Object all you want, but the analogy of the Mercedes to Toyota is a good one. Both are good cars, but they're in different classes. 400 pounds is a lot, but what is the M7 going for in the same market? I'm sure much more. You would be lucky to find a used M7 for twice that in the US. The M3, which I would consider a good alternative (as mentioned above by another user) sells for $1600 USD in EXC Condition in the US at places such as KEH.
If you want the Aperture priority, consider a Minolta CLE. They can be found for around $700 USD and a nice one will run you no more than $900. Cameraquest actually refers to it as THE cheaper alternative to the M7. Along with Aperture priority, it has TTL flash - far superior to Leica's (or NIkon's of the same era for that matter). I have one and use it regularly. It is just as sturdy as the Voightlanders if not more so, but it is NOT a Leica. If you need the durability and dependability of Leica, save up and get a Leica. Otherwise the CLE is a nice affordable option.