I'm not real enthused by the 'mother may I' style of play, it /is/, as you may have experienced, very dependent on the skill/experience, personality/talent, and mood of the DM.
I'm highly torn over this.
For one thing, I've always been very down on the way ability checks, feats of strength such as door bashing in particular, are handled in 3E. I'm good with the high variability of a linear 1d20 random result for most things, but there are places where it really fails. Door bashing is certainly on such place. Reliable and consistent "this just works" is highly welcome.
I'd be happy with "I bash the door" having three default spheres of response.
* It crashes in
* It holds steady like you were not there
* It creaks but doesn't give. Do you wanna go all out? (...reaches for dice) eyes
On the other hand, I'm holding my breath that they don't go to far with this. I'm very cool with the idea that every 1st level character has a minimum capacity for being sneaky and a simple ability based system defines that. The "nothing sneaky about me" knight can still try to sneak at L1. And the sneaky rogue at L1 will be no more sneaky except that he (probably) has a better Dex and (almost certainly if his is a "sneaky" rogue). Since he does have these things, he is more sneaky. Works good at L1 and you have some range of the same three tiers (Automatic, roll for it, and no hope) Though outside of extremes I'd hope the DM would still roll every time just to keep from giving away too much information.
I'm a little concerned about the possible implications for how this works past L1. Obviously the same rogue at L12 should be more sneaky than he was at L1. Now "skill ranks" handles this fine, but there are other ways to skin this cat. It sounds like it may be more matter of buying more bonuses along the way. Either way can be fine on that front.
But that "nothing sneaky about me" knight should be no more sneaky at L12 than he was at L1. If his Dex has nudged up, then cool, he is a touch more "sneaky", but aside from that it should be unchanged. Some of the stuff I've read could be seen as implying that there is still a level based normalizing. That would be a major problem. But we will see. I'll remain optimistic for now....