The Holden Jackaroo was produced by Isuzu between 1981 and 2005 as a midsize 4x4 to break into the burgeoning off-road market. The earlier versions were a box-style design, typical of most vehicles of the 1980s, with strong, hard lines and a very utilitarian feel. The 1992 release of the second generation Jackaroo had a softer look with a raking grille, curvier front bumper, and a more rounded overall look to the car.
The improvements brought about in the later 4x4 positioned the Jackaroo as a more luxurious car. It was better equipped, had a more stylish cockpit, and a more powerful range of engines to satisfy critics of the earlier models� sluggish performance and basic interior. The Jackaroo was available as a three-door or five-door version and also with both a short and long wheelbase.
The Jackaroo is a good value mid-range 4x4. It�s not a soft off-road, school run car, and neither is it an out and out workhorse. It has the looks of a quality family 4x4, with elegant, hardworking lines, but not the rugged punch of a pure commercial vehicle. Owners talk about its great performance, reliability, and good storage capacity throughout.
The 1980s Jackaroos were powered by 2.0-litre petrol engines. By 1986, a 2.3-litre and a turbo-diesel version were available, and fuel injection was added the following year. Holden revamped the power in 1992 fitting a pushrod overhead valve (OHV) system attached to a rugged 3.1-litre intercooled turbo-diesel that was better suited for towing and rough terrain.
Holden added more poke in 1998 when the U8 Jackaroo series were equipped with 3.5-litre or 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four. The diesel gained additional torque through its 5-speed gearbox that was fitted to a part-time 4wd with open front and limited rear differentials, giving extra purchase on difficult climbs.
The later model U8 came with two engine sizes: the 3.5-litre, V6 SOHC 24-valve engine or the new 3.1-litre turbo-diesel engine. There was also the choice between a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual gearbox. The basic Jackaroo was equipped with a selectable 4wd, while the higher spec cars came fitted with �shift on the fly� switches, enabling the driver to change between 2wd and 4wd at speeds of up to 100km/h.
Jackaroos gave good cross-terrain performance too, due to their durable coil spring live rear axel and an independent front suspension. Its ample ground clearance ensured passengers were guaranteed a comfortable on-road drive and gave the vehicle great off-road capability.
Fuel consumption, for example, on the 3.0-litre diesel varies between 14.1 L/100km around the city to 10.4 L/100km travelling down the highway, while the travelling range of the Jackaroo with its 85-litre petrol tank could be increased by fitting a long range tank.
Holden�s original vehicle came with a very limited options package, which led to a rethink of the series� design. It was not until the 1990s that this was updated, and even the basic trim had the quality feel of a family Ute rather than a commercial working car. Options included safety airbags, alloy wheels, powered mirrors, powered steering and electronic windows, and a VDC entertainment system on the higher spec models.
The 2001 Monterey edition really put the Jackeroo into the luxury market, including such additional stylish extras as powered windows, air conditioning, and soft leather upholstery. Heated seat covers and genuine wood veneered dashboard and trimming gave the Monterey that feeling of driving a class vehicle. Additions like the external temperature sensors, barometric pressure indicators, and compass heading made it a fully equipped car for exploring the great outdoors.
There is sufficient headroom and legroom up front, and the rear gives plenty of space for passengers in the back. On some models, there is the addition of two small foldaway seats that are ideal for kids.
The Jackaroo didn�t reach the sales potential of its competition, like the Land Rover Landcruiser, Mitsubishi Pajero, and Nissan Patrol, but anyone who has owned this 4x4 will attest to its quality and reliability. It performs well as a family Ute and is well capable of being used as a light, rugged commercial vehicle.
With reliability being one of its main assets, the Jackaroo is still a popular used car even when it has over 250,000 km on the clock. The later SE and Monterey versions look likely to hold their own against the competition well into the future.