This might sound like sacrilege, but hear me out - American muscle cars have had their day. 

Huge power and a roaring exhaust used to be enough for car obsessives, but now we want a trunk full of tech, too. 21st century muscle cars like the Ford Mustang only manage the the first half of that equation - and even then only if you pony up for the gas-guzzling V8 engine, not the disappointing (and not all that economical) EcoBoost.

That's why I'd rather be behind the wheel of one of these - Audi's latest S5 coupé. It's got plenty of straight line power for racking up those motorway miles, but can handle itself in the corners too thanks to Quattro All-wheel drive, and has all the gadgets you'd expect.

Petrol-heads might laugh at me for even daring to say a turbocharged V6 engine is better than a naturally aspirated V8, but when I've got more tech toys than a branch of PC World inside the cabin, I really don't care.

Here's how I got on with the keys to an S5, and why it's showing the yanks a thing or two.


There's no escaping it: this second-generation S5 looks mean on the roads.

Audi's signature styling might not have changed too radically from the original model, but a low profile, wide front grille and flared rear (complete with angry-looking and even angrier-sounding quad exhausts) give quite the first impression. You won't want to see one of these creeping up in your rear view mirror.

I'm sure the four-door fastback version will end up the bigger seller, but it doesn't stand out on the road as much as this sleek two-door coupe. If you like to be noticed behind the wheel, this will definitely do the job.

Angular rear windows, bulging side skirts and that wide rear might not be as radical as a Dodge Challenger or Chevvy Camaro, but I still think it holds its own against the current crop of US import muscle cars, too.

The silver trim around the windows, down the side sills and on the wing mirrors aren't exactly subtle, but then nothing about this car is - just powering it on is guaranteed to turn heads, with those quad pipes roaring into life with a press of the push-start ignition. They quieten down straight away, though, so you're fine for motorway cruising. At least until you shift into Dynamic mode or put your foot down.

That's because there's a turbocharged, three-litre V6 engine under the bonnet, churning out around 360 horsepower and good for propelling you from 0 to 60 in about 4.7 seconds. When you unleash it all, you can really hear it. The S5 sounds fantastic, growling menacingly at traffic lights and roaring when you bury the throttle.

I spent two weeks driving one up and down the country over the Christmas holidays, and no amount of rain, fog or traffic could wipe the smile off my face.


It doesn't feel nearly as wide or cumbersome on UK roads as a Mustang, despite being a close match if you break out the tape measure. Audi has absolutely nailed the driving position, and there's more than enough visibility, even if you do still sit lower than most of the other cars on the road around you. 

Things stay surprisingly comfortable in Dynamic mode, and it rides over the bumps and holes you'd expect from any UK B road very well in Comfort mode.

I could go on about how the 8-speed tiptronic gearbox easily shifts fast enough for all kinds of road driving, even if it likes to upshift sooner than I'd like in Dynamic mode. Fuel economy is clearly still a priority, even when you're hooning it. You can always take over and do things manually with the wheel-mounted shifters, anyway.

I could also explain how the Quattro all-wheel drive system keeps things under control, even when you're trying very hard to put the back out. That's one thing American muscle cars still can't be beaten on - Audi's AWD system just isn't willing to play. 

Sure, I managed 30MPG, got luggage for two people in the boot for a week with the family over Christmas, and managed to squeeze a pair of willing test subjects into the back seats, even if they struggled to get in and out on account the low sitting position. And lack of leg room.

But this isn't a car website, though, and I'm not a motoring journalist. It's the tech that really matters here, so let's break it down.

The S5 is as packed to the roof with fun toys and and useful gadgets as just about every other Audi, which instantly puts it at the top flight of well-equipped cars.


The low-slung sports seats drop you snugly into the cabin, which wraps around you thanks to a raised centre console. It should look familiar if you've been inside practically any Audi in the last few years, which isn't a bad thing - every surface feels premium, with no cheap materials.

The flat-bottomed sports steering wheel is an optional extra, but I definitely think it's worth spending the cash on - it makes it much easier to get in and out, if you're six feet or taller like I am, and has perfectly placed palm rests for a controlled driving position.

Forget what your driving instructor taught you, this is definitely better than having hands at 10 and 2.

With virtually every option fitted to this press demo car, I had everything you could want in terms of comfort. Think three-zone climate control, heated seats that massage your back in three different ways, and mood lighting you can tweak to suit your mood. Driving angry? Maybe a calming blue will ease that lead foot and slow you down.


You'll spot the first must-have gadget as soon as you drop into the driver's seat. Virtual Cockpit has been an Audi party trick for a few years now, but it gets better with every version, and this latest one is as good as it gets.

Essentially replacing the entire instrument cluster with a high-resolution TFT screen, Virtual Cockpit lets you completely customise your view of the speedometer, rev counter, gear indicator and trip computer, and duplicates the infotainment system from the centre console.

