The times they are a-changin’

Did you know that Bob Dylan was still making music? In fact, he released a new album a couple of months ago called Shadows in the Night.

If the arrival of his latest offering passed you by, don’t feel too bad. The launch of a new Dylan album isn’t quite the cultural event it once was. He might have been the “voice of a generation” in the sixties, famous for revolutionary protest songs, but his music has changed over the years. It still has a folksiness about it, but it has become slow, mournful and filled with nostalgia.

His singing voice has also undergone a metamorphosis. It has become deep and gravelly – a world away from the nasal tones that belted out Blowing in the Wind.

Dylan sounds about 105 years old in his latest album.

Why doesn’t Bob Dylan still have the cultural impact he once had? His latest music, while different from his earlier famous stuff, has an undeniable charm.

It is soulful, melodic and honest. There’s only one real problem: it has

become dated. Like the man himself, the music sounds old. Generally speaking, the music industry caters to the young, so ageing musicians are side-lined to some extent.

This brings me to the Land Rover Defender. The age of the Defender is quickly drawing to a close. As you probably know, production of this iconic 4×4 will cease at the end of the year.

The fact that production of the Defender is coming to an end is sad, but it is also difficult to blame Land Rover for finally axing the vehicle. The Series/Defender has been around for 67 years which, in automotive terms, means it is absolutely ancient.

Nowadays, models are usually replaced every five to seven years. And every new iteration of a particular model boasts significant technological advancements. Climb into the cabin of a seven-year-old car and it will instantly feel outmoded. Even affordable cars now tend to sport things such as Bluetooth connectivity, airbags, electric windows, climate control, satellite navigation and touch- screen infotainment systems.

To realise just how old and outdated the cabin of the Defender is, you need only climb into any of Land Rover’s other vehicles. The Discovery, Disco Sport, Range Rover Sport and Evoque all boast cabins that are supremely comfortable and full of fancy gadgets. In fact, it is difficult to believe that the same company could be responsible for vehicles as disparate as the Defender and the Range Rover.

It is easy to describe the Defender as flawed. There’s little elbowroom, forcing you to open the window if you want to sit comfortably behind the steering wheel. The handbrake sits in an awkward position. The turning circle is atrocious. It still doesn’t have airbags. Wind noise is an issue. Performance is less than stellar.

But calling the Defender flawed isn’t really fair. It isn’t flawed – it is just old. Yes, it has received some much-needed upgrades over the years (and living with a Defender is now much easier than it used to be), but the basic architecture of the vehicle has remained the same for nearly 70 years.

Technologically speaking, the Defender has been pushed to its limit. Only so much can be done without redesigning the vehicle completely, which is why Land Rover is now working on a replacement for the Defender. With vehicle safety requirements becoming more stringent by the year, the Defender is essentially being legislated out of existence.

The world has changed an awful lot over the last 67 years, and the fact that the Defender managed to stay relevant for so long is a testament to its fantastic design. But the time has come to retire the vehicle with dignity.

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan:

The line it is drawn The curse it is cast The slow one now Will later be fast As the present now Will later be past Your old road is Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now Will later be last.

For the times they are a-changin’ The end has come for the Defender,

but I look forward to seeing the replacement Land Rover comes up with. Judging by their other recent creations, it should be something special. The king is dead. Long live the king! – GG van Rooyen