This makes sense. I am the OP, and like my previous M3 and the Porsche Cayman S I have now, the current M3 IS special. It has "soul" that is felt through every fabric of the car. After test driving a 335i, I can feel that M3 soul before getting out of second gear, just driving down the street.
I may not drive especially hard (but hard enough to evaporate Continentals off the Cayman in 17,000 miles), but it doesn't matter. The M3 is special. While not in the same class, I got the same feeling when test driving a Mitsubishi EVO. VERY clearly, way more soul and personality than a regular Lancer!...at any speed.