Mercedes-Benz EQC 2021 long-term review
Our new luxury EV got us there in style – so long as we don’t forget to charge it
*Why we ran it: *The EQC won our EV SUV mega-test 12 months ago, but was it an Audi, Jaguar and Tesla beater in everyday life?
-Month 6 - Month 5 - Month 4 - Month 3 - Month 2 - Month 1 - Prices and specs-
-Life with a Mercedes-Benz EQC: Month 6-
*Did Benz hit the ground running with the first of its EQ family? Here’s our verdict - 19 May 2021*
The Mercedes-Benz EQC’s Autocar journey started with an extremely complimentary review; moved on to a group test win against the obvious rivals from Audi, Jaguar and Tesla; and then – six months and a host of updates from the opposition later – retained its crown when put under the microscope again, this time on video, by our expert road test team.
In the midst of this winning streak, along came KV20 YCE, on paper an electric GLC carrying a near-£75,000 price tag but in reality so much more. I remember its arrival well, because the sun was shining and lockdown was easing. My teenage son had some friends over for a game of cricket, and even this hard-to- impress audience stood and nodded approvingly,drawninbythestoryof electrification and left gawping by the giant wheels, oversized Mercedes badge and shimmering paint work.
What those comparison tests revealed was that the EQC was the best all-rounder in its class, delivering a balance of comfort, capability and – crucially – range that the opposition could pick off in isolation but not in totality. Expressed in negative terms, the Audi is marginally plusher, the Jaguar better to drive and the Tesla boosted immeasurably by its range and access to a charging infrastructure you can rely on. All three, however, have weaknesses that undermine their overall packages. The Mercedes has none.
What this longer-term test (supposedly daily, although Tier 4 and National Lockdown 2 put paid to some of that ambition) layered on top of those winning verdicts was a very real sense of just how special the EQC is.
While you can perhaps assume that a family-sized SUV engineered by an established premium brand will have a decent baseline of capability, what you may not get a sense of immediately through snapshot reviews is the almost intangible sense of feeling good that comes with this car. You might argue that at this price it should deliver something extra. I can assure you that this isn’t always the case.
It took a few weeks for it to sink in, but the realisation clicked when I walked out the door to do the school run, a five-mile-each-way run on sometimes busy roads, one afternoon. As I hurried towards the Mercedes, late again, it dawned on me: I was relishing the opportunity to climb into its luxurious embrace, to glide, gently and silently along, and to just unwind a bit. On those terms, think of the EQC less as an expensive family SUV and more as a cut-price luxury car. It’s that special.
Now, you might argue that circumstances played a part in my emotions; we’ve all been through the mental mill these past months. But it was notable that the warm, fuzzy feeling never diminished and is still going strong as I wave a teary farewell. The combination of the best of electric travel, packaged in an alluring bodystyle and filled with clever tech and luxurious f lourishes, was good for my soul.
I discovered – to my surprise, given the paucity of EQCs on the south-west London roads I frequent, yet which seem to carry a disproportionately high number of electric cars – a range of EQC-owning Autocar readers, living everywhere from the tip of Scotland to the edges of the south coast, who had pledged their money and wrote to tell me how delighted they were.
Inevitably, though, it wasn’t all joy and sunshine. It would be remiss of me not to mention that the vast majority of my travels were short hops, constricted under the circumstances and rarely causing me to pause for thought on range.
However, there were occasional alarm bells, such as the 20-mile winter’s day run on roads with a top speed of 50mph (so well within the most efficient parameters) that used up more than 70 miles of indicated range, due to our plentiful use of the heated seats and heater systems. Or the 150-mile round trip on a wet and windy day for fish and chips on the Sussex coast (yes, we were desperate for a day out) when the headwind on the way down meant that, despite leaving with 220 miles of range, we restricted ourselves to 60mph just to make sure we could get home without having to stop and go for a quick electron top-up.
As always, it’s down to fitness of purpose for your needs, but I’d suggest the 250-ish real-world miles offered by the Kia e-Niro or Hyundai Kona Electric for nigh-on half the price add a disproportionate amount of extra capability.
