For the record, it was the September 1997 issue of Car and Driver.
Here's the M3-specific section of THAT article (cut and paste)-
A flawless handler.
BMW's M3 is one of the least-expensive cars in this group. It's also the tallest and narrowest car and has the most-usable rear seat. Its first-place finish proves that superb handling does not require exotic-car packaging or exotic-car prices.
The M3's cockpit works naturally. The driver's seat offers a commanding view of the road and the hood's corners. Hands fall instinctively to the steering wheel and shifter, as do feet to the pedals. Heel-and-toeing is possible, and a dead pedal is included. An adjustable steering wheel would have been nice, as well as more lateral support, but these issues didn't get in the way of our adoration.
The M3 possesses uncanny roadgoing ability. This is the most-agile car here. The steering eagerly bites into corners and is alive with feel. "Constantly talking to my fingers," wrote Csere. It latches onto a line in corners as if on a mission from God. Webster: "Rolls gracefully into curves at a constant rate and goes right where you point it."
The M3 covers for you. The suspension shrugs off bumps, swells, and off-camber depressions without upsetting the line. Not once did any driver cross it up. Smith: "Overcooked a corner, and the BMW's forgiving nature made it interesting rather than scary." Even at the hairy edge of traction, the M3 is accepting of further driver input, which builds tremendous confidence. Unlike the Acura NSX, the Dodge Viper, or even the Ferrari F355, you feel free to explore the M3's limits without fear that something awful awaits if you miscalculate.
The M3 is like one of those mules that pull tour duty in the Grand Canyon, year after year: It isn't capable of a misstep. This car lets you seek out its limits quicker and more confidently than any of the other cars here. If that doesn't make for a winning handler, we don't know what does.
.... So, what's the best-handling car at any price? ...It's an eight-horn salute to the BMW M3 as "the best-handling car."