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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.


Derek Clouthier

Derek Clouthier

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media industry as an editor, reporter and now as editor of Truck West. 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. derek@newcom.ca @DerekClouthier
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