Our newest member, John (step up and register, my friend!) stopped by my place on Sunday with his 4-week old (to him) '97 M Edition, and the car's as nice as he is. Hopefully, you'll all get to meet him at the next event - he can't wait. And hey, he's another one of you Edgewater guys.
Anyway, he and I traded cars for a few miles, and I got to drive his M Edition, which happens to be an automatic. Really pretty interesting, actually.
Once you get past not having a clutch pedal, it really drives pretty nicely. It'll shift around 6200rpm if you want it to, or if you want to play with the "Hold" button (keeps it in gear), you can make it downshift pretty easily in higher gears.
The trickiest part is cornering, where you tend to over-brake, which causes the transmission to pick too high of a gear, and it dogs off the turn. However, once you learn to use the "Hold" feature, you can power out of the turns and get it to upshift pretty nicely.
I still don't think I'd trade my 5-speed for it, but I have to admit, it was more fun than what I'd thought an automatic Miata would be.
Thanks again, John!