LAS VEGAS — It was just a coincidence that fighter jets out of Nellis Air Force Base were occasionally buzzing the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the early evening hours of September 27.
But the incidental military flyovers fit right into the sense of fanfare down on the track’s infield, where Kenworth had booked the speedway to hold a grand unveiling event for its latest model, the W990, before an invited crowd of customers, dealers and trucking media.
Before eight of the new W990s made a choreographed, group entrance accompanied by theatrical lighting and rock music and were then parked for the crowd to inspect and admire, Kenworth officials talked about the new tractor and why this debut was special to them.
“The new Kenworth W990 is a reflection of the Kenworth brand, which represents the quality, engineering excellence and both customer and driver focus that goes into every Kenworth we build,” said Mike Dozier, Kenworth general manager and PACCAR vice president. “The Kenworth W990 represents the pride, image and freedom of trucking, and captures the spirit of what trucking is all about.”
It also represents the next evolutionary step in the long-hood conventional W900 series, “The Driver’s Truck” as Kenworth likes to refer to it, which has been a high-profile part of the Kenworth line since 1961.
“We’re celebrating the legacy of the W900 and the introduction of the next generation of the 900, the W990,” Dozier said, but he was quick to clarify that the 990 isn’t so much the successor to the 900 as it is a branching off of the 900’s lineage.
“W900Ls aren’t going anywhere,” Dozier said, “but we’re planning for the future,” the thought being that the market will determine the direction of the 900 series.
The challenge in designing the W990 was to create something that represented a step forward aesthetically and technologically while honoring its predecessors. That challenge fell largely on Kenworth Design Director Jonathan Duncan as his team.
Duncan called the task of combining past and present, form and function a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“For this truck, it was all about the ‘wow factor,’” Duncan said. It was about making a statement that was original but unmistakably Kenworth.
The most prominent visual features on the W990 are the hood and the grille. With a bumper-to-back-of cab measurement of 131.5-inches, the W990 is only 1.5 inches longer than the W900L, but it appears longer. There’s less downward slope on the 990’s hood, and the wind split – the center crease that runs down the length of the hood – not only accentuates the familiar Kenworth “cathedral” shape but combined with a lower windshield also improves driver visibility.
“Behind the wheel, the driver’s view over the hood is a huge part of the appeal of the W990,” Duncan said. “It’s really one of the keys to the success of this design.”
The side air intakes wrap over the top of the hood so that they are visible from the driver’s seat, which has a strong visual impact from behind the wheel, Duncan said. They made it a point, he added, that all the “shiny metal parts” were stainless steel.
That also goes for the grille, the “face of the new W990,” Duncan said
“Incorporating stainless steel was important. The grill is a real statement. It had to be pure Kenworth and it needed to be instantly recognizable as the top-of-the-line. We maintained the traditional cathedral shape to the grille and the inset surfaces at the top to give it a refined, tailored look. That powerful center spear signifies this is part of the new generation of Kenworth trucks and the tapered grille spears are there for a classic touch.”
Despite the “monumental” appearance of the W990’s front end, it is actually 67 percent more aerodynamic than the W900, Duncan said. It wasn’t a consideration as they were designing it, he said, but they’ll take it.
While much attention was paid to the 990’s looks, it’s what’s inside that counts. Components under the hood have been reconfigured for easier serviceability, Duncan said, and the fenders are bolted on for easier replacement.
The W990 comes with the Paccar Powertrain consisting of the Paccar MX-13 engine rated up to 510-hp and 1,850 lb.-feet of torque, a 12-speed Paccar automated transmission and Paccar 40K tandem rear axles.
Kenworth TruckTech+ remote diagnostics system comes standard. Kenworth NAV+HD seven-inch, color in-dash display provides access to valuable features such as truck-specific navigation, roadside assistance, vehicle data, hands-free calling, audio controls, blind-spot camera inputs and the internet. Bendix’ Wingman Fusion system is optional.
The W990 is available in day cab, 40-inch flat top, and 52-inch and 76-inch mid-roof sleeper configurations, and is built on a 2.1-meter cab platform. In keeping with the theme of being ‘the driver’s truck,’ the W990’s cab and sleeper areas have also been designed to be a show of appreciation to those who drive it. In particular, there is a Limited Edition cab option and a W990 Driver’s Studio package of premium options that give the truck a sense of luxury.
The Limited Edition interior comes in midnight black with glossy Ravenwood door and dash trim accents. The interior features rich black leather seats, door pads and steering wheel with royal blue double-stitching. The Driver’s Studio offers a 180-degree swivel passenger seat and rotating table for two people, a swivel TV mount, drawer-style refrigerator and premium audio system.
There’s a full-size wardrobe space for hanging clothes, and ample storage space. The 1800-watt inverter includes a shore power connection and four standard 120-volt sleeper outlets to power a range of electrical devices. LED lighting provides ample interior light throughout the sleeper.
“Finding truckers nowadays is harder than ever,” Dozier said, but he added that being able to offer a truck like this would give fleets an advantage over the competition. Or a carrier could use it as an incentive to their top drivers.
“The Kenworth W990’s excellent performance, classical styling, premium finishes and lifestyle amenities underscore a sense of driver achievement and pride,” Dozier said. “We are passionate about our products, our customers that depend on them, and the drivers that operate them.”
Just before the trucks made their appearance, Kenworth presented a promotional video for the W990. That video is now available for viewing at www.youtube.com/KenworthTruckCo.
Klint Lowry has been a journalist for over 20 years. Prior to that, he did all kinds work, including several that involved driving, though he never graduated to big rigs. He worked at newspapers in the Detroit, Tampa and Little Rock, Ark., areas before coming to The Trucker in 2017. Having experienced such constant change at home and at work, he felt a certain kinship to professional truck drivers. Because trucking is more than a career, it’s a way of life, Klint has always liked to focus on every aspect of the quality of truckers’ lives.