By Dave Abrahams
Medina, Minnesota - “The Slingshot is a three-wheeled motorcycle. It is not an automobile. It does not have airbags and it does not meet automotive safety standards.”
That's the disclaimer on the home page of the Polaris website, the first place I went looking for hard information on its new three-wheeler, introduced this week in the United States.
Whether the good people at Smith Power Equipment who bring us Polaris quads and ATVs will be able to do the same in South Africa is a whole different can of worms because, by any rational definition, the Slingshot is a car and, because it's built in Spirit Lake, Iowa, a left-hand drive car at that.
But, then, Americans are rarely rational.
It's understandable that Polaris would prefer you to think of it as a motorcycle; just think of the lawsuits if it marketed something this basic - and this much fun! - in the United States as a car.
At first glance the Slingshot looks like a KTM X-Bow that's lost one rear wheel, and not even KTM (a motorcycle maker by definition) pretends that the X-Bow is a motorcycle.
Its two occupants sit side-by side, with their bums approximately a hand's breadth off the tar in deep bucket seats, rather than astride in tandem as on a Can-Am Spyder, and the two front wheels are controlled by a steering wheel rather than handlebars.
All the controls are laid out as per automotive practice, i.e. accelerator and brake pedals, rather than twistgrip and handlebar lever.
But whatever you call it, with the three wheels (literally) at the corners of the chassis and 127kW hauling less than 800kg, this thing is going to be a blast to drive on a twisty road.
It has a tubular chassis with double-wishbone front and single-sided trailing-arm rear suspension; its 2.4-litre DOHC EcoTec petrol four, sourced from GM, sits between the front wheels and the stick for the five-forward-and-reverse manual gearbox is directly under the driver's right hand.
Polaris quotes 127kW at 6200rpm and 225Nm at 4700rpm - quite conservative for a 2384cc twin-cam four - but doesn't mention any performance figures.
Probably doesn't want to scare the Mother Grundys.
It's about as long as a Mazda MX-5 and 45mm wider but, although it's 1318mmm high to the top of the roll cages, most of its 792kg is down around axle height and, with 225mm low-profile radials all round, it should have the road-holding of a leech.
Standard kit on the $19 999 (R212 000) base model includes electric power steering, ABS, traction control (with a straightforward on-off switch for track days), three-point seat belts, a lockable bin behind each seat big enough for a crash helmet and a glove compartment in the centre console.
There's no provision for a roof, although the maker insists that the upholstery and all the electronics are waterproof.
The $23 999 (R254 000) SL version (seen here) adds a windshield, larger rims (forged rather than cast), a six-speaker audio system with a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity, and a reversing camera with a 110mm liquid-crystal display.