I would agree with you about Lexus, except I dig the IS300. Lexus is way more reliable than a BMW, a plus in my book. It can be fun to drive with some tame mods. The engine is the base platform for the toyota supra TT. It has huge potential if you plan to drive it as a DD for few years and then make it a project car. Plus, you can get a 5 speed, the prices are reasonable too.
Don't get me wrong, but my BMW has cost me at least 12K in maintenance and repairs the past 3years with only 67000 miles and I don't beat on my car and I drive it as a daily driver. That is not including any money for mods, gas, insurance. I bought my car with 37000 miles on it in 2004 also. It seems to me that is a lot for a car with fairly low miles on it. Plus I have also done a lot of work myself. Maybe, the V8 BMWs are more costly to maintain than the 6 cylinder platform. Just my opinions though.