There was reader criticism, too, that a 2.5-tonne SUV could ever be considered environmentally worthy. It’s a moot point that needs grappling with in a world that wants to get people into electric cars. To me, it seems obvious that doing so by selling the drivetrain in the most popular – and naturally fitting, given the battery in the floorpan – bodystyle will fast-track adoption, but to the not-so-friendly reader calling me names on social media, whose underlying point was valid, it was the wrong approach. It’s an interesting debate.
There’s just one more caveat. Best of its breed the EQC may be, but even then it’s a moot point as to how far the car moves the game on – something the soon-to-launch EQS saloon rather lays bare. Buy it confident in the knowledge that you’re getting a good car, but don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s just a taster of what the journey to electrification will offer.
It’s a great all-rounder, but there will in short order surely also be much better.
I initially judged the EQC on its awkward design and surprisingly cosy cabin, but it won me over with its capacity to blend class-leading refinement with impressive efficiency and manoeuvrability. Above all, the EQC gives serious reason to be excited about the lower-slung EQS.
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*Stylish air vents *It’s daft, but I love the copper- coloured design – a nod to electric circuits and the car’s powertrain.
*Voice control *Praise be, one that works. Talking to a car might never feel natural, but it helps if you only have to do it once.
*Digital display *I’m no fan of vast touchscreens, but the EQC’s is visually impressive and mostly easy to navigate.
*Metallic side sills *They look good until the countryside attached to your clothes rubs against them.
*Eerie silence *Pedestrians seem to be unusually unaware of when the EQC is passing, which can make town driving tense.
*Final mileage: 3756*
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*That crunching feeling - 12 May 2021*
Is there a worse feeling than scraping a wheel? The EQC’s intricate, eye- catching design stood in all its glory until recently, when a tight parking manoeuvre required climbing and then dropping off a kerb. The alloys are actually quite well protected by the tyre, but not this time. Ugh. It’s unlikely to be fixable, meaning a £400-plus bill for a replacement.
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-Life with a Mercedes-Benz EQC: Month 5-
*Back on the road - 28 April 2021*
Finally! Lockdown has eased again, so our EQC has had a proper chance to stretch its legs on the motorway network. It’s largely as you would expect of an electric luxury car: cosseting, quiet and hugely capable. Occasionally its weight causes the ride to crash on ruts or ripples, and some wind noise comes off the door mirrors. But overall, it’s among the most relaxing cruisers on sale.
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*No real loss of space - 24 March 2021*
The electric EQC is based heavily on the conventionally powered GLC but, due to its slightly more sloping roofline, is in theory slightly less practical. However, six months in, and with two tall pre-teen/teenaged kids, I’ve yet to encounter a journey on which it can’t carry us and all we have in total comfort. Frankly, it makes me wonder why anyone needs anything bigger.
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*Another group test, another win for this all-rounder. And yet… - 10 March 2021*
The Mercedes EQC has had a pretty good time of it at the hands of Autocar’s expert testers, from winning a group test against the Audi E-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X when they first got their hands on it in 2019, through to more recently being crowned ‘the best luxury EV’ when it was put through its paces in a video special that pitted this very car against the latest iterations of the E-tron and I-Pace just a few weeks ago.
What stands out is that the Mercedes keeps scooping these accolades as much for its all-round ability as any exceptional features. In so many ways, it is a conservative take on what a cutting-edge electric car could be, yet the end result is so rounded and so well resolved that – if you can forgive the Strictly Come Dancing analogy – the judges end up scoring it accomplished eights across the board, whereas other rivals pick up nines in some areas (the I-Pace for handling, for instance) but slip back with sixes and sevens elsewhere.
But what really struck me in James Disdale’s video was his summary that the EQC is the closest thing to an electric S-Class there is – at least for now, with the actual EQS having now been revealed but not yet on sale. It’s high praise indeed, the S-Class having sat at the top of luxury car estimations for as long as my memory can extend, and it’s an entirely apt description in my view, after thousands of miles in the EQC, because the biggest impression this car makes is not how striking it looks, or how well it handles, but rather the overwhelming sense of calm that it bestows upon occupants.
