Under the definition of "potent" in the dictionary, you'll find a pencil sketch of the 2000 BMW M roadster.

The M hustles. The M is the performance version of BMW's Z3 roadster.

The Z3 is powered by a 2.8-liter, 193-h.p. in-line 6 that claims a 6.3-second zero-to-60-m.p.h. time; the M by a 3.2-liter, 240-h.p., 24-valve in-line 6 that claims a 5.2 second zero-to-60-m.p.h. time.

The 3.2-liter 6 is teamed with a smooth-shifting 5-speed manual (BMW's 5-speed automatic is not available) that helps the roadster come alive.

Despite the focus on performance, fuel economy is a respectable 19 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway.

But where the M roadster stands out is in handling and the ability to sit flat in the sharpest twists in the road.

You spring into and out of the passing lane. The suspension literally nails the roadster to the road.

The M's handling is probably beyond the limits of most drivers.

It helps that the M roadster comes with all-season traction assist for stability on slippery surfaces and a limited-slip differential for improved traction on dry roads for optimum handling, along with 17-inch high-performance radial tires and four-wheel independent suspension with anti-roll bars and anti-dive/squat geometry.

There is, of course, a price to pay for the remarkable handling, and that's the more-than-gentle slap on your behind every time you pass over a tar mark in the road.

And any time you make a lateral or sideways move, the M roadster seems to be locked onto tracks.

But when cruising over the open straightaways, you sometimes feel as if strapped into the Eagle roller coaster at Six Flags.

There are some other annoyances and gripes, mostly with the design of the power top, which is solid and doesn't quiver in the wind, but wraps so far around the sides that any attempt at backing out of a parking space should be done in slow motion -- with a friend directing you.

Easy problem to solve, of course: Just put the top down, which also solves the other problem of headroom in this petite roadster.

One other gripe: the rearview mirror is large and sits at just about eye level. The inside mirror is important because the top as well as the rather small sideview (heated) mirrors limit side and rear vision. But its placement on the windshield creates a blind spot when it comes to vehicles pulling from a driveway or approaching from the right at an intersection.

The 2000 M roadster starts at $42,700.

Standard equipment includes power heated seats, heated driver's door lock and windshield washer jets, leather upholstery, power windows, air conditioning, front- and side-impact air bags, power locks and fixed rollover bars behind the seats.

And, perhaps as a concession to 007, the secret agent whose task has become to introduce a BMW on the screen every two years, there's dual beverage holders to prevent the contents from being shaken or stirred.

The only options on the test car were a CD radio at $200 and a $570 freight charge.