Daniel - how far would you push your Bene? What's the edge for you?
I'll answer it this way, and I'm not sure what else to say. Our intended use for the boat is: (1) mostly coastal cruising/weekending/summer vacations; (2) limited racing; (3) cruising the Bahamas and similar at some point (possibly the Carib); and (4) trips to Bermuda every few years with our rally.
If I did not believe it could handle that billet, we would not have bought the boat. Now, whether it will ACTUALLY handle that billet is yet to be determined.
Also, note that a friend, Franc Carreras of SeaKnots, has a 2008 Beneteau 43. He sailed it from NY to Florida in January (that's right, JANUARY!), then over to the Bahamas, through the chain, down to the Caribbean, and he's hooking up with ARC Europe to do a trans-Atlantic to Spain. He has done just about the entirety of the trip from Florida with only he and his wife as crew. He hasn't made it across the Atlantic yet, but he certainly made it down the Thorny Path to the Caribbean, and the boat's still floating. Note also that usually the single largest brand to participate in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) is Beneteau. Not that many Hunters or Catalinas, but I suspect that's mostly becaue the ARC starts in Europe and comes to the Carib, and there just are not as many Hunters/Catalinas in Europe as there are on this side of the Pond. I raise this not to "brag" about Beneteaus or anything like that, but to show that the boats can do more than what most people will ask of them.
In sum, if you are like 95% of the sailors out there, the production boats will handle what you plan to do, IMHO. That's not to say they are for everyone. There certainly are nicer boats out there, that have more character, different sailing qualities, better build construction, better at weathering long-term use and abuse, and the list goes on and on. But your question is how far can you push a production boat, and I believe the answer is: A fair bit farther than the actual use 95% of the sailors will put them to.
If you are looking to buy one, you like it, it's in your price range, and it's in good shape, then buy it. On the flip side, if you just can't get past having to tell people you have a BeneHuntaLina, then don't buy it. This activity is for fun, and if you find that you need to apologize for what you sail, then it's a whole lot less fun, and you should sail a different boat. No point in spending a ton of money on a toy that for which you feel you need to apologize right from the start.