Long story short. I wound up with this car by accident. I thought that I was buying something nice and boring and maintenance free... Itt ain't. These (I bought one for my daughter) things take some TLC; but if you stay away from the dealers and do your own work, they're no more expensive than a Pontiac(got the bills from my wife's dealer). E46 - watch out for the cooling system. Radiators and water pumps are plastic and die after 8-9 years. Keep up the "routine" maintenance religiously. Find a reasonably priced source of parts.
The ultimate driving machine. I've never had the chance to drive anything fancier than a European 911 Turbo, but...
Maintenance engineering. It shouldn't take a PhD in computer science to change the brake pads. Reliability.