The 2017 Cadillac XT5 AWD System

The 2017 XT5 is Cadillac’s clean-sheet crossover designed to compete with some stiff competition, including the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLE. Part of its secret sauce is its fancy four-wheel drive system. Unlike most AWD systems, the XT5 is actually a part-time system, meaning that the driver can manually disable the system. A simple button near the gear lever switches between three modes: Tour, AWD and Sport. In Tour only the front wheels get power. The biggest benefit, of course, is fuel economy, but I’ve found that FWD mode also increases the vibrancy of the 3.6-liter V-6 thanks to less parasitic loss in the powertrain.


Being able to turn the AWD system on and off is a big deal, but it’s not the crowning achievement of the system. Rather, it is the true torque vectoring capabilities that aid in vehicle control on both slippery and dry surfaces. This is also not a brake activated cheater system. It uses a dual clutch pack to gradually and accurately adjust the amount of power each axle gets. It’s pretty impressive, so let’s dive in.

Read on to learn more about the 2017 Cadillac XT5’s AWD system.

AWD with a PhD

Cadillac gets its AWD system from GKN, a third-party supplier known for its powertrain components. Within GKN, the XT5’s AWD system, specifically the rear differential, is known as the Twinster due to its dual-clutch design. The Twinster system is also used in some other highbrow applications, including the Range Rover Evoque and Ford Focus RS. Yes, the same Focus RS with its crazy drift mode and bizarre grip uses almost the same rear drive system as the XT5.

But back to the Caddy.

Let’s start from the top. The 2017 XT5 is powered by Cadillac’s new 3.6-liter V-6 that can also be found in the ATS and CTS sedans. The all-new V-6 uses cylinder shutdown, dual overhead cam variable valve timing, direct fuel injection and automatic start/stop. The engine makes 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. The V-6 is supported by GM’s eight-speed automatic transmission. The XT5 uses a transverse drivetrain layout, meaning the front wheels are the standard receivers in effect.

The XT5 AWD is optional on the Luxury and Premium Luxury trim levels, standard on the top-of-the-range Platinum and not available on the base XT5. If optional, the AWD system adds $2,500 to the MSRP.

The AWD system has its origins in the transmission PTO, or power take-off. This clutch is where the magic happens with turning the AWD system on and off. When the driver shifts through the drive modes, the clutch will connect or disconnect the rear drive shaft of the transmission. That means that in FWD mode, none of the rear drivetrain components spin. This improves fuel economy by reducing parasitic losses in the powertrain. FWD mode also excludes FWD, meaning that even if the front tires lose traction, the rear tires won’t kick in.

By activating the AWD system, the rear drive shaft sends power to the GKN Twinster differential. The differential is electronically controlled and uses a high-pressure hydraulic pump to operate the double clutches. The system receives input from the XT5’s stability management and traction control system to send the correct amount of torque to each axle.

The rear drive system is able to get 100 percent of the engine power and deliver up to 100 percent of the torque to one wheel. What that means in slippery conditions like rain, snow, mud or even ice is that the tire with the most grip will have the most power. Even sideways between the tires, for example if the XT5 is on a soft shoulder with the right tires on smooth grass and the left tires on the road. The system detects wheel slip, adjusts clutches and sends power to the tire with the most grip, all almost instantly and without the driver having to do anything more than just turn the system on.

The AWD system also has advantages on dry land. That torque vectoring aspect comes into play when turning. The rear drive unit sends more power to the outer wheel, which creates a yaw effect on the XT5, essentially giving the vehicle a nudge into the corner. This makes for spectacular handling, even despite the XT5’s tall stature and 4,350-pound curb weight.

As for the noticeable handling, I can definitely feel when the AWD is engaged. The V-6 feels just a little more loaded, and it doesn’t spin as fast. The normal person who isn’t paying attention feels nothing while appreciating the added stability and traction. Throw on a set of good winter tires and I bet the XT5 would run through the worst conditions imaginable.

Check back with TopSpeed ​​for more info and the full 2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum review.


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