Sharper looking, more efficient and packing more technology than ever, the Audi A4 is the latest chapter in a story that began more than four decades ago.

The car that started life as the Audi 80 and took the fight to BMW and Mercedes-Benz, delivers on its promise to be better than ever.

Externally, LED headlights flank a broader, flatter grille, but the new model remains instantly recognisable. And beneath the streamlined bodywork, a determined drive to shed weight has made the car both more economical and compelling to drive.

But it is in long-distance travel where the A4 scores its highest points. A spacious, comfortable, upmarket cabin, seven-speed automatic transmission and weighty steering, make for secure, predictable progress in a perfect motorway vehicle.

The test car came in S line trim, with a sports chassis, adjustable suspension and front sports seats trimmed in black leather and Alcantara suede.

Beautifully constructed and oozing a comforting sense of calm, the entire package feels solid and reassuringly closely connected to the road.

The car is priced at £36,235 but Audi offers a tantalising list of options and on this car the likes of an electric tilt-and-slide sunroof, upgraded sound system and a set of 19-inch alloy wheels, to name a few, pushed the total to more than £43,000.

Inside, the dashboard is dominated by a centrally-mounted 10.1-inch touchscreen display, tilted slightly towards the driver.

The display replaces the previous rotary and pushbutton control on the centre tunnel console and can be controlled by touch but also very successfully by voice.

Audi says the system is even more adept at understanding many of the phrases used in everyday speech and it is certainly improving fast. Every destination I requested from the satellite navigation was recognised and programmed without any need to take your hand off the wheel.

In front of the driver sits the all-digital Audi ‘virtual cockpit plus’, a 12.3-inch display which can switch between three views at the touch of a button on the steering wheel.

The car driven here was also fitted with the ‘tour’ package, one of three driver assistance systems available. One element of the package is the adaptive cruise control which automatically adjusts the distance from vehicles ahead.

The A4 is available with a broad range of four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines with both petrol and diesel. Quattro all-wheel-drive is standard for the most powerful engines. Some are also fitted with a mild-hybrid system, to help reduce fuel consumption.

The front-wheel-drive car driven here used the 190 horsepower, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder TFSI engine and over the course of almost 400 miles, I managed an average of about 49mpg, comfortably and rather surprisingly exceeding the claimed fuel consumption.

It is clear that Audi understands what its owners like and what they would like improved. To that end it has taken a successful recipe and added a few carefully-chosen ingredients to add a little extra spice.

For drivers who value a sense of high-quality peacefulness above all else in their day-to-day motoring, the A4 delivers handsomely.

More than 40 years on, the A4 continues to fly the flag for the Audi brand and is certain to remain a big seller.

Auto facts

Model: Audi A4 40 TFSI 190 S line S tronic

Price: £43,415 as tested

Insurance group: 24

Fuel consumption (combined): 39.2mpg

Top speed: 150mph

Length: 476.2cm/187in

Width: 184.7cm/72.5in

Luggage capacity: 460 litres/16.2 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11.9 gallons/54 litres

CO2 emissions: 137g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles