Yah, the previous gen was a lot better handler, even with the slightly lesser VQ30. I drove a number of the 2000 GXE 6spd manuals at the auction, and I would buy one in a heartbeat!
BTW, from the trucker: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum amount of weight loading that a car can place on the ground. For instance, my semi and trailer weigh ~30,100lbs. My GVWR is 80,000lbs.
The LS V8 probably weighs in well under 4,000lbs. I also drove quite a few of those at the auction, as I was in Ford factory return inspection(Certified Pre-Owned, basically. Lease returns)and while the Sexima will certainly take it in the 1/4, I think the LS would eat it alive on a road course. It is indeed a BMW wannabe, and as such, it'* emphasis was on handling performance.
Of course, for another couple thousand from the dealer, you could get the LS8 McClaren, and take almost a full second off the quarter, and shave a few hundredths off the slalom, too...