There are numerous publications, organizations and companies that hand out awards to the automotive industry for its various technical and design achievements, but few are so lauded as the winner of the International Engine of the Year competition.

Judged by a panel of 76 of the world's top automotive journalists, the engine that comes out on top--or top in its class--can lay claim to being the best there is, for another year at least.

This year, the International Engine of the Year title was awarded to the smallest engine currently on the new car market, the 0.9-liter Fiat TwinAir twin-cylinder gasoline engine. Found in the Fiat 500 TwinAir model sold overseas, the tiny engine features Fiat’s MultiAir variable valve timing technology and is good for around 65 horsepower.

Oh, did we mention it returns a fuel economy of up to 55 mpg on the European combined cycle?

However, the engine we’re all interested in is Ferrari’s 4.5-liter V-8 from the 458 Italia supercar, which managed to take out the ‘Best Performance Engine’ category as well as the category for the ‘Best Engine Above 4-Liters’.

Ferrari’s dry-sump, flat-crank, 90-degree V-8 sets a number of firsts for a naturally-aspirated engine of this displacement. Representing the peak of engine technology, the V-8 reaches a maximum of 9,000 rpm--a first for a production V-8--with a high 12.5:1 compression ratio and maximum power output of 570 horsepower.

The generous torque available--398 pound-feet at 6,000 rpm, with over 80 percent available from 3,250 rpm--ensures rapid pick-up from all revs.

Additionally, the design of the engine components has been influenced by the carry-over of racing technology--F1 in particular--for maximum fluid-dynamic efficiency in order to achieve both performance and fuel consumption objectives, and meet toughening emissions restrictions.

Also worth a mention is BMW, which has always dominated the awards and in 2011 there has been no exception.

The German marque bagged four category wins, including the ‘3-Liter to 4-Liter’ category for its 4.0-liter V-8 found in the M3; the‘2.5-Liter to 3-Liter’ category for its 3.0-liter DI Twin Turbo fitted across much of its range; the ‘1.8-Liter to 2-Liter’category for its 2.0-liter Twin Turbo diesel engine found in the 123d and X1; and the ‘1.4-Liter to 1.8-Liter’ category for its 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine co-developed with PSA Peugeot Citroen, which also scooped the same award.


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