After three weeks and more than 1,000 miles with our 2020 Slingshot R, we got pretty familiar with it. We’d like to share a few impressions about how exciting & unique it is and how the Slingshot speaks to you. We will also discuss some critical points about the fit, feel, and finish of the Slingshot R, and get into some real-world examples of what it’s like to live with. Come along with us for the ride of a lifetime but we will warn you It’s just a riot, and it’ll put a grin on your face that might require medication to remove!
‘The Slingshot speaks to you’
‘The Slingshot will accommodate nearly any size of driver or passenger without a problem’
Overview – Exciting & Unique: Slingshot Speaks to You
The 2020 Polaris Slingshot R is a three-wheel vehicle with a belt final drive and side-by-side seating for two. It has two wheels in front and one wheel in back, and the rear wheel provides all the power while the front wheels handle steering. The engine is a fuel-injected 2-liter inline-4, generating 203 bhp in the fastest of all the Slingshot models. Polaris builds the motor in-house and it’s the first 4 cylinder they’ve ever designed, new for this model year. An automatic transmission collects all that power and delivers it to the rear wheel.
The Slingshot R registers, insures, and parks as a motorcycle¹·². There are no doors, windows, or a roof. You can buy close facsimiles of those things as options through Polaris though. Because it is not classified as a car, there are no airbags or crumple zones. It does have 3-point safety belts and ABS brakes, and stout roll bars behind the driver and passenger seats. Polaris strongly recommends full-face helmets for all passengers.
As of the writing of this article, it is classified as, registers, and insures as a motorcycle. In America, it’s up to your state’s DLD to determine whether or not a motorcycle endorsement is required to drive one. Currently, all 50 states in the United States of America are showing a motorcycle endorsement is not required ¹·².
Slingshot R Fit
Have a Seat
At 6′ tall and about 180 pounds, I fit comfortably in both seats of the Slingshot R. Carrie, at 5’6″, is also comfortable in either seat. All twelve of our passengers who took rides with us in the Slingshot also reported being comfortable, with complaints only noted at the extremes. Especially large passengers reported the seat belt fit uncomfortably tight, exacerbated by the Slingshot’s aggressive pretensioner. And our exceptionally small passengers mentioned the smallish windshield obstructed their view, if not their enjoyment. In both cases, tall and small folk alike only mentioned these concerns in the mildest of terms. Nobody had anything genuinely negative to say, just that these things could have been better.
Both seats can recline, and the driver’s seat can be adjusted forward and backwards too. There’s a tilt adjuster on the steering wheel, but not telescope, and the sideview mirrors are manually adjustable as well. Somewhere in all that adjustability, the Slingshot R will accommodate nearly any size of driver or passenger without a problem.
There is room for improvement though. As a driver, I had a hard time getting my left leg comfortable. The speaker box on the drivers side sticks out far enough that I can’t just leave my leg straight, so I tended to curl my left foot under my right knee. Or, I would draw my knee high up and plant my foot flat just in front of the seat. I found myself wishing for some textured rubber mats in the footwell to give me something to brace against too. Trying to sit up or scoot around in the seat was difficult without any traction below my soles.
‘Polaris strongly recommends full-face helmets for all passengers’
From the drivers seat, almost everything you may need to put your hands on is an easy reach. All the controls, the touchscreen infotainment system, glove box, everything. The only exception is the curbside mirror. It is impossible for you to reach from the driver’s seat belted or not, so it can be a challenge to adjust. Get a friend to help you, or you may find yourself taking a few laps around the tail end of the Slingshot R before the mirror feels right.
Your passengers knee can be a tough reach too, if you’ve got a 20oz soda bottle in the center cup holders. This may not be a problem for you, but for Carrie and I, it was more than a little frustrating.
‘It’s just a pleasure’
Slingshot R Feel
The small leather-wrapped steering wheel has a very sporty feel to it, accented by the flat bottom and big Slingshot emblem in the center. High contrast stitching on the steering wheel and seats further develop that edgy, sporty persona, and the big embroidered “R” on the headrest completes it.
