AUDIOPHILE'S POLARIS SLINGSHOT DEMANDS ATTENTION

Whatever it is, it's not a batmobile, and it sounds great.

Mike Fukuda, 46, had been riding motorcycles in Southern California for well over a decade, but he was ready for a new riding experience, as men approaching a “certain age” often are. He craved thrill, novelty, and grit, without shelling out for a supercar. He chose something light yet powerful, exotic, and exciting—not a car, per se, but a Polaris Slingshot, a three-wheeled alternative vehicle that’s simultaneously delighting and confusing many fans of fast, sporty things.

            A Polaris Slingshot may be best described as a motorcycle, an open-air speedster, and a go-kart mashed up into one vehicle—like Frankenstein’s monster with three wheels. For Fukuda, the decision to buy a Slingshot was more than some mid-life crisis, it was a way to turn heads and make people smile—particularly his 10-year-old daughter when he picks her up from school. In fact, one reason Fukuda decided on a 2015 Titanium Slingshot over other three-wheeled options such as the Can-Am Spyder is because of the seating arrangement. Slingshots offer the comfort of riding next to a passenger, rather than riding two-up.

            Slingshots have advantages over a car, too. Since it’s classified as a motorcycle in many states, insuring a Slingshot can be cheaper than insuring a four-wheeled vehicle. Plus, in places like California that require smog testing, Slingshots get to bypass the hassle. In many states, a Class C driver’s license is all that’s needed to get behind the wheel, though some states also require a motorcycle license.

            Thanks to side impact safety bars, Slingshots are technically enclosed vehicles and helmets are optional. However, a Slingshot is no Honda Accord. Sitting just 11 inches from the ground, drivers experience the thrill of a go-kart. Rigid steering around corners and responsive acceleration lets Slingshot drivers feel the road beneath them.

            And then, there’s the styling. The Slingshot’s unique, aggressive bodylines make it look like a Batmobile to some, but Fukuda doesn’t see it. After all, his Slingshot is no car, not even a car designed for a superhero; in fact, it’s not even a regular Slingshot. Thanks to some choice tweaks and enhancements, Fukuda’s new ride is a cool, high-tech, and great-sounding three-wheeled monster. As product training manager for Clarion Corp. of America, Fukuda knew exactly where to turn to make his Slingshot the best sounding one on the road.

 

Crank It Up

Standard equipped, the five-speed Slingshot offers 173 hp and 166-ft-lbs of torque with a single 18-inch rear wheel and two 17-inch front wheels. Fukuda’s custom Slingshot has a 20-inch wheel in the back and two 18-inch wheels in the front. He upgraded the factory halogen headlight and daytime running lights to an HID 5K Digital Slim Ballast System—an easy upgrade with huge rewards in terms of day and night visibility. To balance out the Slingshot’s shape, Fukuda also installed a 3D carbon fiber rear spoiler. The spoiler is not only aesthetically pleasing, it also helps keep the rear tire on the street.

            Fukuda, an audiophile and a serious fan of power sports, opted for Clarion’s marine-grade CMS5 Digital Media Marine Black Box and 4.3-inch color LCD controller that’s optically bonded. He also added a Clarion XC2510 Class D five-channel marine amplifier, a small footprint amplifier that provides enough power for a pair of speakers and a subwoofer, but that can also handle anything Mother Nature throws at it. The waterproof, IP66-rated CMS5 system has dual USB ports, six-channel/4V RCA outputs as well as Pandora and SiriusXM integration, iPod and iPhone compatibility, a dedicated backup camera RCA input, and built-in aptX-enabled Bluetooth for hands-free operation and music streaming.

            “I chose this system because of all of its features and functionality,” Fukuda says. “Since this is a black box audio solution, depth behind the dash is of no concern. As a matter of fact, I was able to install the CMS5 Black Box and the XC2510 amplifier behind the dash with some room to spare.”

            The tricked-out Slingshot also features Clarion CMQ1622R 6.5-inch marine coaxial speakers with compression horn tweeter design, alongside a Clarion CMQ2512W 10-inch marine SVC water-resistant subwoofer. Oxnard, Calif.-based SSV Works handled the enclosures. Fukuda opted to place the subwoofer enclosure behind the driver’s seat in the factory helmet compartment. What he loses in terms of storage, he makes up for with a beat-driven back massage.

             Since Slingshots don’t have rearview mirrors, a final component to Fukuda’s masterpiece was installing a rear-vision camera. He chose the Clarion CC510 CMOS Rear Vision Camera with distance guidelines to be the eyes in the back of his head. For Fukuda, the choice to go with Clarion equipment was a simple one. He says Clarion’s history in marine systems and expertise in designing with reliability, durability and audio quality in mind, made it the clear provider of choice when he set out to upgrade his open-air Slingshot with a killer audio system.  

            While it’s still early in game for Polaris Slingshot, these unique vehicles are already raising eyebrows and demanding attention. Believers like Fukuda are confident these alternative vehicles will find their market, and when they do, owners will start to get creative. In that respect, Fukuda is ahead of the game and he enjoys the fruits of his labor each time he gets behind the wheel.

            “People seeing the Slingshot on the road for the first time love to take pictures and videos, but most importantly they all have big smiles on their faces,” Fukuda says. “It really makes me smile when people ask: ‘Is all of that noise coming from you?’”