with a more grippy rear tire, but the Kenda smoking a 305-section-width radial through second gear feels cooler than hitting 60 mph in half a second faster. And the front/aft weight distribution of 65.5/34.5 percent didn’t do the slingshot any favors here. However, Polaris says if you stick with it, the slingshot will reach speeds of 125 mph.
Around a 300-foot surfboard, the Slingshot is clamped using 0.90g of stick, which is another improvement over the previous Slingshot which only managed 0.85g. Unsurprisingly, the Slingshot, located under the Miata’s wheel, shows less grip than the 2022 model we tested. Mazda achieved 0.95 grams while wearing 205/45R-17 Bridgestone Potenza S001 summer tires that were 20mm narrower than the front tires on the SLR.
Stopping the Slingshot SLR from 70 took 157 feet—two feet shorter than the 2,346-pound Miata and nine feet better than the previous Slingshot we tested. It has ABS, but the brake booster remains hydraulic, which makes the brake pedal feel organic. The SLR uses 11.7-inch ventilated rotors held by single-piston calipers front and rear (R models get 13.3-inch ventilated fronts with four-piston Prembos).
Before it lacked a roof, doors, or a second rear frame, the funnest part of driving the Slingshot SLR was hanging the tail around corners. Even on completely dry pavement, you can send the slingshot sliding, and a big part of the fun about that is the easily controlled motion of the 3 wheels.
The SLR is a fun time—it’s the pavement counterpart to Polaris’ high-performance side-by-side in the dirt. The optional heated and ventilated seats ($1,559) are as close to a regular car as they get. The fully reclining, air-conditioned seats cooled our backs nicely when we were mired in construction traffic under the blazing summer sun. Find the right playlist to play through your Rockford Fosgate stereo, and don’t be surprised if, after a few days of ownership, you start styling your hair to better fit the inner contours of your helmet.
2023 Polaris Slingshot SLR
Vehicle type: front engine, rear wheel drive, 2-passenger, 0-door roadster
Base / As Tested: $32,097 / $35,286
DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, fuel injection port
Displacement: 122 in31997 cm3
Power: 203 hp at 8,250 rpm
Torque: 144 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm
Suspension, F/R: Control Arms/Swing Arm
Brakes, F/R: 11.7″ vented disc/11.7″ ventilated disc
Tires: Kinda Radial
Wheelbase: 105.0 in
Length: 149.6 inches
Width: 77.9 inches
Height: 51.9 in
Curb weight: 1,661 lbs
grandfather Test results
60 mph: 5.3 seconds
100 mph: 13.6 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.0 seconds at 101 mph
120 mph: 25.2 seconds
The above results subtract 1 foot by 0.3 seconds.
Rolling start, 5-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
Top Gear, 30-50 mph: 6.6 seconds
Top Gear, 50-70 mph: 7.3 seconds
Top speed (MFR claim): 125 mph
braking, 0-70 mph: 157 ft
Road Carrier, Skateboard 300 ft.: 0.90 oz
grandfather fuel economy
Note: 22 mpg
Highway driving at 75 mph: 29 mpg
Highway range 75 mph: 280 miles
grandfather Test explained
Yes, he’s still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and despite being bombarded with hockey pucks during his unsuccessful goaltending career through high school and college, he still has all his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and the Blue, Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s most likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix his car.