I can’t answer your question in a straight-forward way, but I can provide a relevant opinion that you weren’t looking for.
Illustrator just isn’t a good tool for this kind of thing. PrintDriver listed some practical considerations that centered around output and rasterization issues, but the problems are even more extensive that. Yeah, I’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff done with blends, extrusions, gradients, etc. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard, but it’s almost always a hit-and-miss thing.
Adobe is, of course, promoting Illustrator as a tool for all kinds of purposes. They have to justify their monthly fees by adding new features — even when they’re ill-conceived. It’s similar to how Microsoft includes and promotes the terrible layout features in Word.
When it comes right down to it, Illustrator (and 2d vector processes, in general) are great ways to create simple, straight-forward illustrations, graphics and layouts. Since graphic design depends heavily on simple, straight-forward graphics, vector-based apps are mainstays in our toolboxes.
The creation of more painterly graphics just doesn’t lend itself easily to anchor points, lines and bézier curves. It just gets too complicated, too processor intensive and convoluted. If you really want to do this kind of geometric modeling right, the next step up involves 3D applications, which tackles the inherent problems head-on by accepting the need for additional complexity, steeper learning curves, different topology-related algorithms, and extra horsepower as part of the process. Trying to do it in Illustrator is, like I mentioned, the equivalent of designing layouts in MS Word — doable to some extent, but not the right tool for the job. Even Photoshop is better at this kind of thing than Illustrator.