I understand your reticence about the E46 M3, but I think it's worth the risk of the notchiness of the manual if you can find a last model run '06 with ZCP and relatively low mileage.
Unequivocally in my opinion the best looking 3 series of all-time.
You might also consider the 135is. It raises the performance bar a bit on the stock 135 and comes with tasty bits like the Performance Exhaust.
Plus you can get it in Carbon black, which is unavailable to the garden variety einser.
If that's too much still maintenance wise, then you also have Le Mans blue to fall back to.
The path to God is clear, and it takes us to the cross.