The debate has been over regarding what box the slingshot belongs in. It would be redundant to entertain that discussion beyond the fact that the Slingshot does not belong in a box. It is simply what it is, perhaps more but not less. Through the years that the Slingshot has been on the scene, it has come a long way since it’s early days as a moto-anomaly to the explosive growth of its integral position in today’s uber-cool moto culture and subcultures, therein. And the good folks at Polaris would be remised not to take notice.
For 2020 the Slingshot has gone through a drastic transformation. It looks and feels… finished. There are two models, the standard SL and the R. The R, for the first time, is available as a manual or an automatic. The purists will scream sacrilege at the absence of the manual transmission. Hell, I did for a minute before I thought about it. The mission of any manufacturer is to make units and move them. Moving units is clutch, pun intended. How does one double their market potential? Simple. You make a version for those that love the look and vibe but either can not drive stick nor are willing to learn. The portion of the market just wants to get in it and go. So why not make a product that will be embraced by that crowd? I get it. For every potential buyer that said, “But I don’t drive manual… I wish it was an automatic…” Polaris said, “hold my beer.” Well played, Polaris. Well played.
Now, for those that take matters into their own hands, literally… The R does come in a version with a traditional manual gearbox that has been refined in harmony with its all-new powerplant, the ProStar. The ProStar is a new four-cylinder, 2.0 liter, 1997cc engine that offers two performance modes: Comfort and Slingshot. These riding modes are managed via the push of a button at the steering wheel. The SL model has a maximum output of 178hp at 8500rpm and 120 foot-pounds of torque 5500rpm.
The Slingshot R takes things a stretch further down the performance road. In either delivery, manual or automatic, the engine output rises to 203hp at 8250rpm with 144 foot-pounds of torque at 6500rpm. You’ll find an upgrade in the braking department as well where 2 piece composite rotors allow for ample stopping ability.
Most notable for me was the gearbox. While not seamless, the process of shifting is impressively smooth compared to previous model years. This allowed me to be more aggressive and have more fun when putting the R through its paces. The new for 2020 tuned exhaust provided a roaring and throaty growl when on the throttle.
In the cockpit, the ergonomics have been reengineered and even larger occupants like myself are comfortable. At the redesigned steering wheel that is much easier to grip and negotiate, you’ll find buttons to manage basic operations: music, ride mode, cruise control, etc. At the center console, now with a perpendicular angle to the floorboard, you’ll discover the 7-inch ride command data center that doubles as a viewing screen for the backup camera. Below the data center is a row of toggle switches for the traction control, hazard lights, and interior ambient lights. Just below that, there is a dedicated spot for your smartphone and a USB charging port.
Of course, one of the highlights of the Slingshot has always been its proper sound system. The 2020 models continue the audio performance progression with a 100 watt Rockford Fosgate Audio system. Other key features of the interior include a new backlit data cluster, sound system, redesigned cup holder and middle console compartment. 100w Rockford Fosgate® Audio. Push to start with Key FOB.
The bucket seats are both comfortable and functional, allowing you to feel like you are in and part of the Slingshot opposed to sitting on or sunken into the Slingshot. The manual shifter is shorter, giving more exaction when operating the gearbox.
At the front end, the side by side dual bulb lights have been replaced by an attractive LED headlight bar, while LED accent lights further distinguish the 2020 from prior model years.
The bodywork at the driver and passenger points of entry have been reinforced to support the weight when riders have a habit of leaning, posing, posturing at the side of their Slingshot. Other key features of the interior a new backlit information cluster, redesigned and relocated cup holders, a middle console compartment and a push to start ignition with key FOB.
The only true way to experience the reality of the sum of all parts is to drive it. After a brisk cruise through the Nevada backdrop, from Hoover Dam to Lake Mead, I managed to find some time and some road to push the limits of the new R. I must disclose that I am an owner of 2017 Slingshot SLR, and have considerable number of miles of looking over the front hood at aggressive speeds, under my belt. I’ve spent time with the 2018 and 2019 models, as well. The 2020 R triumphs over all previous models. By comparison, the 2020 models make anything that came before it a dinosaur. The power of the new ProStar engine, the higher revs, the new gearbox all come together as a perfect storm called “Badass!” The R has a 0 to 60mph rating of 4.9 seconds. What that means in real terms is that this model is more than quick, its fast. It’s important to note that the new ProStar engine while producing more horsepower than the previous model year’s GM Ecotec 2.4L 4 cylinder engine, it has a smaller CC output and produces less torque. Its performance output is a testament to proper development, engineering, and execution of a concept. If Polaris had to travel up of slightly crooked road to get to this, the 2020 model, it was a road well-traveled. I’ve said it. This model looks and feels “finished”. For the adventurous newcomer to the Sling World, there’s the automatic option. For the purist, you have the five-speed manual.
Polaris continues to carve their own path with their three-wheeled Slingshot. However, to say that the 2020 is merely an updated model from the previous year is a grand understatement. It is not just new skin on old meat and bones. The 2020 Slingshot lineup is a different animal… conceptually, visually, and functionally. Honestly, the only things that truly remain from the 2019 models are the three wheels and the name. It’s a new year and a new decade. The Slingshot is done playing. It’s coming for everything that’s been owed to it, and more.