Last go-round with the Slingshot I was screaming like a schoolboy on a roller coaster as Tommy Boileau painted Figure-8’s in black rubber on the pavement of Long Beach Aquarium’s parking lot. Polaris had set up shop at the Long Beach IMS and had pro race car drivers like Boileau take squids like me out for a heavy dose of drifting, burnouts, and squealing tires. Great way to showcase the Slingshot SLR’s ground-hugging suspension and punchy engine, for sure.

Much has changed with the 2020 Slingshot R. Gone is the old Ecotec, Polaris’ first four-cylinder engine, the DOHC Prostar 2.0L, in its place. Polaris heralds the new motor’s higher ceiling, its rev limiter now stretching up to 8,500 rpm. The proprietary four-banger puts out a claimed 40 more horsepower, hitting its 203 hp peak near redline at 8,250 rpm. Good news in the torque department is peak power likewise comes on much higher in the rev range at 6,500 rpm, up from the Ecotec’s 4,700 rpm. Bad news is there’s 22 lb-ft. less torque to play with.

If you're looking for some curves in Daytona Beach, The Loop is the place to go. 

Another major change is the new automatic transmission. Polaris’ AutoDrive transmission is a Magneti Marelli single-clutch, hydraulically actuated system fitted to a standard five-speed manual transmission. The 2020 Polaris Slingshot R is offered with either a manual transmission for $30,999 or with AutoDrive for $32,699. The 2020 Slingshot R features two drive modes, “Slingshot” and “Comfort,” with the sportier first setting holding gears longer and the second rowing through the gearbox quicker at a lower rpm. Polaris placed a red button in the middle of the controls built into the steering wheel so drivers can quickly and conveniently switch modes. Without a stick to shift sitting in the center console, buttons for reverse, neutral and drive have taken its place. New tech and materials highlight the redesign of the cockpit and interior. Indian touring motorcycle owners will recognize the 7-inch Ride Command Display with a Ride Command 2.0 OS. Controls on the steering wheel allow you to set cruise control, switch screens, ride modes, and control music without having to take your focus off the road. The vehicle’s back-up camera is particularly helpful because the seats are low and it’s not easy to see clearly behind you, especially over your right shoulder.

This go-round, it feels better being behind the controls of a 2020 Slingshot R than as Boileau's passenger. Though I’ve driven Slingshots several times, it still gets me how low it sits to the ground. The seat still feels a bit Spartan but the flat-bottom steering wheel lets me squeeze in easier. First thing I do is connect my phone via Bluetooth so I can stream my own playlist over the Rockford Fosgate sound system. Second thing was to make sure it was in “Slingshot” mode at the recommendation of the Polaris rep who prepped me on the three-wheeler’s nuances. He must have had an inclination that I like to wind out gears.

My window of opportunity with the Slingshot was small. The vehicle had already done its daily duties as a demo mule at the Polaris Slingshot Bike Week set-up at before I was handed the keys. Luckily there was still a few hours of sunlight left, so I started weaving through side streets of Daytona across from the International Speedway as I set a course for The Loop, one of the few nearby stretches that actually has curves.

Turning off Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach, The Loop cuts through a toney Florida neighborhood of palm trees and pastel colored homes. The Slingshot R puts out a hearty exhaust note, one motorcyclists can appreciate. Riders can also appreciate the warmth of the sun on their face and the hint of salt I smell in the air as I cruise through a handful of residential miles. I’m trying not to be the obnoxious disturber of the peace but jammin’ songs keep coming on and I’m flying my ‘90s metal flag loud. In “Slingshot” mode fueling is choppy at low rpm, the Prostar 2.0L begging for me to stomp the pedal, but there’s plenty of Bike Week riders out so discretion outranks desire. Besides, beyond the houses the trees begin to form a natural canopy over the road and the Spanish moss hanging off the oaks makes this strip hauntingly beautiful, like an Ann Rice novel. The open cockpit of the Slingshot allows me to take it all in.

The road soon runs through a series of turns, a mix of blind corners and slow speed affairs. Every now and again traffic opens up just right and I’m able to grab a little speed heading into a turn. The Slingshot’s steering is tight and sporty and its trio of Kenda tires make the three-wheeler feel like it’s on rails. It’s sharp handling can be attributed to its traction and vehicle stability controls as well. The systems smartly allow drivers to have a little fun before kicking in, and TC can be switched off entirely. You can spool up the portly 300mm back tire pretty good without it on but the rear does get squirrelly more easily.

Chasing Florida sunsets in the Slingshot. 

I leave The Loop as the first hints of purple fill the evening sky. I amble back toward Daytona along North Beach Street and head toward Main. The last golden rays of the day are reflecting off the hotel windows across the bay and sailboats skim gracefully across the water. It is idyllic settings like this, sandy shores and sun-filled days, that the open-air Slingshot shines as the consummate beach cruiser.

Main Street Daytona Beach is its usual nighttime circus. Motorcycles form a gauntlet on both sides of the street and the sidewalks are shoulder-to-shoulder as I enter at the top of the street near the Boot Hill Saloon. I slow to a crawl and watch as the guitarist in an AC/DC cover band on the stage of the Main Street Saloon does his best Angus Young impersonation. Even in the overwhelming spectacle that is Main Street the Slingshot still attracts more than its fair share of attention, evident by the multitude of smiles and thumbs up I receive.

The Slingshot was even at home cruising up and down Main Street Daytona Beach during Bike Week. 

Trying to find a parking spot on Main is more of a chore in the Slingshot than a motorcycle. I’d had my fill after one pass up and down the street, so I get the heck outta dodge. The road opens up in a couple stretches on the way back to my rental in New Smyrna Beach so I take the opportunity to gas it. The Slingshot R will easily lay down black streaks in the first couple of gears but in "Slingshot" mode the engine definitely prefers when you’re on the gas. And while Polaris did a bang-up job with the new motor, the same can’t be said for the AutoDrive transmission which noticeably hesitates between shifts. Even when you romp on it there’s a pause instead of a seamless transition between gears. It also auto downshifts when braking but the timing of the shifts felt slow and slightly off. The brakes themselves aren’t overly powerful as the initial bite is soft and generally slow reacting. I discovered one more thing on my night-time cruise back to the pad. The Slingshot R’s Signature Accent Lighting must be plenty bright because I got flashed all night by passing cars who must have thought I had my high beams on.

But the Slingshot’s headlights aren’t the only thing beaming that night. A “Super Worm Moon” hangs brilliantly in the sky over the Atlantic, its rays bouncing brightly off the tranquil Atlantic. The air is cool, earthen and marshy and the Slingshot’s exhaust is playing a fine tune. I feel more than hear it because Ozzy's on and I’m barking at the moon on a midnight run along the shoreline and the sensibilities of the 2020 Slingshot R are shining.