It achieves that almost subliminally, and if you were to judge it in isolation, I fear there would be a risk that you might even miss it, so conventional is the shape, layout and other tech, and so unassuming is it to drive, the electric motor coupling with suspension settings that seem determined to prioritise wafting along, and achieving it over all but the sharpest of ruts or potholes. It is, after all, based heavily on the entirely conventional GLC, modifications such as the lit-up grille and sweeping dash screen nodding towards its electric powertrain but struggling to ape the wow factor of the bespoke E-tron, I-Pace and Model X.
But it also highlights that the development of EVs has some way to go. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled, but – controversy alert – I’d argue there are more combustion-engined cars out there that are exceptional than battery-powered ones. Given fuel-burning cars have had 130-or-so years of development, that shouldn’t be a shock (and there’s a neat debate to be had over when the peak was for them).
However, much though I love the EQC, and especially love driving it, I believe its string of eight-out-of-tens highlights how far EVs must travel before they pique desirability as universally as the very finest cars in history have achieved. Today, what’s important is that the journey has begun, and that the EQC is very much the best of this breed.
I would recommend its qualities in a heartbeat. But over a very short period of time, I also think we’ll come to expect even more.
*Nobody does it better *It’s the best of its kind, as repeated group tests keep highlighting.
*Grime and punishment *Those chrome sideboards gather a lot of muck that then transfers to my trousers.
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-Life with a Mercedes-Benz EQC: Month 4-
*The best part of EV ownership? - 17 February 2020*
A lot is written on the inconvenience of public charging but not enough on the ease of driving home, plugging in, going to bed and waking up with a full ‘tank’. It’s six months since I’ve visited a fuel station, and I haven’t missed the time loss or mucky hands one bit. There are pros and cons to EVs, but if you’re lucky enough to have a drive, this is a definite plus.
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*Feeling toasty comes at a hefty price, even if you can charge for free - 10 February 2021*
Yes, it has been cold lately, with frost a regular fixture and the occasional flurry of snow paralysing the roads even in these locked-down times.
No big deal, you might think; it happens every year. But for an EV driver, the cold really is the enemy. This latest scenario has been fascinating for noting the impact that it has had on the EQC’s range. In the simplest terms, the answer appears to be the immediate loss of 25 miles of predicted range, or around 15% of the battery’s charge when it’s above about 10deg C.
In my experience, that’s actually an impressive result for the EQC in comparison to other EVs, with the average loss I’ve noted across a variety of cars being 15-25%. It has been significant enough in all cases for us to highlight this potential scenario to would-be buyers.
But perhaps more notable was the ongoing impact of the cold on range from thereon. ‘Need’ and ‘nice to do’ are very different, of course, and it’s true that I could have used my hands and worn more clothes, but in this £70,000 premium car it seemed foolish not to use the electric systems to defrost the screens, warm the cabin and waft heat at my backside.
The smart idea – which almost all EVs are capable of – is to do all this before you even get to the car, while it is still plugged in and can sup on the mains to top itself up. I’ve done this many times with the EQC and it works well (it can even be done via an app on your phone). However, on this occasion – good man that I am – with the slippery ice forming, I had left the driveway to my petrol- driving wife and was up on the kerb away from home.
In a petrol or diesel car, you give almost no thought to the energy you are burning to create the energy to warm you or your car up, but in the EQC, it’s quite a stark reminder that your actions have consequences, the depleting range on icy trips equating to around two for every mile actually covered. At one point – and I need to research this more – I seriously wondered if I was using more power running the heaters than powering the car.
That was a worst-case situation – a short trip with everything on maximum – but it does add another thing to the checklist for any would-be EV buyer.
*Interior *The EQC’s interior always makes you feel special. It’s well built, comfortable and full of storage space, and it has just-so seats.
*Kickplates *The chrome kickplates on the side look great, but in winter, when road grime is everywhere, they cover you in mud when you get in and out.
