I must be doing it all wrong. I find modern rods to be a vast improvement over older plastic rods in that they aren't as specialized.
Going back to the classic, stealthy looking GLX's I had them in 4,5,7 and 10 weight. They were very rangy for their time and were a decade or so ahead of their time. It took some time for even the biggest name in fly rods to learn to squeeze more resin out to make them light weight yet retain the strength of the carbon used and to use a carbon fiber scrim instead of cheaper and heavier fiberglass. The classic GLX's cast well off the tip and shifted gear as needed all the way to putting the powerful butt sections into play. A true progressive action rod is a joy to work with. No one else came even close to building a rod series as special as the old GLX's for a very long time.
These rods weren't the best for banging around in a boat or being kissed by weighted flies though, these were pure performance rods that pushed that fine line between durability and performance. You simply had to treat them differently than the other rods of the time that were clubs in comparison. I broke a couple probably through stupidity. One 2 piece they replaced with a 4 piece and the other broken much later was replaced with a Streamdance. That one didn't last very long in my quivver and neither did the GLX Max Linespeed I had for a short time. They both seemed comparatively heavy and thumpy. On reflection I might have taken GL-4's for replacement instead of the new-fangled GLX.
Though I used the above rods in all situations from spring creeks to salt water the specialized rods of that time were pure joys to use in the limited range they were built for. Scott G's and Winston IM-6's before they had the two letter series designations were magic wands.
To answer your question with less blather I'll say yes, the new models are better. They are better because everything to do with them is better. We know more about materials and testing and have better manufacturing techniques. This internet makes it easy for consumers to share information compared to back then when secret fishing holes were still kept secret and research on consumer items involved waiting for a magazine article. There are few secrets now so that keeps rod makers on their toes.
One very poor change is the rush for plastic rod makers to make $1,000.00 rods the norm.