The volume of automotive comparison tests in this current era of internet dominance is genuinely overwhelming. Everyday, a new YouTube video launches, featuring some epic high-priced exotic facing off against another high-priced exotic in a quarter-mile drag race. Not only can you watch the cars race, you can hear them, see their insides and get so close, visually, that it feels like you can touch them. So it’s easy to forget that, thirty years ago, seeing a simple comparison test in a magazine between two normal sports cars was absolutely epic. Such as this classic showdown between the E36 BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C 36 AMG.

This specific comparo comes from Motor Trend magazine, the April 1997 issue to be exact. I’m old enough (barely) to remember the days of being excited over a new issue of Motor Trend, with a killer comparison test cover page photo, and sprinting to my room to read it. I was a bit too young to appreciate the gravity of this specific test back in 1997 but I sort of which I had been old enough to, as this must have been a fantastic showdown back in its day.

Both cars in this specific test were sedans, which was unusual for 1997. The E36 M3 Sedan was a new idea and few compact sedans were as fast, as sporty or as capable as those two were. Which is what made them so enticing and you can feel the love for both cars when you read this comparison.

In the end, the E36 BMW M3 Sedan won the test but it was a close call and it’s not hard to see why. Personally, I love reading vintage comparison tests, as they remind us of why we admire cars of those good old days and miss their charisma and spirit.

[Source: Motor Trend]