For Sale: 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S …because it’s not self-driving.

The guy who built the house in which I live oversized the garage so he could store his (fairly sizeable) boat at home over the winter. So as garages go, it’s a bit ridiculous. Lots of empty space…and you know what happens when you apply Carlin’s Law of Stuff to empty garage space: Some of that cavernous emptiness fills with cars.

I have many character flaws and an enthusiastic addiction to sculptures you can drive is near the top of the list. I love the kind of four-wheeled, drivable plumage that turns a weekend at a grand-prix style road course into a rollicking, adrenaline-set life experience.

Putnam Park Hot PitThough it’s not my usual track car, I’ve created a few such memories with my 991-series Porsche 911 Turbo S. Until recently, its 560hp and all-wheel drive made it the fastest accelerating road car Porsche had ever put into wide production. But 0-60mph in as fast as 2.6 seconds, and 0-120mph in a hair over ten seconds is only half the story. The car’s torque-vectoring dynamics, electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, single-rear-wheel brake application, and rear-wheel steering, give the car the cornering ability of a cheetah …or maybe a gazelle running from a cheetah.

But it’s a 2014 — a model year when even the most advanced production cars only sported “Level 1” autonomous capabilities. So it needs a new home, before it’s too late.

Level 1 autonomous operation? What’s that mean?

Oh, come on. Certainly, you know by now that cars come in five important classifications:

  • Level 0 autonomous: Complete human-piloting required. The current source of over 32,000 deaths in the US per year.
  • Level 1 autonomous: Some automatic oversight to decrease the severity of human failures in skill or judgment. The car has some nanny systems, like stability control or automatic braking (for when that idiot driver in front of you stops without first checking his rearview mirror to see if you’re busy texting or not). This is probably what you’re driving now, unless you’re still in a level 0 car.
  • Level 2 autonomous: Limited semi-automatic operation, like lane keeping (the car will stay between the lines on the highway and either go the speed limit or pace the car ahead of you, stopping if necessary). This is perhaps the most dangerous level, because the car can do a surprising number of things without needing a human much, for most scenarios. This prompts overly-trusting, underly-sentient drivers to stop paying attention to what they’re (or their car is) doing, despite manufacturers’ warnings that the driver is required to be in control of these cars, with their hands on the steering wheel, at all times.
  • Level 3 autonomous: The car can do everything without driver intervention for many circumstances, and is (theoretically) situationally aware enough to know when it can’t, in which case the mostly-autonomous car will give its passenger sufficient time to take over as driver without creating a laundry emergency. These aren’t out yet, and will probably quickly give way to…
  • Level 4 autonomous: The holy-shit, whiz-bang, be-all-end-all of self-driving evolution, where the car is expected and able to do everything, under (almost) any conditions, without any guidance (other than being told where to go). Most experts include vehicle operations without any requirement for a human to even be in the car in this level, while other hair-splitters consider that a level 5 classification.

This is important to you (and gets to the reason underlying the sale of the car featured in the article headline) because:

(1) your current car is at best a level 2 car (if it’s an appropriately-optioned Tesla model S), or a Flintstone’esque level 0 or level 1 (everything else, as of May, 2016); and

(2) level 3 cars will begin driving families around public roads in some countries in early 2017, with wider availability in 2018, and the first level 4 production cars from many manufacturers are scheduled for release into world-wide markets in 2019.

Joe and Jane Mainstream really aren’t paying much attention to this yet. But that’s going to change over the next year, and when it does, Joe and Jane will have no interest in your pain-in-the-ass, obsolete, level 0 or level 1 (or even level 2) car anymore. Not when level 3 or level 4 cars are affordable (and they will be) and will allow them to get from point A to point B — including handling their heretofore miserable daily commute — without interrupting their Netflix bingeing.

As a result, all those level 0 through level 3 cars will, over the course of a very short time, become 21st-century Edsels. And sure, those who own specialty cars (like this 911 Turbo!) may be insulated from the kind of demand vacuum that hyper-depreciates undesirable cars [<cough>Volkswagen diesels</cough>], but only for a time. Because sometimes even sports car drivers would rather chill on Instagram rather than inch agonizingly along in stop-and-go traffic jams.

Which brings us back around to the Porsche 911 in question. Which is truly and honestly for sale to a good home (ideally to someone not paying attention to the blistering pace of automotive technological change or the market changes they will bring). Normally, Porsches — especially high-performance Porsches — hold their value well. But with only level 1 autonomous capability, this car’s value will begin plummeting in two years or less.

Hey, you there — staring at your computer/mobile phone/tablet screen! Looking for a good deal on a really fun, late model 911 Turbo? It’s adaptive cruise control and automatic braking is the cat’s meow (…for now). And lemme tell ya: It’s a very high-tech car (for a 2014). You won’t want anything more (..for at least two years)! Autotrader will provide serious inquirers with the necessary contact information.


