The 2021 Polaris Slingshot R is arguably one of the most recognizable street-legal three-wheeled vehicles, but it’s not the only one. British automaker Morgan has one, too, fittingly called the 3-Wheeler. At least, it has one as of this writing—the current 3-Wheeler is on its way out. Nevertheless, although the Slingshot R and the 3-Wheeler have the same number of wheels, their driving experiences aren’t interchangeable.
How does the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R compare to a 2012 Morgan 3-Wheeler on paper?
First, a bit of explanation as to why this post is comparing a 2021 Polaris Slingshot R to a 2012 Morgan 3-Wheeler. At the time of writing, Chicagoland Morgan dealer Northshore Sportscars, which kindly helped facilitate this story, had three 3-Wheelers in stock. And when I arrived at the dealer to get photos, information, and driving impressions, the 2012 model was nearest to the door. So, that was the one I got to ride in.
However, Morgan didn’t significantly alter the 3-Wheeler since its 2012 introduction. In 2014 it strengthened the chassis and center drive unit as well as revised the suspension and steering. But apart from that and a few extra features like heated seats, a 2012 3-Wheeler is essentially identical to a 2021 model. It’s just that the later models don’t overheat or suffer as much bump-steer, Road & Track says.
Still, even those improvements wouldn’t help the Morgan 3-Wheeler close the gap between it and the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R. True, both vehicles are rear-wheel-drive autocycles. And they both use belt drives. But in terms of specs, the Slingshot R is noticeably ahead.
|Spec||2021 Polaris Slingshot R||2012 Morgan 3-Wheeler|
|Engine||2.0-liter four-cylinder||2.0-liter V-twin|
|Power||203 hp||82 bhp|
|Torque||144 lb-ft||103 lb-ft|
|Transmission||Five-speed manual OR Five-speed ‘AutoDrive’ automated-manual||Five-speed manual|
|Curb weight||1653 lb (manual) 1667 lb (AutoDrive)||1268 lb (Car and Driver)|
|0-60 mph time||4.9 seconds||6.9 seconds (Car and Driver)|
What kind of features do you get in the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R and 2012 Morgan 3-Wheeler?
Besides being faster and more powerful than the 3-Wheeler, the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R also has more features. It comes standard with LED lighting, ABS, traction control, keyless ignition, and a backup camera. Plus, it has a Rockford Fosgate 100W Stage 2 audio system with navigation, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay. And for 2021, automatic Slingshot Rs get standard paddle shifters, which are optional on lower trims. Also, heated and ventilated seats are optional extras.
The 2012 Morgan 3-Wheeler, like all 3-Wheelers, is rather spartan by comparison. It has some gauges, three pedals, some switches, and that’s about it. There’s even less usable storage space than in the Slingshot. True, there are a few options, such as those heated seats and a quick-release steering wheel. But while the Slingshot R has three-wheel discs, the 3-Wheeler’s rear brake is a drum. Also, the Morgan’s seats are fixed—it’s the pedals that adjust.
The 2021 Polaris Slingshot R and Morgan 3-Wheeler follow very different three-wheeled formulas
Those pedals don’t adjust quickly, though. According to Northshore Sportscars, adjustment takes about 1-1.5 hours. So, due to time restraints, I was the passenger in the 2012 Morgan 3-Wheeler. Still, that seat time was enough to understand that the 3-Wheeler and the Polaris Slingshot R stand distinctly apart.
The Polaris Slingshot R isn’t a three-wheeled motorcycle. But with its firmer suspension, wider tires, driving modes, and adjustable power steering, it feels sharper and more serious than the Morgan. Both offer sporty sensations, but the Slingshot R is more like a modern sports car, with “zero body roll” and a “planted” feel, The Drive says. Also, unlike the 3-Wheeler, the Polaris Slingshot R lets you blast your tunes while chilling beneath an (optional) roof. Plus, it’s more spacious and its dashboard doesn’t rise up as much as in the 3-Wheeler.
However, despite also having no detectable body roll, the Morgan 3-Wheeler has a plusher ride than the Polaris Slingshot. Perhaps it’s down to the tires’ thicker sidewall. And yes, sliding in a 3-Wheeler is just as easy as in a Slingshot. Also, while the Slingshot’s exhaust note isn’t bad, it has nothing on the visceral V-twin noise from the 3-Wheeler’s pipes.
‘Visceral’ is a good word to describe the rest of the Morgan 3-Wheeler experience. Those small twin windscreens might block a bit of wind, but most of it goes around and into your face and hair. Rubbing shoulders with the driver is an inevitability as is hanging one arm partially out of the cockpit. But you don’t mind because the noise and sensations are absolutely part of this vehicle’s charm. Driving or riding, it’s “like flying on the ground,” R&T muses.
If the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R is a modern sports car, then the 3-Wheeler is a modern classic car.
How much do these three-wheelers cost and which should you buy?
With the manual, the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R starts at $31,299; the automatic adds an extra $2000. As for the 2012 Morgan 3-Wheeler, it originally started at slightly over $52.2K, Car and Driver says. However, used examples still cost roughly $10K more than a new Slingshot R, Bring a Trailer notes. And while there is a new 3-Wheeler on the way, it doesn’t appear to use a V-twin, Autocar reports.
Regardless, these two autocycles are different vehicles from the start. So, if you’re picking between them, it’s mostly a matter of what you prefer. Not just in terms of design, though, but also overall attitude. The Polaris Slingshot R is newer and feels it, while the Morgan 3-Wheeler is an old-school throwback. But they’re both thrilling in their own ways.
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