My M2 CS is a throwback to the good days, they only brought 569 of them to the US (plus 20 military orders) and 70% of them sold here were with the 6-speed manual. I would say the M cars are still best in class for the most part but the standard models really aren't all that special anymore.
A few things to note, when Albert Biermann left the M division along with some of his team for Hyundai there were a lot of Audi people that came in and made a large impact on driving dynamics- more numb and isolated, the Audi way.
Also, studies BMW had done in the past showed they were missing a portion of the market due to their "heavy steering and brakes," namely female drivers. There was a huge shift in the feel of controls from the E generation to the F generation, I truly despise the F30 3-series- ironic since my M2 is based on that chassis but it's a world of difference.
Lastly, China buys more than double the amount of BMW's than the US and they have very different tastes in style, and from what I understand dynamics is not an important factor for purchasing- I feel BMW is catering very much to that market now.