What Is the Difference Between a 4×4 and a Z71?

“Z71” refers to a package of optional extras available for vehicles manufactured by General Motors, while “4×4” is used as a shorthand way to describe a four-wheeled vehicle in which all of the wheels are powered by the engine, rather than just the front or back wheels. The term 4×4 should not be confused with Individual-wheel drive, or IWD, in which separate motors operate each wheel independently.

Z71 and 4×4 commonly appear together in marketing for vehicles sold by both the GMC and the Chevrolet motor companies. However, it is possible to buy a vehicle with the Z71 package without having four-wheel drive included, and the reverse is also true. General Motors offers several varieties of both four-wheel- and two-wheel-drive vehicles, which feature the Z71 package, including the Chevy Silverado, Suburban and Tahoe as well as the GMC Sierra.

Both GMC and Chevrolet have been offering a Z71 package on vehicles since 1988. The 2015 model year vehicles include a fully boxed frame, independent front-end suspension and a wider rear track. These features are intended to improve the towing and hauling capacity of heavy-duty vehicles, as well as to ensure a more comfortable ride and increase vehicle durability. Vehicles featuring four-wheel drive benefit from these features, but they aren’t necessary, particularly on low-slung sports cars, which focus on high power-to-weight ratios.