The Nissan Leaf has defeated the Audi A8 and BMW 5-Series to earn the title of 2011 World Car of the Year.

In a surprise announcement, the Nissan Leaf has defeated the Audi A8 and BMW 5-Series to earn the title of 2011 World Car of the Year.

Deemed a "gateway to a brave new electric world," the panel of 66 automotive journalists were impressed by the Leaf's pure-electric powertrain and promise of zero-emission motoring.

According to Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, "It is a great joy that the world's first, mass-marketed electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, has won the prestigious award of 2011 World Car of the Year. This accolade recognizes Nissan LEAF, a pioneer in zero-emission mobility, as comparable in its driving performance, quietness and superb handling to gas-powered cars."

Oddly enough, despite the WCOTY victory, the Chevrolet Volt beat the Nissan Leaf to be crowned the 2011 World Green Car of the Year.

Other winners include the Ferrari 458 Italia for World Performance Car of the Year and the Aston Martin Rapide for World Car Design of the Year.

Nissan Leaf named 2011 World Car of the Year