Okay, again I went to car dealers on my way back home today.
This time, I drove the Miata, S2000, and Z4 for more than 30 minutes each, especially concentrating on their usability as a daily commuter -- tried some boring highways (restricting myself from doing anything fun) as well as stop-and-go city streets, each with the top up and down. Since I guess I was too excited and kiddish in the prior test-drives, today's trials turned out to be very informative.
Third place -- Z4 2.5i.
The inline six is very torqueful from low rev, which is nice for highway cruising and city driving. The cabin feels quite roomy and voluminous even with the top up. The body feels like solid as a tank. BUT... I don't think I would ever be fond of its exterior design with many such "meaningless" lines, seams, and bulges -- it's highly un-BMW according to my esthetic sense!!! And importantly, I know that if you don't like the exterior design of a roadster, you will never like that car. Also, although the base price is comparable to the S2000, after adding all the quasi-essential options (why the heck some of these items can be an "option"?), the price goes way too high in my opinion. By the way, I was surprised to learn that 80-90% of the Z4's sold in Dallas are the clutchless models -- either the automatic or the F-1 style "SMG" transmission.
Second place -- Miata.
I still like the simple, unshowy design of this tiny roadster very much. I like the nimble handling that eloquently shows off the light-weightedness and light-heartedness of this car, too. Last but not least, the price is a BIG plus for the Miata. However, as psychobabble mentioned, it wasn't very comfortable to highway-cruise on the Miata at 70-80mph for more than 15 minutes. The engine was constantly revving at ~4000rpm, and sounded like it was. I had to agree with ZeN that the cabin felt wee bit too small, even though I am not particularly tall (5'11"). Also, I really felt this time that the non-tilting steering wheel was set too low--or the seat set too high--or me.
First place -- S2000.
I definitely liked this car better than when I test-drove it last time, which is a good sign -- the car has grown on me. Although the engine needed to be revved at over 6000rpm to be truly energetic, the low-rev torque was in fact felt to be quite usable for the daily commute. On the highway, the engine remained sonically docile on the 6th gear, yet it still responded to the throttle adequately. Although the car looks and feels small and lightweight, once I was in the driving position, I felt very secure -- its utter confidence and rigidity in cornering certainly helped here. The cockpit just seemed to "fit" me. With the top up, though, S2000 seemed to exhibit the largest dead angle in the rear-quarter visibility, which required some getting used to.
Although I haven't test-driven the 350Z Roadster yet, I may go ahead and buy the S2000, solely based on the Nissan's looks and magazine reviews...
Now, this is the final chance for you guys to stop me from doing so! HAHAHA... Oh, and I am dead set on a convertible. A coupe doesn't seem to have enough "toy-ness" for this 43-year-old father of three going through mid-life crisis!!!