Illustration for article titled Commuter Cars Tango: First Drive
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On paper, 805HP, 1,000lb-ft of torque, no gear changes, a center of gravity under the floor and a 0-100MPH time of 12 seconds sounds like automotive Valhalla. Then you drive the Commuter Cars Tango. Terrifying and exhausting, to start.


Without question the Tango Electric is one of the most impressive vehicles on paper on the entire Detroit Auto Show floor. It's equipped with two electric motors driving the rear wheels with a total output of 805HP and 1,000lb-ft of torque, there are 2,000 lbs of batteries and motors and controllers under the floor and the carbon fiber body weighs all of 25 lbs. With a roll cage protecting two passengers sitting in racing seats in tandem, there's a surprising amount of shoulder room for such a ridiculously proportioned vehicle. Their reps claim it'll pull 0.9 g's on the skid pad and out-maneuver a Porsche 911 in the slalom, this on a car with a double A-arm front suspension and a trailing arm rear.


This is where things start to go really wacky. It's a tandem seat car with the front seat on an industrial grade track allowing the rear passenger to get in, but there are two doors for... some reason. Each of those doors has a fold down, Greyhound bus-style cupholder, for the one front seat passenger. It's got a high-tech digital gauge cluster but shifting is done via rotary switch hidden down on the side of the steering column. The four point safety belt uses an airplane style buckle. It's all very weird.

Rotate the knob to forward and press the accelerator and the cabin echos with various clunks and thuds coming from the electric motors engaging and away you go. Be very careful because the combination of wildly overpowered motors, wildly vague brakes, and steering heavy enough to be worthy of that Greyhound bus, it's a pretty terrifying mix. We drove the thing in the basement of Cobo Hall and it's noteworthy that we didn't kill ourselves. The Tango is so fast you'll find yourself unable to turn the wheel quick enough to negotiate a corner, even though the tires will handle the speed and then you can't tell if the brakes will save your ass from leaving a very narrow dent in the bumper of the Mercedes Benz S400 in front of you. 30MPH is way more speed than the downstairs circuit can handle, but the Tango can deliver it, if you can keep it on the course. Even at those modest speeds it feels like you're riding inside a differential. The motor whine permeates the cabin while the body rattles around on the mounts.

George Clooney owns one of these cars, along with 10 other buyers, and rumor has it they've paid somewhere in the six figures to buy them. At 30MPH in a basement, this car was terrifying, it can supposedly be geared to run at 200 MPH. It takes a special kind of masochistic environmentalist to think buying this car is a good idea, and they're almost all virtually guaranteed to be kinda crazy. Still, we find ourselves strangely drawn to this hot mess. It would probably end in tears and sore arms, but we kinda want to autocross this thing, if for no other reason than to see how fast we catch on fire.

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