As Toyota firmly established itself in the North American compact pickup truck market in the 1980s through 1990s, it seemed only logical that Toyota needed to capture part of the lucrative full-size pickup truck market. Rumored for many years before, the 1993 Toyota T100 boasted a full-size (8 ft) pickup bed but retained the engine and suspension setup of its smaller and older sibling, the compact Toyota Pickup Truck. Although the T100 was a bit larger than the competitive mid-size Dodge Dakota and compact Ford Ranger pickup trucks of the time, it was still much smaller than full-size American pickup trucks of the time. This gave the T100 a unique position and opportunity within the truck ranks. Though economical, reliable and practical, in the grand scheme of things the unsuccessful T100 had not captured as much of the market as Toyota had hoped. Many critics maintained the T100 was still too small, despite being larger than both the Toyota Pickup Truck and the Toyota Tacoma compact trucks, for the full-size segment.
Although sales were slow at start, the T100 sales did reach into the mid 40,000 vehicles sold range (1996) in the United States. Sales of the General Motors C/K Trucks were roughly 700,000 per year, while sales of the Ford F-Series surged from 550,000 to nearly 850,000 and Dodge went from 100,000 to 400,000 with the introduction of the new Dodge Ram in 1993. Sales of the T100 fell approximately 30% when the new Ram went on the market half a year or so after the T100's launch.
Upon introduction, the T100 was criticized for several things. The first was being too small to appeal to buyers of full-size work trucks, the second was the lack of an xtracab version and the third and perhaps most important criticism, was the lack of a V8 engine with the only available engine being that of a small 3.0 liter V6 powerplant which was already found in Toyota's compact trucks and in the 4Runner. Although considered criticisms by many, Toyota stated these were all factors that were taken into consideration when designing and producing the T100. They claimed the smaller size was planned to offer a larger truck with a compact "feel", an Xtracab was on the horizon and the 3.0 liter V6 would provide far better fuel economy than the vehicles it aspired to rival.
Beyond the issues of size and horsepower the T100 did receive some praises from the media, acquiring J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey "Best Full-Size Pickup" award and the "Best of What's New" award by Popular Science magazine in its first year on the market. The T100 was the first vehicle -car or truck - ever to receive an "Initial Quality Survey Award" in its first year of production. For 1994 (the truck's second model year) and 1995 (the third) the T100 was again awarded "Best Full-Size Pickup in Initial Quality" by J.D. Power and Associates. In 1997 the T100 was awarded "Top Three Vehicles in Initial Quality - Full-Size Segment" once again by J.D. Power and Associates.
When it was introduced, the T100 had one cab configuration, a regular cab, and one available engine, a 3.0 L V6 with 150 hp (112 kW) and 180 lb⋅ft (244 N⋅m) of torque. In 1993, a 2.7 L I4 engine with 150 hp (112 kW) (like the 3.0 V6) and 177 lb⋅ft (240 N⋅m) of torque was added in the hopes new buyers would be drawn in with promises of greater fuel economy and a lower price (than previous models). Toyota ultimately realized there was no alternative but to add more power to the truck and in 1995 Toyota added the 190 hp (142 kW) and 220 lb⋅ft (298 N⋅m) of torque 3.4 L V6. An Xtra Cab model came along several months into the 1995 model year as well. The T100 received only minor changes throughout its run, aside from the engine changes and the Xtra Cab addition. A driver-side airbag was installed for MY 1994 (a passenger-side air bag never became available), and larger 16-inch rims became the norm for most of the 4X4 models starting in 1996. It was evident by late 1996/ early 1997 that Toyota was already investing in its next truck (what ultimately became the Toyota Tundra). At the time (late 1990s) many believed, a revamped T100 was on the way (with the promise of a V8 engine) and there were some reports that altered V8 powered T100s were used as test-mules, but ultimately it never came to pass, and Toyota went back to the drawing board and the Toyota Tundra came to be.
Toyota Racing Development (TRD) introduced a supercharger for the 3.4 liter engine in 1996 and it became available for the T100, the Tacoma and the 4Runner with the 3.4 liter V6 (and later the Tundra). Horsepower jumped to the 260 hp (194 kW) range (depending of the generation of the supercharger) and 250 lb⋅ft (339 N⋅m) to 265 lb⋅ft (359 N⋅m) of torque. This power add on was available for MY 1997–1998 T100s only. Earlier 3.4 V6 powered T100s have different computer and electrical layouts which do not support the TRD device.
The T100 was manufactured and partially engineered by Toyota-subsidiary Hino. Three trim lines were offered: the base model, the DX, and the top-of-the-line SR5. The maximum towing capacity was 5,200 lb (2,360 kg) and the truck had a payload limit of 2,450 pounds. Although most trucks fell within the 1/2 ton realm, a 1-ton model was offered (in 2 wheel drive form) for several of its earlier years until finally being dropped because of a lack of interest.
For the T100's first three model years, they were assembled in Tokyo, Japan. The T100 was the last Japanese-built Toyota pickup made for North America when in 1996 Toyota moved production of the T100s to the United States with the opening of Toyota's new Tundra Gibson County, Indiana plant. Some 1997 T100s were made in Japan. The US retail price of the T100 built entirely in Japan included a 25% import tariff. The T100 was discontinued in 1998 and replaced by the larger V8-powered Tundra.
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