PENELOPE Cruz has been named the Sexiest Woman Alive by Esquire magazine.

The Madrid-born actress has become the 11th woman to be awarded the coveted title, taking over from last year’s two-time winner Scarlett Johansson.

Posing on the cover in just a plunging black bathing suit, the 40-year-old leaves no questions as to why she takes the title.

Cruz has two children with Spanish husband Javier Bardem, 44.

The pair married in July 2010 – after starring together in Woody Allen’s 2008 film Vicki Cristina Barcelona, along with Scarlett Johansson – but they first met on the set of Jamon Jamon when she was 17.

Cruz will next appear in Spanish-language film Ma Ma and, bizarrely, in a film called Grimsby alongside comic Sacha Baron Cohen.