Thanks for your responses, the tips and background information are quite helpful. Just to bring things up to date a bit, I changed the spark plugs, fuel filter, oil and filter, and air filter last month, and from what I could tell the hoses looked in good shape. Radiator and engine block also flushed. I think I will get some injector cleaner though (which I can purchase "free" with the money I'll be saving on the next tank of gas seeing I don't need a diet of 93).
The mention of the VANOS caused me to recall an article in a car magazine or the automotive section of the newspaper some years ago about some runnability problem that had cropped up with that, and I think the '95 model year, or shortly before, is when the first generation of VANOS was introduced. I can't recall the technical details though, but I guess if it had been severe enough I would have had a more serious problem by now. The car is running quite well now, probably the items mentioned above individually contributed their 2 cents to the cause.
As to the "personality" of the car, I very much agree, although I really don't have much of a problem in the city (except on those hot days when I get that bothersome clutch shudder), but then again I really don't encounter all that much stop-and-go, creeping along city traffic (thank goodness). But at 3500+ rpm in top gear on a nice stretch of highway, and the car really comes into its element, very much designed for Autobahn driving. I remember coming across a comment by someone new to BMWs, wondering if there was something wrong with his car as it ran about 1000 rpm higher on the highway than he was accustomed to in other cars (Japanese, I believe). Someone reassured him all was well, that the higher revs were there on purpose, to give the torque and horsepower needed for solid high speed driving, rather than having a drivetrain more fitting for city/suburban driving panting for breath on the highway. I don't know how reasonable the answer was, but it suits me!