Will 2015 be the year of the alternative vehicle? We have seen some wild concepts in the last 12 months, from the largest automakers to the smallest. Most offer a practical solution to modern transportation needs. The Polaris Slingshot, the three-wheel wild ride that offers more sport than practicality, is finding it tough to enter the market. After being shot down for motorcycle designation in Connecticut, the Slingshot needs an identity — or maybe some well-connected friends — to start delivering the thrills it promises.
Thwarted in Connecticut and Texas
The denial in Connecticut was nothing new for the Slingshot, which hails from the well-heeled parent company behind Victory Motorcycles and Indian Motorcycles. Back in November, Polaris felt the brunt of Texas regulators who refused to classify it as a motorcycle because it lacked saddle-style seating and had other marks it was no bike. (The old-fashioned eyeball test could just have easily flunked the Slingshot.) Back East, regulators in the great state of Connecticut said the Slingshot was no motorcycle because it had side-by-side seating and otherwise was built like a car with everything but the safety features.
Why the fright over this little buggy? For starters, it sports a 2.4-liter DOHC engine capable of 173 horsepower and 166 pounds-feet of torque at 1,743 pounds soaking wet. That’s the power of a Toyota Camry (178 horsepower) with 1,500 pounds less weight at the curb. Now you probably get the idea of the whiplash effect a driver gets powering a Polaris Slingshot down the road. It’s the ride actor Kaiwi Lyman describes as “a roadside jet-fighter” on the Slingshot website.
Before anyone writes off three-wheelers for good, there are ways the concept can work. Take Elio Motors and its three-wheel commuter car expected to hit 84 miles per gallon. Then there’s the eccentric Toyota iRoad, the three-wheel electric vehicle made to overcome the logjam of urban transportation. Back in the summer, we even tracked down a domestic three-wheel electric vehicle classified as a motorcycle with as much range as a Tesla. There’s money in that banana stand.
Of course, those urban commuter solutions are sensible vehicles rather than joy-riders like the Slingshot. In essence, the Polaris creation might be the renegade, neighborhood version of the BAC Mono supercar or X-Bow from bike maker KTM.
Word from Polaris dealers in Connecticut is they are not worried about the Slingshot getting its endorsement from regulators. One went so far as to tell Jalopnik the automaker had “the backing of several senators and several representatives.” If they are not going back to the drawing board, it’s time to call in a favor.