Two wheels or three, the carefree fun of motorcycling stops being carefree and fun when the skies open and precipitation becomes part of the touring. Call it the heartbreak of cumulonimbus. Operating a bike or trike in the rain can be an exercise in misery.

Roofs and two-wheeled vehicles are pretty much incompatible (it’s been tried). But it’s a different story for 3-wheelers, and the new Slingshot Grand Touring LE provides a case in point. From a purist point of view, 3-wheelers aren’t really motorcycles. But from a legal point of view, they are, and the presence of a model with roof panels doesn’t alter that. But it will alter the appeal of the Slingshot, at least according to parent company Polaris.

For those unacquainted with this vehicle, the Slingshot is one of several 3-wheelers on the market, and a successful one, racking up some 25,000 sales since its 2014 introduction, according to Polaris.

Fundamentals

Basics: like most 3-wheelers, the Slingshot has two wheels up front, one in the rear. The uninhibited plastic body panels surround a steel tube chassis, with engine and transmission behind the two-seat passenger compartment.

Suspension elements include double control arms up front with coil-over shocks, and a single coil-over shock at the rear. The engine—a 2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve aluminum four from General Motors—feeds power to the rear wheel via a 5-speed manual gearbox and belt drive. The forged alloy wheels (18 inches front, 20 inches rear) wear tires supplied by Kenda, a German company specializing in rubber for bicycles and ATVs, as well as general automotive applications.

Rated for 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque, the engine gives the 1,750-pound Grand Touring LE a hot rod power-to-weight ratio of just over 10 pounds per horsepower. But getting the Slingshot off the line without excessive wheelspin is tricky, and contemporary road tests report a 0-to-60 mph time of about 7 seconds.

Abbreviated gullwings

The key distinction between the Grand Touring LE and the rest of the Slingshot line (six models in all) is a pair of ABS plastic gullwing-style roof panels—Slingshades—that fold up to enhance access. Polaris promotes this as a feature for owners who want to take their Slingshots on extended tours, an advantage for occupants who don’t want to overdo exposure on sunny days. However, protection from inclement weather is minimal. There are no side windows or curtains, no rear window, and a large gap above the windscreen.

There are, however, contemporary features, available throughout the line, that make the Slingshot a little more practical and a little more reassuring on the road. For example, the Grand Touring LE has a 7.0-inch center dash touchscreen that includes navigation.

And even though 3-wheeler handling traits are unique, differing from both 2- and 4-wheeled vehicles, Polaris has enhanced the safety quotient with electronic stability and traction control, as well as rollover protection.

The Slingshot marketing mantra is “so much for slipping out of town unnoticed,” and the slogan is unarguable. As Slingshot product chief Garrett Morse put it, “we wanted to take the style over the top.”

The price for a unique driving experience, as well as guaranteed attention, is substantial. Slingshot MSRPs start at $19,999 and soar to $29,999 for the Grand Touring LE. That price does not include destination and delivery charges, which are up to dealers (450 in North America, 400 in the U.S.).  According to Polaris, out-the-door prices for the new model are anticipated to range between $31,000 and $32,000. This does not include the extensive list of options. 

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