As someone who has owned many Honda products, I completely disagree with you regarding your opinion of Honda's prowess in the handling department. Honda is an engineering - based company, and even their mainstream products are known for their balanced handling and fun-to-drive nature. The early Civics from the mid 1970's were excellent handling, almost go-kart like. I had a 1978 Civic, and a friend of mine who had a Mini back in the 70's drove my car and could not believe how well my Civic handled once I put a decent set of Michelins on it.
Back in the mid-90's, Car and Driver, after extensive comparison testing, declared that the previous generation Honda Prelude was the best handling car sold in America under $30K (they also voted the previous generation M3 to be the best handling car over $30K). My father owns a pristine 1995 Prelude, and I can assure you that it will run rings around an E46 in the handling department. The current generation Prelude handles even better.
My last Honda was a 1995 Accord EX. It would out corner a non-sport package E46, with less body roll and better turn in. However, the E36 will out handle the Accord, no question.
Finally, both the Honda S2000 and the Acura Integra (and RSX) are well known for their handling expertise. The Integra regularly beats the E46 in the road-racing events on Speedvision, and the S2000 will out handle any of the BMW Z cars, including the M roadster.