Polaris Industries is expanding. It's grown a third wheel.
The company best known for its extensive line of snowmobiles and side-by-side off-road vehicles, having enjoyed a year of success with its revived Indian Motorcycles brand of big street cruisers, has moved into the sport three-wheeler market.
The company has taken the wraps off its Slingshot, a three-toed beast that's half motorcycle, half street buggy.
It's no sloth. The low-slung, open-cockpit Slingshot, weighing just 1725 pounds, is driven by a 2.4-liter engine that produces 173 horsepower and 166 foot-pounds of torque. The machine has a manual fivespeed transmission, and comes stock with safety features like anti lock brakes, electronic stabilizers and traction control.
It also requires special safety features: The Slingshot is equipped with three-point restraints and, because it's technically a motorcycle, drivers and passengers must wear helmets, in states that have helmet laws. The driver must have a license with a motorcycle endorsement.
The expensive tricycle category is getting competitive. BRP has enjoyed success putting its three-wheeled CanAm Spyders on the road, at prices between $22,000 and $30,000, while Harley-Davidson continues to sell its luxurious $32,000 TriGlide three-wheelers.
Polaris executives are quick to point out that the Slingshot, which retails at $19,999 to $23,999, is a different sort of beast. Unlike the CanAm or the TriGlide, the Slingshot offers two front seats, side by side, instead of a rider and passeger seat, one behind the other.
"A three-wheeled vehicle offers an experience that's just like a motorcycle -- the open air and the wind in your face," said Polaris' director of Slingshot, Chris Doucet. "But the three-wheel stance adds an extra level of stability."
Polaris, which is marketing the Slingshot with the slogan "Hold on. Let go," says the target demographic for the new machine is male, 25 to 60. But they expect the vehicle may also appeal to anyone who's interested in a motorcycle experience but isn't ready for two-wheels -- a non-rider, or a rider who may be a little older or concerned about the weight of a high-powered motorcycle.
Sales will tell. Slingshots will start hitting dealer showrooms in September. Also for sale will be Slingshot gear, including helmets, riding gloves, t-shirts and jackets, and even Slingshot rain gear.