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Tiny Fiat TwinAir wins engine of the year

Twin heir: Fiat’s 875cc two-pot TwinAir might be judged the world’s best engine, but it is deemed too expensive to be sold in Australia.

Fiat Group dominates global engine ‘Oscars’ but TwinAir is still not coming here

19 May 2011

FIAT has won the 2011 International Engine of the Year award with its tiny 875cc two-cylinder TwinAir petrol engine, beating a host of hi-tech and even zero-emissions powertrains from the world’s top car manufacturers to take the major title and three other categories, including ‘best green engine’.

After two successive years of Volkswagen Group domination of the coveted independent ‘Engine Oscars’ with its innovative 1.4-litre Twincharger engine, Fiat has also taken out the ‘best new engine’ and sub-1.0-litre categories with the two-pot TwinAir, which is currently available in 85 HP (63kW) Turbo configuration in Europe’s Fiat 500 and 500C and will soon be launched in the 500-based Chrysler Ypsilon.

Three other versions – a 65 HP (48kW) normally aspirated, 80 HP (60kW) Turbo bi-fuel and higher-performance 105 HP Turbo (78kW) unit – are also set to be launched in Europe soon.

Fiat importer Ateco Automotive has this week reaffirmed to GoAuto that there are no moves to bring the TwinAir engine to Australia.

Released in Europe last year, the engine was designed specifically to meet CO2 emissions limits within Europe’s carbon-based tax regime and is more expensive than the current entry-level engines in Australia. Ateco says it could only offer TwinAir here “if there was a suitable tax advantage”.

36 center imageFrom top: Fiat's TwinAir engine, Ferrari 458 Italia, BMW M3, Nissan Leaf, Mercedes-Benz SLS.

After the Fiat Group took home the ‘best new engine’ gong last year with the 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo found in the MiTo and Giulietta – beating stablemate Ferrari’s all-new 425kW 4.5-litre V8, which controversially did not feature in the 2010 awards – the judging panel, which comprises 65 motoring journalists from 32 countries (including Australia), this year saw fit to give the 458 Italia’s 4499cc dry-sump 90-degree direct-injection V8 the award for ‘best performance engine’ and best engine above 4.0 litres.

As a result, the Fiat Group collected six of the 12 available awards, with BMW bagging four and the Volkswagen Group (including Audi) collecting two.

BMW again won the 3.0-4.0-litre category with the 4.0-litre V8 found in the M3 – its fourth successive category win – as well as the 2.5-3.0-litre class for its 3.0-litre DI Twin Turbo fitted across much of its range and the 1.8-2.0-litre section for its 2.0-litre Twin Turbo diesel used in the 123d and X1.

Its 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo engine co-developed with PSA Peugeot Citroen also took out the 1.4-1.8-litre category.

Volkswagen’s 1.4-litre TSI Twincharger continued to feature in the awards, again taking out the 1.0-1.4-litre category, while the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo found in the Audi TT RS and RS3 won the 2.0-2.5 class for the second year in a row.

Awards co-chairman Dean Slavnich described Fiat’s TwinAir engine, which includes a version of the patented MultiAir induction system, as “one of the all-time great engines”.

“Who would have thought that a two-cylinder unit could have won the International Engine of the Year title when we launched the Awards in 1999?” he said.

“Its triumph is a clear signal that less is more: people want low-emission, fuel-efficient yet powerful engines, and just two cylinders certainly seems to provide a comprehensive solution.”

This is only the second time a sub-1.0-litre engine has taken out the top award, with Toyota’s 1.0-litre Yaris VVT-i winning in 1999. The results show that the TwinAir scored 372 points to beat the Twincharger on 346 and the Ferrari 4.5 V8 on 278.

BMW’s 3.0 DI Twin Turbo, which was runner up in the overall award in the previous two years, was in fourth place on 275 points.

More controversial is the TwinAir’s top billing in the green-engine category when, for the first time, pure-electric powertrains – including motors driving the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV – were among the contenders.

The results place the TwinAir on 258 points, clearly ahead of Toyota’s 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid (204), Nissan’s all-electric Leaf (185), VW’s Twincharger (184) and the i-MiEV, which scored just 92 points.

The judges described the result as “a stunning victory for the IC (internal combustion) engine, albeit one that takes engine size reduction and mass to a new level”.

Significantly, the judges decreed there was no room for Mercedes-Benz among the best engines in the world, despite the German manufacturer winning two categories last year – best performance engine and above-4.0-litres – with the world’s most powerful naturally aspirated production V8, the Mercedes-AMG 6.2-litre engine.

This engine placed third (on 119 points) in this year’s performance category behind the Ferrari 4.5 V8 (194 points) and Porsche’s 3.8-litre boxer six (126) – McLaren’s 3.8-litre V8 was back in fifth on 89 points – while in the above-4.0 class it was 50 points behind the Ferrari unit.

As was the case last year, the dry-sump version of the 6.2 V8 featuring on the Mercedes-AMG SLS supercar failed to make much of an impression on the judges. After not rating a mention last year, it scraped in for sixth place in the above-4.0 class with 96 points – 134 points behind the Ferrari 458’s V8.

2011 International Engine of the Year Awards2011 International Engine of the Year:
Fiat 875cc two-cylinder (Fiat 500)

2011 Best New Engine:
Fiat 875cc two-cylinder (Fiat 500)

2011 Green Engine of the Year:
Fiat 875cc two-cylinder (Fiat 500)

2011 Best Performance Engine:
Ferrari 4.5-litre V8 (458 Italia)

Sub 1.0-litre:
Fiat 875cc two-cylinder (Fiat 500)

1.0-litre to 1.4-litre:
Volkswagen 1.4-litre TSI Twincharger (VW Polo, Golf, Scirocco, Eos, Jetta, Tiguan, Touran, Skoda Fabia RS, Seat Ibiza Cupra, Alhambra, Audi A1)

1.4-litre to 1.8-litre:
BMW 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo (Mini Cooper S, Clubman Cooper S, Country Cooper S, Mini Works, Clubman Works) – co-developed with PSA Peugeot Citroen

1.8-litre to 2.0-litre:
BMW 2.0-litre Twin Turbo Diesel (123d, X1)

2.0-litre to 2.5-litre:
Audi 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo (Audi TT RS, RS3)

2.5-litre to 3.0-litre:
BMW 3.0-litre DI Twin Turbo (135i, 1 M Coupe, 335i, 535i, X3 35i, X5 35i, X6 35i, Z4, 640i, 740i)

3.0-litre to 4.0-litre:
BMW 4.0-litre V8 (M3)

Above 4.0-litre:
Ferrari 4.5-litre V8 (458 Italia)

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