Car video reviews:

2021 Polaris Slingshot's Updated Automatic Gearbox Is A Big Deal - Here's Why

At first glance, it looks extremely weird, as this crazy three-wheeler has no doors, roof, or even airbags. It only weighs 1,700 lbs (772 kg) and with up to 203 hp available, the audacity of it starts to become appealing.
2021 Polaris Slingshot 7 photos
2021 Polaris Slingshot2021 Polaris Slingshot2021 Polaris Slingshot2021 Polaris Slingshot2021 Polaris Slingshot2021 Polaris Slingshot
This three-wheeled motorcycle, as Polaris classifies it, has been around for six years, and during that time, it grew in popularity, gaining a lot of fans. This led the Minnesota-based manufacturer to constantly improve it, bringing a host of new features for last year’s model and ditching the heavy GM-sourced Ecotec 2.4-liter engine.

It was replaced by a new 2.0-liter Prostar inline-four that is lighter and more compact, delivering 178 hp in the S and SL models and 203 hp in the R.

The engine was a great upgrade, but the five-speed automatic transmission was so ‘good’ that many who test drove it ended up buying a manual. Thankfully, Polaris seems to have solved the low-rev sagginess of the automatic that just ruined the fun of driving the previous model.

The 2021 Slingshot comes with a completely recalibrated gearbox that delivers faster and more constant shifts. In addition, a new hill-hold feature is now standard on all models, including the manual. It promises to significantly improve slow-speed performance.

Another issue with the automatic was the lack of paddle shifters. It’s incredibly naïve to forget this feature on an aggressive, bare naked speed machine called the Slingshot.

The Slingshot looks like it needs to go fast and, to do it properly with the AutoDrive gearbox, Polaris has finally come to its senses and fitted a pair of much-needed paddles on the improved model.

Designed from high-quality composite material, they look well placed and proportioned. The shifters come standard on all 2021 R models and are available as an upgrade for the S and SL.

The manufacturer was also nice enough to make them available for the 2020 models. They also offer the option to further upgrade previous Autodrive versions with the hill-hold feature.

These improvements will completely change the way the Slingshot drives. Adrenaline junkies can now push the capable 2.0-liter close to its 8,500-rpm limit easily, without the gearbox upshifting.

It will, however, downshift if the speed drops suddenly, which is a convenient feature. The 2021 models are also available with the five-speed manual which, in my opinion, complements the raw nature of this vehicle better than the upgraded automatic.

Apart from these changes, the wide range of customization options that make the Slingshot so popular has been expanded.

An all-new premium interior light kit developed by XKGlow enables owners to simultaneously set two different light zones to any color and pair the lights with the all-new sound system via a smartphone app.

I, for one, would not need an audio system in such a machine, but for those who do, Polaris adds a new 100-watt Rockford Fosgate system with redesigned pods and tweeters built in the dashboard.

This system comes as standard on the new R Limited Edition model, which also gets the paddle shifters, a 7.5-inch (190-mm) windscreen, forged aluminum wheels, and a unique Neon Fade asymmetrical paint job.

The 2021 lineup is available in dealerships with prices starting at $20,000 for the standard S model, $25,000 for the midrange SL and $32,000 for the superior R. Those looking to buy the limited edition model will have to pay an additional $1,000.


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories