Kenworth unveils W990

Avatar photo

Kenworth’s W900 has become a staple of the show ‘n shine circuit, its long hood and gleaming accents seem to guide drivers down the highway. The look has had a starring role in movies and been immortalized in belt buckles.

Now it has been re-imagined in the form of the W990.

“We’re celebrating the legacy of the W900 and the introduction of the next generation,” said Kenworth general manager and Paccar vice-president Mike Dozier, during a customer launch party at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “A lot of passion, a lot of pride, have gone into what we think is a really special product.”

The W900L remains available, he stressed. “But we’re planning for the future.”

Redefining a model like this is no small matter. The W900 has, in one form or another, been a staple of Kenworth’s lineup since 1961. The W is even a nod to Edgar K. Worthington, one of the company’s founding fathers who gave the brand its ‘worth’.

“Redesigning an icon is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a design team,” added Jonathan Duncan, Kenworth design director. Trucks like Kenworth’s T680 on-highway tractor and medium-duty models are important, he said. But they’re different. “They don’t sing songs about those. They don’t put those trucks on belt buckles necessarily.”

The Las Vegas event was the first opportunity most people outside of the Paccar family have had to soak in the truck’s unique profile, which had been under development for almost three years. Marketing teams have been keeping the truck under wraps for months, shrouding the distinct hood and grille as the truck made its way to photo and video shoots.

“While we included all the functional improvements, we had to kind of tap into the emotion and what is it that makes this kind of truck special,” Duncan added.

“The driver’s view over the hood, that’s a huge part of the appeal … It’s really designed to accentuate the hood.”

The details

The view from the driver’s seat in the Kenworth W990.

Measuring 131.5 inches from the bumper to the back of the cab – 1.5 inches longer than the W900L — the W990 comes as a day cab, with a 40-inch flat top sleeper, and 52- and 76-inch mid-roof sleepers. It also comes standard with a proprietary Paccar powertrain with a 510-hp/1,850 lb-ft MX-13 engine, 12-speed automated transmission, and 40K tandem rear axles.

It’s all built on the same 2.1-m cab platform used in the T680 and T880, which offers easier access for service teams. Lights are easier to replace, and bolt-on fenders can be replaced one at a time in case of damage.

“All the shiny bits on there are truly metal, polished stainless steel, polished aluminum castings, aluminum extrusions,” Duncan stressed.

Sitting up front is the largest cooling module found on any of Kenworth’s on-highway trucks, he continued. And the shape is 6-7% more aerodynamic than a W900L, although he admitted that won’t likely be the main driver for most buyers.

Much of the appeal will focus on the appearance.

The grille at the front maintains what’s described as a “cathedral shape”, with inset surfaces to define a tailored look. Design teams debated back and forth about whether to include the vertical bars that ultimately were included.

The “wind-split” raised section at the top of the hood itself is meant to accentuate its length as drivers look over the dash. Stainless steel air intakes wrap over the top so they can be seen from the driver’s seat, too, and against some colors they’re said to look twice as deep as they actually are.

“We also knew there would be a lot of things controversial about the truck, but our bosses let us take it a little bit further and do some unique things — like the side air intakes,” Duncan said.

Inside, final touches come in the form of a limited-edition cab and sleeper interior, and the W990 Driver’s Studio Package. The interior itself is black, accented by door and dash trim elements made in a glossy ravenwood. Blue accents can be found in the double-stitched diamond door pads, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the backing for driver and passenger seats that have suede charcoal inserts and perforated leather.

For living quarters, the W990 Driver’s Studio features the passenger seat that swivels 180 degrees and a rotating table for two, drawer-style refrigerator, and space for a microwave. The premium audio package includes a 320-watt amp, 10-inch subwoofer and eight speakers; swivel TV mount for up to a 28-inch flat screen TV; and optional EpicVue pre-wire for satellite TV. There’s an 1,800-watt inverter including a connection for shore power and four standard 120-volt sleeper outlets. The LED lights shine over it all.

The ever-important storage amenities come in the form of a full-size wardrobe, storage drawers, and storage space under the bunk.

While it offers a nod to the company’s heritage, the W990 also comes standard with the latest TruckTech+ remote diagnostics, and the seven-inch color in-cab NAV+HD display for navigation, audio controls, blind spot camera inputs and more.

Paccar Parts was also involved in the process to create aftermarket enhancements like a special LED lighting package and stainless trim.

“They’re going to want to customize their trucks,” Duncan said, referring to early buyers. “We’ve given them a great place to start.”

Avatar photo

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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.