Toyota T100 pickup trucks: Not especially competitive pre-Tundras

The Toyota T100 was Toyota’s first serious try at the torrid United States full-sized pickup truck market. Toyota dominated compact pickups, and America has an odd love affair with big, low-mileage trucks; the two best selling vehicles in America are always pickups. However, the Toyota T100’s market share was so small that only the most optimistic of Toyota’s press release writers could consider it to be a success; and there were good reasons for its low sales. That would change rather dramatically with the second generation Tundra.

toyota truck towing

The first T100, introduced in 1993, had a single engine, a 150 horsepower V6, and only came in a regular cab - with two trim levels, both available with two or four wheel drive. A small storage box was behind the seats, and the SR5 had a built in toolbox. Oddly, antilock brakes (rear only) were standard across the board. A four-speed automatic and five-speed manual transmission was available for each engine - the four speed unusual in 1993 when introduced. (The biggest sellers on the GM, Ford, and Chrysler sides were all V8s, and each of those companies had at least two V8 engines along with one V6).

The 1994 T100 had a driver’s side airbag and steel door beams; instead of adding a V8, Toyota added a 2.7 liter four-cylinder engine that produced 150 horsepower, just like the V6, for its rear wheel drive version. The four-cylinder helped the T100’s gas mileage, which was nothing special, while maintaining similar power and torque. More important, perhaps, was the new four-speed automatic, a welcome addition. The T100 also gained a “One Ton” model and a DX; the One Ton would be discontinued a scant two years later, in 1996.

The Toyota T100 was now the only “full sized” pickup with a four-cylinder engine. The V6 may have produced more power (at higher revolutions) than the ancient base V8s of Chevy and Dodge, but there wasn’t much of a gas-mileage benefit. Like its competitors, it had three-across seating, a bed large enough to hold a  four-foot by eight-foot sheet of plywood flat on the floor, and, less common, the ability to handle two-tier loading.

The T100 had dual cupholders, change compartments, coat hooks, and integrated storage areas, in keeping with other modern trucks. The T100 could now tow up to 5,200  pounds, with some models offering up to 2,450 pounds of payload.

The 1995 Toyota T100 finally gained an extended cab, called the Xtracab, adding 22 inches of length and forward-facing jump seats that could hold three people for a brief time (or two people for a long time; the middle person had very little height due to the transmission hump). Each seat had a seat belt. The V6 was newly enlarged and reached 190 horsepower, which was roughly competitive with the other brands’ smallest V8s. The 1997 T100s gained bucket seats and 16 inch wheels; the 1998 T100 carried forward with essentially no change.

The 1997 Toyota T100’s 190 horsepower V-6 engine was peppy when revved, but did not have much low-end torque, especially compared with the Dodge Ram; peak torque was good, on paper at least, at 220 lb-ft. When pushed, the transmission readily downshifted and the engine surged forward to the redline with an encouraging whine.  At highway speeds, transmission action was frequent, but the transmission was gentle. We averaged 16 mpg in mostly highway driving, on par with competitors’ similar trucks. (The Dakota’s V6 produced less power, but had more available torque at lower engine speeds. Most people, however, opted for the Dakota’s 220 horsepower 5.2 liter V8 - much to the detriment of America’s overall fuel use.) We had the automatic transmission; the manual would provide better acceleration and power.

There was a great deal of wind noise, and the windshield caught an unusual number of bugs, due to poor aerodynamics and a far-too-upright windshield. The wind noise helped to cover up the engine and road noise. Visibility was excellent, though. The horn was much easier to use than on the domestics, and the headlights were far better focused, so they seemed much more powerful while being kinder to other vehicles.

The instrument panel was clear, but there was a confusing array of stalks; the cruise control was very convenient but the wiper/washer was hidden by the steering wheel. There were two small areas for coins. The sunglass tray would have been handy, except that on acceleration the contents tended to fall out onto the floor. The cup-holders, likewise, would be handier if the contents were not allowed to tilt and spill (directly into the cassette player) so readily.

