2020 Slingshot SL First Drive Review

A new engine and automatic transmission aim to make the Slingshot more approachable.

For years we’ve known the Polaris Slingshot as the tire-burning, open top, two-passenger three-wheeler that’s great for weekend cruising and some quick canyon jams, and it’s still exactly that. Now the platform is a claimed 70-percent new with an all-new ProStar 2.0L four-cylinder engine and AutoDrive transmission, making it faster and easier to drive than ever. But with base cost moving from $21,000 to $26,499, those updates come at a serious cost. Is an easier-to-drive and more premium treatment the key to new Slingshot success, or will the increased price tag and less-connected driving experience prove to be shifts in the wrong direction?

The 2020 Polaris Slingshot in Blue Steel has a starting MSRP of $26,499.
The 2020 Polaris Slingshot in Blue Steel has a starting MSRP of $26,499.Morgan Gales

Getting into the new Slingshot, everyone will first notice the updated cockpit. In the center, you’ll see the same 7-inch Ride Command system we’re now used to seeing in Indian motorcycles, with Bluetooth controls, various vehicle displays and readouts, as well as turn-by-turn navigation for an additional price. The steering wheel is now leather wrapped and more premium feeling, with cruise control and stereo controls located in the center. Legroom remains the same, which is plenty adequate, even for taller occupants. Storage also remains essentially unchanged, with the glove box and two compartments behind the seats maintaining their size and shape, but four small phone storage compartments located throughout the cockpit and a small center compartment are added. Cupholders have been moved and are now a little bigger, and of course the obvious, no shifter, just the three R, N, and D buttons.

There’s really no vehicle in the world like a Slingshot.
There’s really no vehicle in the world like a Slingshot.Morgan Gales

The new engine is smooth and strong, putting out a claimed 178 hp at 8,500 rpm. What Polaris calls AutoDrive transmission operates like a normal automatic transmission, with smooth shifts at the appropriate rpm. With three levels of traction control, you’re able to choose how squirrelly you want to get, with TC fully engaged proving to be the fastest, as it maintained the most traction through turns. With the new transmission and traction control, the Slingshot is now much easier to drive like a normal car, but still able to burn that rear tire when you want, though the connection to the road and roadster feel have changed completely. The manual transmission and clutch of previous years had a raw feel and more direct connection to the road. The new transmission is much more of a “press and go,” experience, taking away some of the adrenaline-inducing wild factor that we loved, but also opening doors to more drivers who don’t know how to use a manual transmission. Still, any way to manually select the gear while driving, though buttons or paddle shifters for example, would have struck a nice balance between the two and radically improved the experience.

The 2020 Polaris Slingshot is available at dealerships now.
The 2020 Polaris Slingshot is available at dealerships now.Morgan Gales

In previous years, we had recommended the base-model Slingshot over all others. It was the easiest way to get the most pure experience. Now, even though the Slingshot has been upgraded and improved in many ways, Polaris didn’t really expand the capability of the vehicle. The new engine and transmission are nice, but the limiting factors for us were never the transmission or the engine. Comfort features like blown air, heated seats, and more storage would have gone a long way toward improving casual use while not requiring such a steep price increase. But now with the most affordable Slingshot model costing more than a base-model 2020 Camaro, we’ll see if this attempt to make the vehicle easier to drive will actually make it more approachable, or if the move to a higher price bracket will bring it out of reach for aspirational owners.

A clear 7.5-inch wind deflector directs wind away from the face and body.
A clear 7.5-inch wind deflector directs wind away from the face and body.Morgan Gales
The new steering wheel puts much more control at your fingertips.
The new steering wheel puts much more control at your fingertips.Morgan Gales
Tons of vehicle information is available through the Ride Command screen, but navigation will cost you extra.
Tons of vehicle information is available through the Ride Command screen, but navigation will cost you extra.Morgan Gales
The center gauges are bold and easy to read.
The center gauges are bold and easy to read.Morgan Gales
Quilted seats add a premium feel to the interior of the Slingshot SL.
Quilted seats add a premium feel to the interior of the Slingshot SL.Morgan Gales
The mirror arms of the Slingshot contribute to the aggressive, industrial feel of the Slingshot.
The mirror arms of the Slingshot contribute to the aggressive, industrial feel of the Slingshot.Morgan Gales
Garage door openers don’t seem like the most necessary addition, but here they are.
Garage door openers don’t seem like the most necessary addition, but here they are.Morgan Gales
Behind-the-seat storage on the Polaris Slingshot.
Behind-the-seat storage on the Polaris Slingshot.Morgan Gales
The bottom of the front bumper is very low, so you may have to get used to a little bit of scraping.
The bottom of the front bumper is very low, so you may have to get used to a little bit of scraping.Morgan Gales
Do you think the Blue Steel color name is a Zoolander reference?
Do you think the Blue Steel color name is a Zoolander reference?Morgan Gales
Machined aluminum wheels contribute to the sporty style of the Slingshot SL.
Machined aluminum wheels contribute to the sporty style of the Slingshot SL.Morgan Gales
The large wing in the middle of the rear section brandishing the Slingshot SL name.
The large wing in the middle of the rear section brandishing the Slingshot SL name.Morgan Gales
Larger cupholders and the new center storage compartment in the Slingshot SL.
Larger cupholders and the new center storage compartment in the Slingshot SL.Morgan Gales
Reverse, Neutral, and Drive buttons on the 2020 Slingshot SL.
Reverse, Neutral, and Drive buttons on the 2020 Slingshot SL.Morgan Gales
Roll bars on the Slingshot that we seriously hope to never use.
Roll bars on the Slingshot that we seriously hope to never use.Morgan Gales
Do not use the side bodywork as a step…
Do not use the side bodywork as a step…Morgan Gales
USB and 12-volt charging in the Slingshot SL’s glove box.
USB and 12-volt charging in the Slingshot SL’s glove box.Morgan Gales
The Rockford Fosgate audio system on the Slingshot sounds crisp and clear.
The Rockford Fosgate audio system on the Slingshot sounds crisp and clear.Morgan Gales
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