Test driving the Kenworth W990

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A quiet and smooth, easy ride. That’s the best way to describe how Kenworth’s W990 drives – or I should say, rides, since I was a passenger on the Sept. 28 test drive of this new truck in Las Vegas.

From the moment you hop into the cab, the W990 boast a beefy feel with its long-hood design. Though it blocks a little bit of the driver’s view of the road, overall, there is a wide vantage point from the cab, and Kenworth is banking on the long hood being a design feature experienced highway drivers would look for in a truck.

The first model I drove in was the W990 76-inch mid-roof with a Cummins X15 engine that offers 605hp and 2,050lb./ft. of torque, as well as an 18-speed manual Eaton Fuller transmission.

Kenworth W990 with W990 76-inch mid-roof with a Cummins X15 engine.

This model is not available in Canada due to its 300-inch wheelbase, but all other models on display during the test drive are offered north of the border.

The second truck I got a ride in was also a W990 76-inch mid-roof, but with its 251-inch wheelbase is available in Canada.

It had a Paccar MX-13 engine with 485hp and 1,650lb./ft. of torque. This engine is typically quieter than the larger Cummins engine, but from this most recent experience, I can say both were very smooth and quiet at all speeds.

With a Paccar 12-speed automated transmission, Brian Bowe, development engineer with Kenworth, said only time will tell how many W990s will have automated transmissions compared to manual.

Bowe said the previous model, the W900, was about 50/50 when it came to automated and manual transmissions, but they would have to wait and see whether carriers would opt for automated in an effort to entice new drivers.

My second test ride was with my colleague from Transport Routier, Steve Bouchard, who was driving, and one thing we both noticed was how difficult it was estimate our speed. Rolling down the interstate at 65mph seemed like we were crawling, which we guessed was due to the long-hood design and slightly more boxy shape than Kenworth’s T680 and T880 models.

Kenworth W990 with Paccar MX-13 engine.

Speaking of boxy, like the W900, the W990 has more of a square look than the company’s other highway models, but has increased its aerodynamics by 7%, according to Jonathan Duncan, Kenworth’s design director.

The added aerodynamics, Duncan said, would equate to around a 2-3% fuel savings, but did admit that this was not the primary concern when designing the W990.

Because Kenworth is hyping the W990 as a driver’s truck – and a truck carriers could reward long-time drivers with as a retention tool – it’s not surprising they maintained the beefier look, but added some slight aerodynamic enhancements for fuel efficiency.

As with any truck, whether you are attracted to it visually is a matter of personal taste. Some people like Kenworths, some Macks, and others like Peterbilts…it’s subjective.

One driver who saw the W990 we were test driving said it was “so purdy,”so obviously he was a fan of the truck’s appearance, but not everyone will be.

What should not be subjective is how it performs on the road.

If you’re looking for something that mixes today’s technologies with smooth, easy driving performance, Kenworth’s W990 may be the truck for you.

Avatar photo

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.


  • I looked at one at Youngstown Kenworth in Hubbard, OH a few months ago. Kenworth FINALLY came out with a wider cab interior – after all these years!! I like the raised roof, too, so you can walk in from the sleeper without having to duck your head. The grill is gonna take some getting used to – it looks like it came off an International (Navistar). I would also add that I think it would be nice if the studio sleeper is offered.
    I didn’t take it for a drive bc, honestly, I wasn’t serious about purchasing just yet. And I’m also hoping President Trump, once he takes the oath for his second term, will maybe trash the FET. I think that will greatly motivate many of us buy new equipment with a new vigor. And, I’d love to see him castrate the EPA and their overreaching and insidious regulations that have choked out much of any profit in trucking.

  • Not a fan. Ugliest truck Kenworth ever developed since the hideous T2000.
    Looks like a Navistar product.
    Hate the wide cab trucks. If you are too fat to fit between the seats of the B cabs, you shouldn’t be able to pass a physical to drive a truck. Wider cabs also greatly increase blind spots on the passenger side. The cheap imitation VIT interior is a major disappointment as well. It looks more reminiscent of a Freightliner product. Deep Diamond is what set KW apart from the others that wish they had that kind of class.
    Now KW is just mediocre.
    Kenworth has the same business model as all the rest,
    “Build em cheaper and sell em higher.”
    The W900 studio could NOT be beat.
    This ugly POS shouldn’t have Kenworth’s name on it. I’ll keep rebuilding my ’86 studio. Boooooo Kenworth