Motor Trend has named the Chevrolet Volt as winner of the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year Award. The award was announced Tuesday via streaming video on from within the GM wind tunnel in Warren, Mich.

Described as a breakthrough, game-changing car of the future, Motor Trend said the Volt is one of the most significant vehicles to be named Car of the Year in the 61-year history of the award.

"The Volt absolutely delivers on the promise of the vehicle concept as originally outlined by GM, combining the smooth, silent, efficient, low-emissions capability of an electric motor with the range and flexibility of an internal combustion engine," said Angus MacKenzie, editor in chief of Motor Trend. "It is a fully functional, no-compromise compact automobile that offers consumers real benefits in terms of lower running costs."

The Volt is powered by GM's innovative Voltec propulsion system, which consists of a 16-kW/h lithium-ion battery pack, a 149-hp electric motor, an 84-hp 1.4-liter gasoline engine, and a generator. The Volt gets a 25 to 50 mile range in pure EV mode, and up to 310 additional miles with the internal combustion engine running.

"The more we think about the Volt, the more convinced we are this vehicle represents a real breakthrough," said Mackenzie. "The genius of the Volt's powertrain is that it is actually capable of operating as a pure EV, a series hybrid, or as a parallel hybrid to deliver the best possible efficiency, depending on the user's duty cycle. For want of a better technical descriptor, this is the world's first intelligent hybrid. And the investment in the technology that drives this car is also an investment in the long-term future of automaking in America."

Every year, the editorial staff of Motor Trend meets to determine the field of contenders for the Car of the Year Award. In a week-long process that includes the full complement of Motor Trend performance tests, track-based ride and handling evaluations, and driving on a real-world loop that includes freeway, regular two-lane highway, and a loose-surface track, the contenders are then evaluated against these criteria:

Advancement in Design: The Chevy Volt possessed quality execution of exterior and interior styling, including a strong, confident and tastefully upscale front end and a design driven by the pursuit of aerodynamic efficiency. Its interior, though relatively conventional, is equipped with impressive high-resolution and highly interactive instrument and center stack LCD screens. Plastic panels in the front doors allow an effective, low cost means of changing the Volt's interior colorway.

Engineering Excellence: With an advanced powertrain that is easily adaptable to other vehicle platforms, the Volt boasts some of the most advanced engineering ever seen in an American automobile. The car can run as an EV, a series hybrid, or a parallel hybrid, depending on how far you drive and how you drive. Plus, the battery maintains maximum efficiency and recharging is easy, via a 110-volt portable recharger carried in the trunk that can plug into any household socket.

Efficiency: In a multi-day, 299-mile test that involved a mixture of normal freeway and stop/start city driving - and recharging the car overnight as most consumers would - the editorial team used a total of 58.6 kW-hr of electrical energy and only 2.36 gallons of gas, an efficiency equivalent to a conventional vehicle returning 72.9 mpg. Editors agreed that the Volt, a vehicle that can pass a standard EPA fuel economy test in full EV mode, surpassed expectations for low energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Safety: The Volt's standard passive safety equipment starts with a complement of eight airbags, including dual-stage front bags, kneebags and side-impact bags for the driver and front passenger; also included are roof-rail mounted head curtain bags that protect all four passengers. Active safety features include anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control.

Value: Though the Volt is priced at $41,000, consumers can apply for a $7500 federal tax grant, plus state grants where available. In addition, testing suggests that even if drivers regularly went 80 miles between charges, the Volt will likely be significantly cheaper to run than regular hybrids.

Performance of Intended Function: Editors overall agreed that the Volt delivers on the promise of the vehicle concept as originally outlined by GM, combining the smooth, silent, efficient, low-emissions capability of an electric motor, with the range and flexibility of an internal combustion engine.