Presumably with perfectly straight faces, the PR folks for Polaris Industries today released the news that, “Slingshot introduces the ultimate in comfort, style, and technology with the new Grand Touring LE.” This claimed 173-hp “autocycle” three-wheeler will henceforth be equipped in GT LE guise with the “Slingshade” folding roof, quilted comfort seats, a color-matched rear fender, and “Ride Command Navigation” in addition to the standard LE gear. The release informs us further that the only color combo will be “Matte Gray and Indy Red” with limited-edition graphics.
What this seems to signify is Polaris attempting to deal with the criticisms of the Slingshot’s exposure of its occupants to weather the same way a ragtop sports car does, but without the car’s doors, windows, and top, not to mention the now-required array of automotive safety gear. The new GT LE also features the “Ripper Series Wind Deflector—Tall,” another means of providing that “ultimate in comfort” to the Slingshot driver and passenger, who will presumably still be required to wear helmets in those states which already require open-top Slingshots (and Can-Am Spyder “ryders”) to don skid lids.
With the GT LE, Polaris clearly is inviting people to the Slingshot experience who prefer not to bake in the sun or subject themselves to thunderstorms without protection other than weatherproof riding gear. Likewise, Polaris is inevitably also inviting both legislators and buyers to wonder just how car-like the three-wheeler can get before it becomes more “auto” and less “cycle”—and thus, subject to the same standards as cars.
Notwithstanding the suspiciously car-like look of the GT LE, we can only hope machines like the Spyder, the Slingshot, and whatever comes of Yamaha’s recent purchase of Geir Brudeli’s leaning three-wheeler design and its own Niken—as well as what is doubtless brewing in the other major manufacturers’ skunk works—that attract riders/drivers to the not-a-car experience will continue to provide alternatives for people who want to experience the road as more sport than mere transportation.