The base four-seater has a bench front seat, split 2/3 of the way across; though it tilts forward on the driver’s side, it does not slide unless you use the regular front/back control. Access to the rear is difficult from the driver’s side, easy from the passenger side. A small center cushion in front had a compartment too small to hold a CD.

It was moderately easy to get into the bed; the gate was held on with a metal latch assembly, which inspired more confidence than cables, even if it isn’t any stronger.

The T-100’s ride was pleasant; it managed to convey the impression that the roads had no sudden breaks, potholes, or jagged edges, absorbing sudden pavement changes very well without giving a luxury-cruiser lack of road feel. The non-truck-like feel, though, only contributed to the impression that the Toyota would not hold its own with its bigger American brethren. On the other hand, the four wheel drive model tended to be rather stiff and choppy, with body lean on turns.

One nice thing about the T100 was its high safety ratings - four stars for the driver, five for the passenger (NHTSA).

The Toyota T100 probably should have been marketed against the Dodge Dakota rather than the Dodge Ram, Ford F-series, and Chevy Silverado. A bigger engine would have helped; a small diesel with lots of torque would have provided credibility among the pickup crowd (Dodge reputedly sold more gas pickups because of the Cummins turbodiesel than any other factor, in the pre-1993 days). The price could be far too high, depending on options — considerably higher than the more comfortable, bigger, and more powerful trucks from the Detroiters. Sometimes there’s a premium for quality, but big trucks are an area where Detroit has done well, and lack of reliability has not been a major issue for most full-size pickup buyers. It was no surprise to us, after driving the T100, Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, and Chevy 1500, that the T100 was dropped in favor of the more Americanized Tundra.

Predecessors: older Toyota pickups

The full-sized T100 was not Toyota’s first high-capacity truck; a 3/4 ton truck had been sold before. In 1983, it was rated as having a capacity of 1,800 lb, and was also sold in unfinished camper and commercial cab/chassis form, and with a diesel option. A one-ton model came later (at least by 1985, when it had the 22RE engine), and in 1987 the one-ton Toyota truck had a 2,655 pound payload and could tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, though with a 116 horsepower 2.4 liter engine, it must have been interesting to drive with that load.

The Toyota Tundra replaces the Toyota T100

In 1998, the T100 was replaced by the more originally named Tundra. Built in Indiana with a ladder frame and optional V8, it sold better than the T100. We have a page for the Tundra - click here.

Toyota T100 engine specifications

Engine Hp Torque mpg (Stick)* mpg (Auto)*
2.7 liter four 150


20/24 19/22
3.0 liter V6 150




3.4 liter V6 190




Dodge Dakota V6 180 225 16/22 16/20
Dakota V8 230 295 14/20 14/18
* EPA city/highway miles per gallon

Capacities for the Toyota T-100 pickup

Spec T-100
Extended Cab
Regular Cab
Dodge Dakota
Extended Cab


121.8 130.9


209.1 208




67.2 65.6

3,550 lb

3,320 lb 3,528 lb
Payload (standard)


1,650 2,000 Ext. Cab
2,600 Reg. cab
Front headroom


Front legroom


Rear headroom


n/a 37.9
Rear legroom


n/a 24.8

Toyota T100 pickup truck pricing, 1993-1995

Year Style 5-Speed 2WD Auto 2WD 5-Speed 4WD Auto 4WD
1993 1 Ton Reg Cab V6


$15,943 . .
1993 Standard Reg Cab V6




1993 SR5 Regular Cab V6




1994 Regular Cab Pickup


. . .
1994 1 Ton Reg Cab DX




1994 Reg Cab Pickup V6 DX


$16,203 . .
1994 Reg Cab Pickup DX SR5




1995 Std Regular Cab Pickup


$15,295 . .
1995 Standard Regular Cab V6


$18,175 . .
1995 1 Ton Std Reg Cab V6 DX


. . .
1995 Reg Cab (4WDemand) DX . .


1995 Std Reg Cab V6 DX


$17,365 . .
1995 Xtracab Pickup V6 DX




1995 Xtracab Pickup V6 SR5





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