The magazine has included Volkswagen’s Passat, Audi’s Q7 and TT, and Skoda’s Fabia among the contenders for Australia’s most prestigious motoring award.
But the decision to judge the cars on their merits, without immediate reference to the allegations over cheating of emissions standards, was not without considerable debate, Wheels editor Glenn Butler says.
“Never before have judges known that the cars gathered for Car of the Year testing included potential cheats,” Mr Butler wrote in the magazine’s latest editorial which hits the streets on Thursday.
“The arguments around the table fell into two main camps.
“The first advocated for immediate disqualification.
“The second took a more pragmatic view: innocent until proven guilty.”
At the end of the day the latter prevailed with Mr Butler ruling that the companies were accused but not yet guilty.
“Maybe next month. Maybe never. Remember, too, these are US regulations,” he said.
“We do not know if any Australian regulations have been broken.”
Wheels has decided that its judging process is robust enough to handle the world’s biggest automotive scandal which has resulted in thousands of cars being recalled worldwide.
But while the controversial cars remain in contention, no Australian built car made the cut.
That suggests that a locally-built vehicle will never again win the Wheels award with the Australian vehicle manufacturing industry winding down over the next two years.
Among the serious contenders for 2016 are the Mazda MX-5, the Mercedes Benz S-Class coupe, the Lexus RC, the Volvo XC90 and the Jaguar XE.
Some cheaper models also made the cut including the Suzuki Celerio and two from Kia, the Sorento and the Optima.
Luxury car maker BMW has the most cars in the list of finalists with four.
The winning car will be announced on January 20.
THE 25 FINALISTS IN THE 2016 WHEELS CAR OF THE YEAR AWARD
* Ford Everest
* Ford Mondeo
* Honda HR-V
* Jeep Renegade
* Hyundai Tucson
* Jaguar XE
* Kia Optima
* Kia Sorento
* Land Rover Discovery Sport
* Lexus RC
* Mazda MX-5
* Mercedes AMG GT
* Mazda CX-3
* Mercedes Benz S-Class Coupe
* Skoda Fabia
* Suzuki Celerio
* Suzuki Vitara
* Volkswagen Passat
* Volvo XC90
* Audi Q7
* BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
* BMW 7 Series
* BMW X1
* BMW i8
* Audi TT
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