Interesting... I'm wondering what specifically is the problem with sandwich core below the waterline and vacuum bagging. This is standard for a very large percentage production racer/cruisers (even cruisers) built in the past 2 or 3 decades. It'd be very difficult to find a solid glass boat in a similar length to the 99 that sailed with anywhere near a phrf rating of 99-105 or so. Many if not most boats of this construction type are still on the water and sailed hard... I can't think of any exceptions in our local fleet of 93-99 rated boats. Semi open transom? I guess it's just what one gets used to. I've always thought of open transoms as the best and quickest cockpit drain. I suppose if one was concerned, you could stretch netting across for some added security. My heart agrees with the shaft vs. sail-drive... that's a mighty big hole down there, and if the seal maintenance isn't kept up, yikes! But the brain says, many many boats that are raced and cruised these days use them without issue. I haven't sailed a 99, but I'm guessing like many lighter racer/cruisers, upwind in 15 kts TWS, you need active main trim. If you're cruising and don't want to deal with it, sure, put in a reef. Respectfully, it sounds like you prefer a cruiser/racer than a racer/cruiser... different horses for courses...
One small caveat--- Never
confuse sales success with good engineering or good production techniques for long term ownership.
Around here we have seen several cored hulls, mostly earlier J Boats (but not all...), with extensive water saturation in the bottom coring. The fix was very very very expensive.
As to judging speed (phrf for only one form of comparison) vs having or not having a fully-cored hull, I would note that my design races scratch with the cored Expresses in the SF Bay area -- all are rated 99 phrf. My Ericson-built Olson 34 is a solid layup hull.
We bought it because it was very fast, very easy to sail fast, and has a full-on cruising interior. (Some friends of ours just bought a Thomas/Tartan 35, with only slightly less interior and a 77 rating!)
There are choices out there... but you have to look around. New affordable performance cruisers have all but disappeared from the market. It's a shame.
Design and production execution are just as important as whether or not the hull is cored.
OTOH, you can most of the advertised benefits of coring if you buy a boat with coring only down to the DLW.
Shaft Drives: Ick.... I have personally seen Volvo S-drives in the yard where the lower drive unit was "swiss cheesed" by electrolysis. While I sail in fresh water now and keep my boat in a new marina with top notch shore power wiring, many other sailors do not have this advantage. We even have a current leakage checking program.
I would worry about the aluminum parts under water just as much as failure of the membrane.
Beyond the saving in building cost, the S-drive system passes along a lot of required maint. to the owner(s). If you explore the Volvo manual (and not to single them out, but I have read their on-line manuals) you find that the membrane replacement frequency is about 7 years. Many owners leave it in longer, and one could speculate that their lawyers made them say that. Still......
On many boats the engine may have to be moved some and the haul out cost will be high.
That's a lot of constant $$$ expenditure just to save some $ on shaft alignment.
Take your time, take lots of detailed notes, and as the Knight told Indy, "Choose Wisely."
edit: to answer the "speed under power" part of the post, it's a 32 footer with a long waterline. I would be surprised if it doesn't motor at 7 kts all day if need be. Type of prop less important than having the prop correctly matched to drive train. Folders are cheaper, though.
Best all 'round motoring and sailing would probably be with a feathering prop, especially in any kind of tight marina maneuvering situation.
Edit #2 (from the peanut gallery)
If that design sails as well as everyone sez, and that's what they do say, I wonder why on earth it has thousands of $$ worth of wheel steering stuff when a simple tiller would do?
And, if you just want a fast race boat, scroll down a way in the list of boats at that brokerage and look at that S2 7.9 Grand Slam. I used to crew some on one and they are Fast