It means you don't have to take your eyes off the road, which makes for distraction-free (and safer) driving. It also helps when you don't know where you're going - you can put detailed Google Maps navigation onscreen instead of things like fuel consumption, so you can concentrate on not getting lost.

You've got a choice of views, with large dials and a small area for maps, menus and music information, or smaller dials and a fullscreen view for your navigation. There's a third mode, too, with one single dial taking up the whole of the screen, but it's meant for track driving and can only be switched on when you're parked.

Everything is easy enough to control using buttons mounted to the steering wheel, and the screen is super-sharp, so you'll have no problem reading the smallest size text. It's vibrant, too, with bright colours really bringing maps and navigation into life.

Really, once you've used one of these, you won't want to go back to the traditional instrument cluster ever again.


You don't need to rely on VIrtual Cockpit, either. Just look straight ahead and the optional heads-up display beams the most important information straight onto the windscreen.

With your current speed, the current speed limit, and any driving directions right in your line of sight, you never feel distracted - even when you're in the middle of nowhere. At night. With no idea how to get home.

Believe me, I've been there.

You can't move it very far around the windscreen, but it never felt obtrusive. It'll start flashing if you're consistently driving above the speed limit, but c'mon, you shouldn't be doing that in the first place. 

Brightness is easy enough to tweak, and you can turn it off altogether if you like, but I pretty much left it on all the time. Heads up displays are going to be big in the future, so you might as well get used to them now.

Autonomous driving is the other bit of sci-fi car tech on the horizon, but we're not quite there yet. The S5 does have adaptive cruise control and lane assist, though - which are as close as it gets in an Audi right now.

Cruise control has its own dedicated control stalk beneath the indicators, but it's a little fiddly here - I'd love to see either on-wheel buttons, or some other placement. Toggle it on and the car will maintain a set distance from the traffic in front, slowing down if you hit traffic and picking up speed again once it clears. With Lane Assist on too, the car pretty much drives itself as long as you've got your hands on the wheel. You only need to apply the smallest amount of pressure and the wheel takes care of the rest. For long distance driving, it's fantastic.

Finally, when it comes to parking, Audi has you covered. The S5 has front, back and side sensors, as well as cameras built into the wing mirrors, front bumper and tailgate. That means you get a top-down view on the centre console as soon as you shift into reverse, just like you've got a tiny drone flying above the car. The audible sensors are generous with distance, letting you get very close to walls and other cars before it starts panicking - I had no trouble squeezing into tight gaps.

For those tougher spaces, though, the car can park itself. As long as it detects a space as you're pulling alongside it, you just have to change gears and handle the pedals - the wheel turns automatically and on-screen prompts tell you what to do. It works just as well as any automatic parking system I've used, and is genuinely handy in tight multi-storey carparks.


The S5 also supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so you can hand over control of the centre console screen to your phone instead of Audi's own infotainment system.

This is great for adding streaming music or voice controls - just plug your phone into the USB ports hidden under the driver's arm rest and you're good to go. No syncing, no nonsense: your phone's app will appear as an option in the main menu, and you can jump in and out of it whenever you like. Handy for having music from your phone, but navigation done through the car's own systems.

The controls take a little while to get used to, at least for Android Auto, as it was really designed with a touchscreen in mind. Once you work out how to jump between the menu icons using the touchpad, it quickly becomes second nature.

By itself, Android Auto is pretty basic - it's an improvement on the kinds of infotainment systems you get in cheap hatchbacks, but it can't hold a candle to premium saloon cars and coupés like this. If you're a Spotify addict, though, it's the perfect way to get your music pumping through your car's stereo speakers. That's why it works so well in the S5.

With the Virtual Cockpit filling the dashboard, you can leave your passenger to play with the tunes using the centre console's screen and controls. They can't accidentally delete your driving route, and you've still got volume controls right there on the steering wheel. They really compliment each other well.

Audi S5 coupe (2017) initial verdict

Is the S5 overkill for most people? Probably, but then so is a 75in 4K OLED TV - and I know I'd rather have one of those than a 1080p supermarket special.

You won't see many on the roads, so you'll stand out in a sea of Mercs and Beemers, and you'll have a lot more tech to play with inside the cabin. Virtual Cockpit is still the benchmark all other car companies have to match when it comes to digital dashboards, and adding things like Android Auto and Apple Carplay to the mix only makes them better.

The basic parking sensors are great, but automatic parking is better, and works brilliantly. Adaptive cruise control and lane assist are a great first start towards autonomous driving, too - even if they could do with a better placement than on another confusing control stalk underneath the steering wheel.

OK, so it's twice as expensive as a Ford Mustang, but the S5 is twice the car. It's got loads more tech, the cabin is a genuinely nice place to be in, and it's got an engine that doesn't guzzle fuel in quite such an alarming fashion as Ford's iconic muscle car.