Kevin loves driving cars (whenever there’s no traffic). And he loves buying cars. And once upon a time, he sold cars for a living (although not very well, as you might have guessed). And he loves this one weird little three-dollar book that could save you or someone you know thousands of dollars in automotive expenses over the next few years!

Pushing boundaries …while keeping the shiny side up.

Pushing boundaries …while keeping the shiny side up.

Hoosier competition slicks don’t squeal like street tires do when pushing the boundaries of lateral grip. The folks at Hoosier expect drivers to possess enough feel for their car’s departure characteristics to have abandoned reliance on audio cues when coaxing their cars to the ragged limits of applied physics.

That’s the sort of knowledge that’s best internalized long before attempting to blend high lateral Gs (or g-forces) with the tire-loosening throttle that carries a car from the curb-caressing apex of turn 10 at Putnam Park Road Course to the track’s outer edge. Try to coax more lateral grip than the car’s setup allows, or get too heavy-footed on the gas during turn exit, and Newton’s immutable 2nd law will introduce the car’s shiny paint to a ravaging barrier wall just waiting to penalize such seat-of-the-pants, F=ma, calculation errors.

On the other hand, take the turn too slowly or lay into the throttle either too gently or too late means giving up two, or four, or ten mph at the turn’s exit. That deficiency then haunts drivers throughout the full ten or eleven seconds of acceleration down the front straight. Every missed mile per hour robs long tenths of a second from lap times.

All this flicked through the thoughts of the 997-era Porsche 911 GT2  driver in the four-heartbeats between turn 9 and turn 10. That’s not a good time for concentration to lapse.

Putnam Park turn 10

He scowled as he left a frustrating amount of padding between his car’s capabilities and the risk of a graceless, spinning exit from the track’s asphalt surface. He’d been off in the grass, and into a tire wall, before. It was making him too cautious now.

Fuckin’ granny, he chided himself. Accepting risk was an inherent part of extending one’s limits. No one clinging safely to their comfort zone ever improved at anything.

But in the last year, his damned car had begun appreciating wildly in value, leaving him overly cautious about sliding his Hoosiers as close to the abyss as was required for fast laps. Shaking his head, he thrust smoothly down on the gas, searching for that maximum amount of acceleration lying just this side of breaking the tires loose and allowing the 911’s heavy rear end to whip around and into the lead.

The car surged forward. Rocket sled g-forces momentarily fused spines and helmets to the carbon-fiber seat backs, ensuring the GT2’s inhabitants became one with the car.

The GT2’s windows were down. That was required during high-performance driving exercises. So the 120mph, then 130mph, then 145mph, thirty-eight degree Fahrenheit, Indiana Spring slipstream buffeting the car’s cockpit grew chillier. Yet neither the driver nor passenger spared attention to miniscule sensations like bone-chilling cold. Small sensory discomforts went unnoticed before the dopamine-based joy this car’s ability to slingshot out of a corner created.

2008 911 GT2 Facebook cover

In the passenger seat, the Porsche’s master mechanic, riding along to experience the result of the modifications he’d made to the drivetrain and suspension, fought the acceleration and the six-point safety harness to get a glimpse of the car’s instrumentation. He might have yelled “Holy crap” at what he saw, but amidst wind noise and thunderous exhaust, it’s hard to tell. A rear-engine car under straight-line acceleration might be considered the epitome of traction; nevertheless, for much of the car’s pell-mell flight down front-straight, the dashboard’s traction and stability control lights flickered on and off, indicating the application of such power that even the Hoosiers’ relationship with the asphalt became alarmingly tenuous.

“See?” the driver yelled, ten time-dilated seconds later. “It’s freakin’ nuts with the new tune! The car goes like a raped ape!” Cackling like a madman, he abandoned the gas pedal and put the car into threshold braking, right at the limits of ABS, throwing both occupants forward in their restraints and slowing the suddenly nose-heavy vehicle just to the point where the turn 1’s cambered exit banking was the only reason the car remained on the track rather than sliding WAY off into the grass.

An engine blip and downshift later, the car leapt toward turn 2. There were eight more uniquely demanding turns to conquer before the driver’s next stab at that most dangerous, and rewarding, turn 10.

Putnam Park turn 10 (2)

This was just a little exercise in narrative point of view, perspective, tense, and accessibility. I wanted to flex mental muscles a little prior to getting back to work on my second book in the Michael Rader series. After taking a break from fiction to knock out “Self-Driving Steamrollers,” I needed some forced typing to get back into third-person-limited mode again. If you’re still reading, I hope you enjoyed the diversion, rough though it may have been.