Something has been nagging at me since I first test drove a Range Rover almost two years ago. At that time, I felt $42,000 was far too much to pay for a sport-utility vehicle. Did Toyota design the new T100 truck to be a failure? After driving the T100, you get the impression it is a vehicle Toyota never really wanted to build. If Toyota wanted to do the job right, the Japanese automaker would have built the pickup in the United States and avoided a government-imposed 25 percent tariff. There are plenty of closed auto factories collecting dust. And if Toyota really wanted to see the T100 succeed, it would have installed a muscular V-8 engine instead of a peppy V-6. Maybe those things would have happened had the political climate been different. Buttrade friction between the United States and Japan in recent years - the result of a massive imbalance in Japan's favor - made Toyota's foray into the full-size truck market a very hot potato. Toyota dealers pressed the company to build a full-size truck so that their loyal customers could move to a bigger truck and still drive a Toyota. Until the T100 came along, full-size trucks were the only segment of the auto industry completely dominated by Dodge, Ford and General Motors. There was no foreign competition. I believe Toyota is the world's best automaker. And if Toyota wanted to build a better truck than the Big Three, it could have easily done so. But Toyota would have risked creating a backlash. American autoworkers are losing their jobs as their plants are being closed because of factors such as foreign competition. So Toyota took the low road in an effort to be politically correct and outfitted the T100 so it probably never will threaten Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet. In fact, sales of the truck are dreadful. In some states dealers are tacking on huge rebates to move the T100. PERFORMANCE There's only one engine available in the T100, a very smooth running 150-horsepower, 3.0 liter V-6 with overhead cams. Initially you get the impression that the lack of a high-horsepower V-8 isn't that big a drawback in Toyota's full-size truck. From a stop and at slow speeds, the T100 has plenty of muscle - enough to make the rear tires squeal. It's in acceleration at speeds of 35 mph and higher that the T100 is a weakling. The engine simply runs out of steam as the tachometer's needle reaches 4,000 rpm. This week's test truck came equipped with an excellent five-speed manual transmission that shifted smoothly and easily. The test truck was the four-wheel drive SR5 model, which had a transfer case that allows the driver to shift into four-wheel drive while on the go. For instance, you can be driving as fast as 50 mph and shift from two-to four-wheel drive. HANDLING The T100 had a pretty healthy appetite for unleaded fuel. In the city with the air conditioner running, it gulped unleaded fuel at the rate of 15 miles per gallon. On a road trip to Tampa, mileage increased to 21. On the road it does a very credible job of isolating the cab from jolts and bumps. The ride is firm and smooth, very quiet and stable. Only the worst potholes and speed bumps cause the T100 to bounce, and the disturbance is no more than a minor nuisance. The steering is light, precise, quick and very carlike. Two-wheel drive versions of the T100 are equipped with a power rack and pinion unit, while four-wheel drive models get a recirculating ball-type steering system that can turn a circle in just 21.6 feet. Braking is another strong point. The test vehicle came with a strong set of disc/drum brakes. The T100 has an anti-lock system, but it is only active on the rear brakes. FIT AND FINISH The carlike interior of the T100 is loaded with user-friendly features. It has thoughtful touches such as lighted window switches that stay lighted after the key is re oved from the ignition, a switch on the dash that allows the driver to start the truck without engaging the clutch and a slide-open rear window. The 60/40 split bench seat is very firm and supportive and comfortable for long stretches of driving. Two can sit comfortably, but when a third person comes along for the ride, shifting can be cumbersome for the driver. The seat also has a fold-out center armrest. There is plenty of legroom in Toyota's big truck. And there's plenty of room in the bed - you can place 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood between the wheel wells. The test truck came with a black plastic bedliner - a good touch that contrasted nicely with the vehicle's bright red paint job. If the T100's interior has a weak point, it might be the gauge package. The analog gauges are very plain. The instruments for the temperature and oil pressure move horizontally and are fairly unattractive. As with every other Toyota I have driven lately, the T100's quality was nothing short of excellent. It just may be the quietest, smoothest truck you can buy. Despite its small engine and high price, I like the T100. It gives you the feeling it's built to last. Truett's tip: The full-size Toyota T100 has a small engine and big price. For those reasons it may end up getting mauled by Ford, Chevy and Dodge, despite the fact that it's a very well-made truck.