BMW- "The Ultimate Driving Expereince". Even though without the sports package its still really sporty & luxurious. True Lexus is a well made car, and drives well, but doesn't stack up to BMW's sheer handling and performance. I have 3 BMW's, and one Lexus in my household. A 1998 BMW 318i, 2000 BMW 528i, 2003 Lexus is300, and just recently bought a 2004 BMW 330i with the "M" performance package. BMW is 100x better even the BMW 318i with 138hp seems better then the Lexus is300. The BMW 330i is a thrill to drive, gives me that feeling I felt back when I first got my drivers licence. I take the long way home with this car. The Lexus is300 is a mere knock off to the bmw 3 series, The interior is ugly, costs more to service than a BMW. I don't know why my brother bought it, but he did. I love the new BMW E46, BMW continues to make their cars better. They take the Kaizen approach to make better well built cars. The 528i is in a class of its own. It feels much powerful then it really is, 193h.p. and gives me the gas mileage of a Nissan Sentra SE-R.
As a current own of both a E36 and a E46 convertible, I can definitely say that the E46 is the superior car. it is faster, gets better fuel economy, and is better handling than my E36. I have kept my E36 convertible because I think it is a much prettier car, but my E46 is the car I prefer to drive.
Coming to a 330Cic with sport package from a Sebring convertible, I can't imagine how the BMW can be considered "soft". It is admittedly as heavy as the larger Sebring, but it is a hard tail in comparison and a heck of a lot more rigid. The seats are hard, the springs are hard, and the shocks are hard. There is some spring travel there for frost heaved roads, but my impression is anything but soft. Perhaps I'm spoiled by larger US cars, but I don't really want to drive a go cart every day, so I'm pretty happy with the BMW as it is.