The 2015 International Engine of the Year (yes, it’s a thing) results were announced yesterday. Consequently, our inbox filled up with press releases from different OEMs, each trumpeting its dominance in a particular category. The overall winner can be found in BMW’s very clever i8. The i8’s 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder, 357 hp (362PS) hybrid powertrain beat Ferrari, Tesla, McLaren, and others to the top award, determined by a panel of international automotive journalists.
Looking at the results from the past several years paints a vivid picture of how the auto industry is facing up to tougher new emissions and economy standards, and it’s bad news for fans of the naturally aspirated engine. They used to say there was no replacement for displacement, but these days the opposite is true. Inline 3-cylinder engines used to be the preserve of Japan’s tiny Kei cars, but they’re now proliferating in small cars, coupled with forced induction.The competition, which has been running for 17 years now, can feel a bit like 3rd grade graduation with prizes for everyone. There are eight categories based on engine displacement (from sub-1L to above 4L), plus awards for the best new engine, best green engine, best performance engine, and best overall.
The results are as much power as the four-pot motors they’re replacing, but in a smaller and lighter package that burns less fuel and emits fewer pollutants. The only normally aspirated engine to win an award—two, in fact—was Ferrari’s 4.5-litre V8, a unit that’s been replaced in the new 488 GTB by a smaller (yes, you guessed it) turbocharged engine.
The BMW i8’s powertrain took top honors for the best new engine and the best engine between 1.4L and 1.8L, and it almost beat Tesla’s Model S powertrain for best green engine on its way to the overall win. You’ll be able to read a lot more about the i8 and its freakishly good powertrain when we publish our full review in the next few weeks, but suffice it to say that we’re not surprised it won.
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