Thanks for everyone's quick replies. I honestly didn't expect to get any replies - I figured this would be for future reference for others.
Given the feedback, I am going to post an update AFTER the 1,200 mile service, as I figure that sounds fair and my review might be premature. The thing is, I can't see anything being much different after 1,200 EXCEPT for getting over the 5,500 RPM barrier. And, as you can see from my impressions, the thing I like the most about the car is the engine, so I'm thinking the shortcomings I listed won't go away after the break-in period. One thing is crystal clear - the engine is very, very special and is just amazing.
To be clear, I'm not telling anyone whether they should or shouldn't buy an E93. The E93 is probably a BETTER choice than the E46 M3 Convertible for MANY people. But so far I don't think it's clear that it's the better choice for someone like me (I'm still not sure either way).
A couple of quick responses to points above:
- I don't think that shifting at 3,500-4,500 RPM is aggressive. But I do think that NEVER shifting below that range is aggressive when I'm constantly driving in 30 zones around town! Trust me - I drive more aggressively than the average person. My last E46 read 13.2 MPG very consistently because I never shifted below 3,500-4,500. On a similar note, M3s aren't designed to be shifted below 3,500-4,500, at least not if you used them as they were intended :-)
- I'm not going to bore anyone with the details but with likely clutch work (according to the yellow light on the dash that came up a couple of times over the past couple of weeks before I sold my car), brakes, and Inspection II, plus further depreciation, getting the new E93 wasn't necessarily a bad financial decision. I am a full-time investor and I have an MBA from a Finance focused school so I ran various scenarios on a spreadsheet before I made the decision. When you take everything into account, keeping the E46 might have had me come out slightly ahead in terms of $$ but the unknown other potential issues that would eventually come up over the next 3 years (ie. roof and who knows what else) made me pull the trigger on selling the car. Plus the thing I want to do is spend on any item on having a car in the shop, etc. The risk just didn't pencil out for me because of the opportunity cost of missing work, etc.
- I did test drive before making the switch and I didn't like the car NEARLY as much during the test drives as I do after owning it for a few days. But I wanted a convertible so my options were limited. I tried a 911, Audi S5, and M3. I honestly thought a Porsche 991 Carrera S Convertible was the best choice for me, as it had more of the traits that I liked about my E46, but I didn't want to take on the additional cost and depreciation and I thought it was the wrong time to buy a used 997 w/PDK, as they haven't depreciated enough yet from the full effect of the new body style. The Audi S5 was too soft for me, which I knew would be the case. I'm hoping to revisit the 991 once my lease is up in 3 years, at which point I will likely be deciding between the new M3 Convertible and a 991
BTW, this thread wasn't meant to cause any wars. I specifically took the time to write all of this to help others who are considering the change, as I figured it would be helpful, especially since I didn't find any long/detailed comparisons when I was doing my research before I bought my E93. It's just one person's opinion that I am hoping will help others... I definitely like my E93 - I just got home from another awesome drive with the room down!