Holden Jackaroo 1992 - 2005

This series of articles offers buying tips and advice on some of our all-time favourite used four wheel drives. Vehicles that have proven themselves and stood the test of time. These vehicles, if serviced and looked after properly, can represent good value for anyone searching for a used 4x4. In this article we deal with the misunderstood Holden Jackaroo.

Horses for Courses
Holden Jackaroo

The Jackaroo may seem an odd bedfellow when mentioned alongside big, bruising four wheel drives like the Patrol and Land Cruiser but it's unique style may just make it an ideal 'Outback Tourer'.

An understanding of the Holden Jackaroo is helped with an understanding of this medium sized 4x4's origins. The Jackaroo was the culmination of (Australia's) Holden passenger cars heritage and (Japan's) Isuzu truck heritage.

The second generation Holden Jackaroo was released in 1992 and, like most Gen. ll vehicles, big improvements were made over the original.

The initial run came with either a 3.2 litre petrol V6 or a 3.1 litre intercooled turbo diesel. Power and torque figures were strong and these engines were coupled to a five speed manual transmission while the petrol motor had an optional four speed automatic.

The diesel and petrol combinations proved to well thought out and reliable with the ability to move the 2000kg vehicle around relatively easily.

In 1998 Holden released a new 3.0 litre turbo diesel engine which many regarded as the finest power plant in it's class. Earthmoving legend, Caterpillar supplied new fuel injection technology that produced 118kw of power and 333Nm of torque. More grunt than the market leading Land Rover Discovery and Nissan Patrol.

This engine won awards for emission control and praise from everyone who drove it.

Options and Choices

The Jackaroo was initially released as a 2 door and 4 door wagon, both sharing the same chassis and wheelbase. The 2 door model was received with some derision - a 2 door 4WD on a full length, rather than SWB chassis, looked a bit odd.

An auxiliary fuel tank doubled fuel capacity to 100 litres while the wagon could be ordered as a five or seven seater.

Jackaroo's enjoyed a barriage of ever increasing options and the 'end of the run' Monterey and SE versions could have anything from two tone paint, power windows, remote locking, air snorkel, side steps, leather trim and even heated, power front seats.

Deep in the Interior

Holden Jackaroo's were always big and roomy inside. The front seats were large and comfortable although the driving position was quite 'truck- like' and upright. Reduced leg room was compensated by the feeling of sitting tall with a commanding view of the road.

Rear seats were lounge like with bags of room and comfort while the twin seats in the cargo bay were really designed for children. Their saving grace was that they folded up cleverly to reveal a sizeable luggage area.

Early controls were accused of being 'quirky' with an array of dash switches and a noticeable absence of steering column 'stalk' controls. It was nothing that effected driving once you had familiarised yourself with the layout. Regular control wands were added during later upgrades.

One thoughtful addition was a rear 12volt power socket to accommodate ancillaries like car fridges.

Off Road Performance

Holden Jackaroo's were built around a very rigid chassis, testament to Isuzu's truck background. Coil sprung rear ends and torsion bar front suspension were commonplace on similar models of this era and combined with gas shock absorbers did a reasonable job of bouncing around the paddock. Eventually, coil springs were added to all four corners while all models came with a limited slip differential in the rear.

Holden and Isuzu never got as serious as the big guns of Toyota, Nissan and Land Rover when it came to developing the 4WD nature of the vehicle. Although competent the Jackaroo was never going to compete on severe terrain that involved stretching wheel travel and suspension components to the limit.

Although it was a healthy climb into the cab, the underside sported some bash-armour that could get caught on lumpy knolls and ground clearance could have been higher.

The four wheel drive system was a simple part-time affair and while it offered High and Low Range four wheel drive it was never regarded as competition for it's more capable competitors. In saying this, the Holden Jackaroo still managed to pull off a win in the 1999 'Australian Safari 4x4 Rally'.

Later SE models had the ability to select 4WD 'on the fly' at speeds of up to 100kph while the Monterey version received TOD (Torque On Demand) where power was distributed to the front and rear differentials proportionate to need. With the push of a button full time 2WD could become 4WD, sensing traction and delivering up to a 50% power split between front and rear wheels.

On Road Performance

It was on the tarmac where the Jackaroo really shone. Ventilated disc brakes , which later on gained ABS, did an admirable job of stopping the not inconsiderable 2 tonne mass.

The turning circle was criticised for being a little on the wide side but it moved about traffic crisply and efficiently - the comfortable interior and panoramic view more than compensating.

Acceleration was refreshingly good and smooth gear shifts from both manual and auto transmissions were more sedan-like than clunky four-wheel-drive.

Some body roll in corners was evident but nothing scary and the rigid chassis meant handling was better than many of it's rivals.

Fuel consumption has never been a strong point in big heavy 4x4's and while the Jackaroo didn't disgrace itself it didn't set any economy benchmarks either. Expect about 12L per 100km from the diesel and around 15L for the petrol.

The 3.0 litre diesel showed it's trucking pedigree with a distinctive diesel 'clatter' while the petrol V6 had a reassuring note.

Wind noise became evident over 80kph but nothing to scare the horses.

The Test of Time

The Holden Jackaroo was constructed to be resistant to corrosion and the galvanised steel sheeting used in the manufacturing process have proved to be a valid inclusion. Bodies of older Jackaroo's appear to be resisting the ravages of time.

No single reliability issue raises it's head and well serviced models are reputed to do +250,000km without major overhauls.

Diesel engines from 1998 onwards were subject to a recall for faulty fuel injector sealing. The high-pressure fuel injection system is sensitive to oil viscosity and the correct weight oil should always be used.

If you're looking for a four wheel drive to perform a role as an off-road warrior then we suggest you could do better looking at other marques. While the Holden Jackaroo wasn't a bad four wheel drive there are elements of the design that restrict it for serious long term work.

The vehicles potential really lies in the roomy interior and basic comfort levels. Our choice of engine would be the perky V6 petrol motor. With a towing ability ranging from 1600-2500kg the Jackaroo has the muscle to move a caravan or boat comfortably and could be a rewarding buy as a long range tourer.


The article How to Buy a Used Four Wheel Drive offers some advice when looking at second hand models.

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