I fired up my subscription but I didn't play it enough previously to know whether the changes made to PvE were substantial or not through the various expansions. I assume they have though and I'm secretly reaping the benefits.
As for the grind, yeah, that's always going to be a part of Eve as well as the time to skill up to pilot certain ships. I spent 27 days gearing up for an Orca that cost roughly 700 million ISK and my major source of income was mining .5 space with a Retriever that only made ~16 million ISK an hour. Belt rats are mostly worthless to salvage in Highsec and the bounty reward is usually 10 - 25k ISK so a drop in the bucket while I sit.
Working my way to buy PLEX now to extend my subscription.