Christmas came early this year: Porsche agreed to let me test drive the 2010 Boxster S.

Who am I to question Porsche? Does anyone ever question them?

Well, with the Boxster, many people have. It's one of the vehicles in Porsche's lineup that some have derided for not possessing Porsche's soul. Silly purests. For most people, if it says Porsche on the hood, it's a Porsche. Do you really need a 911 for twice the price? The Boxster does the job quite well and carries just as much weight as any other Porsche for 99 percent of the population out there.

Add to that the PDK seven-speed automatic transmission -- one that seems to operate through thought control, first developed by the Russians for the Firefox MiG-31 -- and this machine feels nearly perfect. And there's the added bonus that you don't have to think in Russian.

The 3.4-liter flat six-cylinder engine buzzes nicely with 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Really, this car wants to go fast. If you attempt a slow start from a stop, it hesitates slightly as if it's egging you on to push a little harder.

When you do, it bolts like an escaping stallion.

The low, light body helps the Boxster handle most any corner with a thoroughbred's skill. It chews through corners; its steering is scalpel-exact with a weight and resistance that defines the feed back an every day racer wants.

Honestly, the body could be a little stiffer for track day, but I have no idea why anyone would want to spend time on a track with this car when he or she could, instead, drop the cloth top in 12 seconds and just ride. Roofs may help stabilize a car, but they also blot out the sun.

Performance features on the Boxster S include a launch control that will let you hit 60 mpg from a standstill in less than five seconds. The suspension has also been improved for long rides and while it's still stiff, the ride is comfortable.

My biggest issue with the Boxster is that I wanted more legroom. While the spec sheet says there is 41.6 inches, I still felt a little cramped inside the cabin. When you put your left foot on the dead pedal it felt awkward and I wanted more space to stretch my legs just a little bit more than the car allowed me. Comfort is certainly a game of inches and the Boxster didn't offer me enough.

But it made up for everything with its new PDK seven speed automatic transmission. Technically, it's not an automatic, it's an automated manual. For me, however, if it doesn't have a clutch for my foot, it's an automatic, call me a silly transmission purest.

That said, the manual shifters on the steering wheel are the first steering wheel mounted (instead of steering column mounted) buttons that felt substantial and well placed. The buttons slide back and forth at the tap of your thumb or finger and responded quickly.

However, I hardly needed them. The transmission is so responsive to the way you press the gas pedal it seems to know what you're doing before you do it.

Need to pass the gravel truck sprinkling pebbles like an old man with bird food? Tap the gas and milliseconds later, the Boxster has gone from seventh gear to fourth, awaiting your next command. As you speed it, it gently winds through the gears, fifth, sixth, all clear, and back to cruising in seventh.

Another feature tied to the gas pedal is Porsche's brake pre-loading and brake assist systems. The way it works is when the car senses you pulling your foot off the accelerator quickly, it automatically charges your brakes and gets ready for your next action. The logic is very German. If you're pulling your foot off the gas pedal, well, you're probably going to hit the brake next. They're ready.

And so much of the Boxster S is German precise. It goes fast, it looks great and every time you look out the windshield, you can see those bubbly fenders poking into view.

This is not merely a car, it's a lifestyle.

Whether you choose to live it is a personal decision. But at least the Boxster S provides a chance for a lot more people to afford it.

Sburgess@detnew.com (313) 223-3217