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-Life with a Mercedes-Benz EQC: Month 3-
*A festive surprise - 20 January 2020*
Tesla’s ‘Easter Eggs’ are surprises that pop up if you press a certain combination of buttons, perhaps making your car look like a Mario Kart on the sat-nav or producing Monty Python’s Foot of Cupid on screen. Well, Mercedes has had a go too, offering a drive to Santa’s home town in the run-up to Christmas. I didn’t take it up, but it made me smile.
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*Is it a Bentley? Is it a Rolls-Royce? No, it’s a Mercedes electric SUV - 23 December 2020*
Aaaand breathe. Many words have been written about the zen-like state that washes over you when you drive an EV, but I think the Mercedes-Benz EQC experience takes that to a whole other level – so much so that I actually get excited about driving it and can, no word of a lie, feel myself relaxing as I put hand to door handle and prepare to slide in.
How so? I have to acknowledge that 2020 must be playing a part, my commute having become the six steps from the side of my house where I sleep to the side of my house where I work. No question, leaving the front door has become significantly more novel and exciting than it once was or should be – but that’s not all.
While the interior of the EQC draws heavily on architecture found in other Mercedes models, it feels perfectly resolved, from the swathes of uniformly high-quality leather to the gloss finishes and the eye-catching touchscreen across the dashboard that takes in everything from the performance dials to the infotainment system.
It also helps that the seats are comfortable, there are all manner of adjustments for getting cosy and you sit high, magnifying the feeling of wellbeing as you imperiously glide along. That instant torque you get in an EV, so often referenced for its savage performance, is more noteworthy in my book for giving you total control of the accelerator. There’s no estimation required as to how much pedal travel is needed, as progress is deliberate and linear.
Design flourishes, such as the copper-colour air vents that mimic the look of an electric circuit, add a bespoke touch, too. Drive for an hour and it will even suggest a change in the colour of the mood lighting, plus play 10 minutes of uplifting music to keep you alert. I know how crass that sounds, and it’s easy to be cynical, but I find this actually works, too, even if only by shaking my conscience.
This is no Bentley or Rolls-Royce, but the EQC’s interior is so special that those aren’t ridiculous brands to draw a parallel with. Certainly all that I’ve described elevates it above and beyond a mainstream Mercedes experience and puts it, in some ways, into a realm I previously associated with only very top-end cars, as it eases 10% of life’s strains away and makes you feel special.
*Pleasant reminder *The EQC has made driving joyful again for me, albeit with calming emphasis.
*Energy draining *I’m a huge fan of heated seats – until I see how much using those in the EQC saps its range.
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-Life with a Mercedes-Benz EQC: Month 2-
*Range estimates still not that accurate - 25 November 2020*
With the EQC reckoning it had 225 miles’ worth of charge, the Holder family set off on an 85-mile-eachway trip to Seaford, near Brighton, for a last pre-lockdown walk on the beach on the windiest, wettest of days. Alarmingly, we arrived with 111 miles of predicted range remaining – but disarmingly got home with 30 left. How so? Incredibly, I can only put it down to the wind direction.
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*Heart-stopping incident calls safety systems into question - 11 November 2020*
Stomp. Honk. Thump. In less than 10 metres, my early morning drive had escalated from mundane school run to fullblown disaster.
The young lad, who moments earlier had emerged from a driveway at pace on his bike, popping out onto the road from behind a parked car, was now flat out, just ahead of the EQC’s front-right wheel.
It had been quite an impact, him having turned out looking only for traffic behind him, me filling all the road space as I negotiated my way down a residential street with parked cars on either side. Thankfully, I’d just passed a refuse truck so had slowed as workers wandered to and fro, not necessarily tuned in to listen for an electric car, and therefore had enough time to both stop before the boy hit me and sound the horn, so that he could both brake and pull the sort of face that you think is the sole preserve of hammy actors.
