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E30 BMW M3 or E92 M3 GTS? We look at the first and last BMW M3 coupes

The BMW M3 is an automotive "thing." When you think of a fast family car, the M3 pops up way more readily than the Audi RS4 or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.

Now playing: Watch this: BMW M3: From E30 to E92

The M3's bloodline stretches back as far as the original 3.0 CSL Batmobile. Its simple formula of "take normal car, add giant engine, tweak springs, and off you go" was something of a winner.

In 1986 the first "proper" M3 came to be: the E30. It was more aerodynamically sound than the 3er it was based on, it came with oodles more power than the standard 3 series, and handled like nothing before. Its steering was the most applauded part of it. It offered an almost electric feel so direct and wonderful that many people still lose their cool at the merest utterance of the E30.

Our time with it was charming. Of course, real E30 M3s only came in LHD so I found myself in the odd position of having to thread a pricey, boxy unicorn along some country roads on the wrong side of the car.

While its steering may not be as great as everyone remembers it, I still enjoyed it thoroughly. The engine still has a fair whack of "go" and makes a pleasing noise, too. I'll freely admit that when I was a lad I didn't really rate the E30's shape. Too boxy for my picky, innocent tastes or something. Anyway -- both of us have had some time to mature, and you know what? I think it looks pretty freakin' bad-ass, don't you?

Fast-forward a decade or two and you'll find the E30's grandchild, the E92 M3 GTS. It's the ultimate M3. More power, less weight, a proper harness, a big wing, and more orange than ever before all serve to let you, and many innocent bystanders, know that you're not tooling around in a toy. It's a serious bit of kit: 450 bhp falls from its 4.4-litre V8 to conjure an experience like no other, and 0-62mph is dispatched in 4.4 seconds. It'll go on accelerating way beyond any legal limit, and it handles incredibly.

However, its seats are uncomfortable, the silly harnesses mean you can't change the radio station, and at normal cruising speeds that V8 drones rather than sings. On the road it is not a pleasant car at all. On track it'd be a line of automotive Charlie -- you'd start babbling inane nonsense and want ever more until you give yourself a nose bleed. It'd be a delight.

It's strange to see how far the M3 has come -- yes we have the most extreme example of the breed here, but it shows just how hard-core you can go in the pursuit of the perfect car.

M3 GTS specs
Engine 4.4-litre V8
Power 444 bhp
Torque 325 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 4.4 seconds
Top speed    190 mph

E30 M3 specs
Engine 2.3 to 2.5-litre four-cylinder
Power 199 to 238 bhp
Torque 177 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 6.7 to 6.5 seconds
Top speed    146 to 154 mph