Most of the buttons, switches, and controls have a quality feel to them as well. One thing I really would have liked is some dimpling or other texture on the steering wheel buttons. Polaris laid out the audio and cruise control buttons in a very utilitarian square pattern, and I had to glance down at them often. I would welcome a raised dot or two, like the ones I can feel right now under my “f” and “j” keys on the home row of my QWERTY keyboard.
‘It’s like a go-kart, if your go-kart had 203 horses and a Rockford Fosgate stereo system’
We were less impressed by the plastics in the rest of the cabin. The dash, the interior of the storage compartments and glove box, and the floors. They’re all cheap, slick plastics that call to mind watercraft at best, and Tonka trucks at worst.
As to how it feels to drive, though, it’s just a pleasure. The steering is both responsive and communicative, with wonderful feedback through the wheel. Surface and traction conditions come through loud and clear, and on curvy mountain roads the synergy of woman and machine (or man!) starts to feel downright transcendent. The Slingshot speaks to you.
All that power pushing from the centerline of the vehicle creates a sense of slaloming, in a very good way. And there’s no pitch or roll in the corners either. It’s like a go-kart, if your go-kart had 203 horses and a Rockford Fosgate stereo system. It’s just a riot, and it’ll put a grin on your face that might require medication to remove.
‘There’s an unfinished “what’s in the sausage” aspect to the finish…’
Slingshot R Finish
Front to back, head to tail, the finish on the Slingshot is edgy and attitudinal. You will find razor-sharp lines accented by bright white LED lighting and high-contrast stitching. It’s like an 18yo Slayer fan with their first tattoo, positively spoiling to be seen.
There’s an unfinished “what’s in the sausage” aspect to the finish on the Slingshot too. The seat belt buckles are naked, wires and springs exposed in unapologetic simplicity. You can see all the wiring for the turn signals and headlights if you kneel down by the fenders too. It’s rough, unrefined, and beautiful. It’s weight reduction written in a bright red pen.
There is just one downside to this edgy, skeletal construction we have to mention. As low and open as the Slingshot is, if you so much as say “dirt” the cockpit will be covered in a fine layer of it. Taking the Slingshot off the pavement for any length of time is guaranteed to get the inside dusty, and it will stay that way until you break out the elbow grease and take care of it. This was probably more of a problem for us as journalists, since every scenic pull-out was a photo op, but the whole time we had our Slingshot it was covered in Utah red. Thankfully, the Slingshot is easy to clean. All you need is a typical wand wash bay, and the only thing you have to watch for is to not spray the center screen directly with high-pressure water.
‘It’s just a riot, and it’ll put a grin on your face that might require medication to remove’
Stay tuned to Total Motorcycle for our last finale episode in our long term Slingshot R review, where we give you the low down and rate the Slingshot in our Comfort, Power, Handling, Range, Versatility, Style, Sound and Fun categories. How will it do? Any guesses?
We would like to thank Polaris for providing us with the Slingshot R to review for you. We have more to come on our review of the 2020 Slingshot R. Stay tuned each week for yet another long term unbiased review from Total Motorcycle!
A big thanks to our readers, the YouTube and Facebook followers and our Patreon Supporters for joining Total Motorcycle for our Slingshot journey so far. Support us for just $1 a month over at Patreon. We don’t sell anything so every dollar counts.
Ride Safe & Ride Often!
¹ Federally, the Slingshot is classified as a motorcycle, but not all states classify the Slingshot as a motorcycle. 48 out of 50 states classify the vehicle as an autocycle. Only 2 states classify the Slingshot as a motorcycle and require a motorcycle license and endorsement to operate it.
² All other classification and helmet laws vary based on the state. They generally follow the state’s motorcycle helmet laws (i.e.: In California, the Slingshot is classified as an autocycle, but you must wear a DOT-approved helmet while driving it, like a motorcycle). As you would imagine, Polaris recommends all riders wear a DOT-approved full-face helmet.