As I write these words on November 1, 2015, fire is raging across the 5,000-km length of Indonesia. Producing more carbon dioxide every day than the entire U.S. economy, the fire released more CO2 in three weeks than Germany emits in a year. As a consequence, visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 meters. Children are being evacuated in warships; some have already choked to death. Entire species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. We’re talking endangered orangutans, clouded leopards, sun bears, gibbons, the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Sumatran tiger…and endemic species we haven’t even discovered yet. The fires are also destroying cultural treasures as precious and irreplaceable as the archaeological remains being leveled by ISIS. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century.
Why is that relevant? And what does it have to do with BMW’s new 730d?
It’s simple. In a post “Dieselgate” world, where (at least) one car manufacturer, Volkswagen, has simply chosen to ignore the rules and cheat emissions tests, we have to rethink completely the way we approach cars and the choices we make while buying them as ways of “saving the planet.”
For sure, sustainability is a gigantic business, a capitalistic stimulus invented so that we keep consuming more and more goods like new cars—only this time not only for our enjoyment but also for the greater good. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a cleaner, better place to live, or in striving to make the world a safer place for our children and ourselves. So how should all of this affect our choice of a new luxury sedan?
Maybe it shouldn’t. While we might frown at Volkswagen for cheating the world’s regulators and wonder if diesel is actually cleaner then regular unleaded—it isn’t—which fuel your car burns really doesn’t matter if you eat meat or anything with palm oil in it. Methane from cow farts is disastrous to the ozone layer, and the demand for palm oil, found in just about every processed food we eat, is largely responsible for those forest fires in Indonesia. While we are trying to save the planet with our left hand, our right hand is destroying it at an unimaginable rate.
So when we walk into that BMW showroom to spec our 7 Series, let’s focus on the basics, such as whether we like the car or not. This will not be easy to determine. After a day driving it around the Portuguese coast, the G11 730d left me rather puzzled.
Progress…at least on paper