As I jumped out of the car, leaving a one-time critic of what I’d hitherto thought were absurdly slow 20mph zones behind for ever more, the boy leapt up, insisting he was fine. His slow walk to the pavement, where he took a seat, suggested otherwise. The binmen and I dusted him down, checked him over, suggested the helmet attached to his handlebars might be better affixed to his head and… he got back on the bike and cycled off as fast as he could, I suspect fearing a telling off. In truth, I’ve never been so glad for a scratch on my car.
Even so, although I was able – just – to stop before impact, there’s no escaping the harsh truth that everything I was doing or did might not have been enough to save him from injury a few seconds later.
That, in turn, got me thinking about the EQC’s safety systems. Just two weeks earlier, they had instigated an emergency stop as a mother and three young children walked on the pavement near the car. Yes, the kids were weaving about, but at no point had I thought they would spill onto the road. It was an experience that had left me shaken and grateful that there was nobody behind me. Now after the boy-on-bike incident, I was wondering why those same systems had this time done nothing to try to help me.
I know the driver must always take responsibility, but this mish-mash of intervention and non-intervention, each perfectly at the wrong time, has left a deep impression. While I know there’s more time and effort to be expended, it certainly raises further questions about the capabilities of self-driving tech and the risk of it causing incidents by over-reacting or not reacting at all, as the various radar systems evidently don’t have a good enough line of sight or make the right decisions.
I was lucky enough to get the best-case outcomes from the worst-case failures: no rear-end shunt from that emergency stop, no motoring into and over the boy and his bike. If, conversely, it ever steps in at the right time, I’ll forever be grateful.
But I have never relied on safety tech, and nor can I imagine doing so in my lifetime. Proof, to my mind at least, that the step from laboratory to real life is fraught with more complications than many imagine.
*Interior *The scene-stealingly futuristic cabin is as plush as you could want.
*Form over function *There are too many controls that are hard to access.
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*How far between pedals? - 28 October 2020*
The EQC is far from the only culprit, but the scourge of the offset pedal needs highlighting. In this two-pedal set-up, my right foot is forced too far to the side to line up with the accelerator, prompting a kneegrinding pivot to come across to the brake. It doesn’t slow the movement down so is perfectly safe, but it does grind on my middle-aged joints.
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-Life with a Mercedes-Benz EQC: Month 1-
*Talk to me - 7 October 2020*
I had high hopes for Mercedes’ voice recognition. But it’s proving a bit hit and miss so far; sometimes it picks up my commands – even complex postcodes – but at other times it gets confused. It’s early days, and I’m finding a more relaxed chatting voice is more effective than a carefully enunciated one. Let’s hope we learn to get along better in time.
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*Welcoming the EQC to the fleet - 23 September 2020*
Sometimes it takes a little jeopardy to push boundaries. Just the night before, I’d done a radio phone-in about electric cars, suggesting that they’re generally hugely capable and that for many more people than are buying them, they could be the perfect means of transport. And then I went to bed without checking my schedule for the next day.
So it was with no little amount of horror that I then awoke to discover that – after six months of commuting 12 paces from my bed to my chair – I was due in Northampton, 89 miles away, and that I hadn’t charged the rather lovely Mercedes-Benz EQC overnight. Did I grab the keys to my wife’s trusty 10-year-old Honda Civic, or did I live the change I wanted to see?
I’ll admit that my hand flicked from one set of keys to the other more than once but, after a calming few minutes online researching charger locations, I knew I had to live by my own words. My almost-calamitous organisation meant I had to leave 30 minutes earlier than otherwise but, if all went well, I’d be on time and have enough electrons whizzing around beneath my feet to get home again.
And – surprise, surprise – I drove, I stopped and a 35-minute stop at an Ionity/Polar charging station just off the M1 delivered around 70 miles of charge. Naysayers take note: there were 11 fairly-high-speed chargers at this well-known location, and I was the only one using them; come a short distance off the motorway these days and it feels like you’re never far from a chance for a rapid top-up. And while I waited, I was able to go online and clear my emails, so even having to leave early had upsides, too.
So now experience means my personal comfort zone on how far I’m prepared to go when I’m out and about is greatly expanded – and I can look forward to really enjoying the merits of the EQC, Mercedes’ first effort at an all-in electric vehicle and a pioneer of the firm’s EQ sub-brand.
