Article

Test Drive: Kenworth W900L

Kenworth W900L wears the Western look with the new Pendleton interior option

March 2007, TruckingInfo.com - Test Drives

by Steve Sturgess, Executive Editor

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Kenworth last year rolled out a special trim option for the W900L, developed cooperatively with western-wear designer and manufacturer Pendleton Woolen Mills.

The idea was to get a western look interior option to complement Kenworth's long-nose large car. But Pendleton brings more: warmth, craftsmanship and even a sense of home. The Pendleton trim package, provided here on the W900L and to come on other KW models is way cool, if the enthusiastic response reported by Kenworth from the truck shows is any guide.

So it would appear the apparel manufacturer and Kenworth – both based in the Pacific Northwest – make for an ideal partnership.

For the Kenworth trim combination, Pendleton came up with a package that is part accessories, part western style and all comfort.

THE PENDLETON PACKAGE

Included is a Pendleton bag and a wool jacquard blanket as extra driver spiffs, but it's the interior trip package that impresses most.

The Pendleton option includes a top-of-the-line Kenworth interior as a starting point, then adds a distinctive Pendleton wool strip and accents high on the back and the sides of the bunk. Vinyl is on the side walls of the 86-inch Studio AeroCab sleeper, but the the flip-out sofa bed gets leather and microfiber suede facings.

Up front, all-leather high backrest seats feature Pendleton embossed logos and matching brown leather door trim inserts – again with the Pendleton logo. Further cosseting the driver is a stylish and distinctive leather wrapped steering wheel. Being brand new, the truck I drove had none of the in-wheel finger controls, but they will come later.

The really neat thing about the seats – and a Kenworth first – is the swing-away armrests that lift up and then stow behind the seat, greatly opening up the sleeper walk-through.

The trim is a combination of Splendor and Diamond trim levels, with various options such as the liberal use of Diamond woodgrain to make it look ultra luxurious in a more conventional look.

Other trick stuff includes the standard navigation system incorporated into the attractive and highly functional dash that was redesigned by Kenworth last year. The navigation system is a great feature in a truck, especially for that oft-confusing last mile in to a customer's loading dock. Kenworth also has programmed in truckstops and dealer locations, which can be especially useful.

There's a built-in MP3 player and in production, a USB port in the glovebox so drivers can push their favorite music – or talking books, or whatever – from their iPods. They'll also need to spec the satellite radio option (either XM or Sirius) to be able to use the player.

THE TRUCK

We had a powertrain to match the top-of-the-line trim. However, this evaluation was done in the middle of last year, so the engine and exhaust aftertreatment was pre-'07, with a 565-horsepower Cummins and 18-speed Eaton Roadranger transmission. Interestingly, the '07 engine line-up includes the ISX at 600 horsepower and the Cat C15 at 625 – and they are both more responsive than the '06s. But I had no complaints with the 565 ISX.

The test route took me up from the KW plant at Renton, Wash., via Snoqualmie Pass to Yakima. The pass is a long pull and we were loaded to around 70,000 pounds, but the Cummins pulled the grade easily, cresting the top at 35 mph in overdrive 6th. Heading out east from Yakima is another long grade that pulled me back to 6th direct, but still crested it at 32 mph.

Then there was the long nine-mile downgrade. Leaving it in 6th direct, the Cummins integrated Intebrake retarder held it back nicely at 35 mph without need of the service brakes. And the noise was well contained: 69dB with all six cylinders working. At cruise, the Pendleton mostly ran 67-68 dB – an excellent number that will be better yet with the '07 engines and their diesel particulate filters.

Throughout I was impressed with the truck's behavior. Regular readers will know I like the feel of a Kenworth and this one was no different. Great steering, good throttle modulation – but at low speeds, the brake treadle took a good shove to get the front air disc brakes to return any power. This has been noted before and is likely the result of the disc brake has no self-servo action of a leading shoe in a drum brake. The air disc, though, shines in its fade free downhill performance and lack of any interaction with the steering.

CAB COMFORT

The wool and leather decorative trim and the other top-end materials – along with excellent door sealing – likely helped with the noise levels. And they certainly did not detract from the appearance of the interior or the comfort of sleeping in the truck overnight.

In the bunk, the overhead fluorescent is complimented by reading lights for the fold-out lower bunk. Up front, the overhead lighting with the red illumination down in the footwells is great at night.

Other neat Kenworth features in the cab include the logbook clipboard and companion storage under the dash, the overhead storage and the signature sunroof that gives excellent but quiet ventilation on hot days.

And the new dash is handsome. Engine gauges sit in their panel to the left of the tacho and speedometer and a wide double stack of gauges sits above the switches, which are grouped by function. Drivers may like toggle switches, but these rockers work well and give the dash a modern yet functional look. Behind the scenes, multiplexed wiring allows switch versatility and clears the way for improved heating and ventilation ducting.

CONCLUSION

The W900L is the epitome of the traditional, long-nose conventional. It is only complemented and enhanced by the traditional treatment inside. With it's Pendleton touches, this W900 succeeds very well in being a very competent vehicle with an interior that seems like home.

I am not in the least surprised that it has received so much complimentary comment at shows. And I'm not surprised that Kenworth is offering the treatment on the all-new T660.

It's something a driver will love and respect. And who knows, if you give them the Pendleton trim, you might be able to persuade your drivers to get themselves some Pendleton clothing, some nice slacks and impress all your customers.

That would make the investment doubly worthwhile.

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