The sophisticated plug-in hybrid powertrain of the BMW i8 sports car has been rated the top engine in this year’s International Engine of the Year Awards, the official award of British publication Engine Technology International. The i8’s powertrain consists of a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and drives the rear wheels, plus a single electric motor that drives the front wheels. Together they produce a peak output of 362 horsepower, enough to accelerate the i8 from 0-62 mph in 4.4 seconds, yet when required to the car can return upwards of 76 mpge.

The i8 powertrain was awarded 274 points by the judges and was picked because of its strong performance combined with remarkable fuel economy and low emissions. It just edged out the Ford Motor Company's turbocharged 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder, which has won the top engine award for the past three years running. Just seven points separated the two powertrains this year.

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Now into its 17th year, the awards have become an important marketing tool for the winning automakers. The jury is made up of auto journalists from around the world, with this year’s awards presided over by 65 jury members from 31 countries. We say “awards” as there are several categories in addition to the top engine award.

In the performance engine category, Ferrari’s brilliant 4.5-liter V-8 fitted to the outgoing 458 Italia and 458 Speciale was the winner. It edged out Mercedes-AMG’s new twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 to win the category. Sadly, the winning engine is no longer in production as Ferrari has gone the turbo route for the 458’s successor,the new 488 GTB. The Ferrari engine was also voted the best engine over 4.0 liters of displacement.

Audi's turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder used in the RS 3 and RS Q3 was awarded the best engine title for engines displacing between 2.0 and 2.5-liters, and McLaren's ubiquitous twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-8 picked up the award for engines between 3.0 and 4.0 liters. Also worth a mention is the best green engine award, which didn’t go to the i8’spowertrain but rather Tesla Motors’ battery-powered electric setup found in the Model S. The i8 powertrain, however, picked up a second award for the best new engine.

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