Sure, it might look familiar to anyone who has ever clapped their eyes on a GLC, bar the coupé-like rear end and some nifty design flourishes, from the XL-sized badge, wheels and light arrangements through to the copper-coloured finishes on the air vents (to look like the internals of circuit boards, naturally), but Mercedes is far from the only one to have gone for a relatively conservative start to this journey.
The EQC is a car that has been eagerly anticipated on our fleet for some time, not just because it carries a large price tag and the promise of premium refinements and some cutting-edge tech, but also because it was declared the winner of an all-electric showdown with the Audi E-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X by our road test team last year. It edged the verdict on account of being much the easiest of the cars to live with, as well as delivering decent, if not class-leading, quantities of those sometimes most diverse of characteristics: driver involvement and comfort and practicality.
No question, this is a car that makes you go ‘wow’. Since it arrived 10 days ago, there has been a line of passing kids peering through the windows (one of the more enjoyable distractions of working from home is earwigging on what future generations think about the cars on my driveway), and that in itself is clear proof of the journey that Mercedes, not so long ago the favoured choice for anyone who considered string gloves the height of fashion, has undergone in recent years. It’s also a trajectory that cars like the EQC must accelerate if this so-called ‘legacy’ car maker is to remain relevant into the future.
First impressions? To drive, it’s a cut above the average electric car – which means relaxing or fast on demand, with a frisson of dynamic excitement on offer, albeit one that can never hide its 2495kg kerb weight and sits short of what the I-Pace achieves. It’s a joy to be in, from its comfortable, beautifully upholstered seats to its abundance of practical cubbies. The massive, dasbhboard-length infotainment-and-instruments screen and the head-up display give a futuristic air, although I suspect it’s going to take time for the array of screen, dash and steering wheel buttons to all fall to hand intuitively. The voice-controlled ‘Hey Mercedes’ system helps with that but isn’t infallible as far as my southern English mumbling is concerned.
Range will be interesting, too. As it dials into my driving style, an indicated 210 miles is being shown, rather than the official 232. Consider also that it seems to be rating its capabilities around 5% too highly and you end up with a car that records a sub-200-mile figure; that’s potentially 25% short of what I’d consider ideal and less than the Kia e-Niro offers for half the price. It will be interesting to find out if I can learn to use the various driving modes more efficiently and dial my driving style into the car better, too.
Most exciting of all is the fact that the EQC is already pushing the boundaries of what I thought I knew about EVs or was willing to do. Question is, is it going to lead me down a path of fulfilment or trouble?
I’m most interested to find out how Jim gets on with the EQC’s various driving modes and semi-autonomous driving aids. It’s a complicated thing to get on terms with, as I discovered on the international press launch in Oslo and on a group test. It just shaded its electric rivals in the latter, mostly by being the most multitalented car on the day. But the way the regenerative braking system manages itself around town if you leave it in Auto mode certainly raises some drivability quirks.
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-Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4Matic AMG Line Premium Plus specification-
*Prices: List price new* £74,610 *List price now* £74,610 *Price as tested* £77,200
*Options:*Driving Assistance Pack £1695, Designo Hyacinth Red metallic paint £895
*Fuel consumption and range: Official range* 232 miles *Battery capacity* 80kWh *Test average* 202 miles*Test best* 232 miles *Test worst* 176 miles
*Tech highlights: 0-62mph* 5.1sec *Top speed* 112mph *Engine* 2x AC synchronous electric motors *Max power* 402bhp *Max torque* 561lb ft*Transmission* single-speed automatic *Boot capacity* 500 litres *Wheels* 21in, alloy *Tyres* 235/45 R21 (f), 255/40 R21 (r) *Kerb weight* 2495kg
*Service and running costs: Contract hire rate* £588.56 *CO2* 0g/km *Service costs* None *Other costs* None *Electricity costs* £85 *Running costs inc electricity* £85 *Cost per mile* 2.8 pence *Faults* none
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