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2016 Ford PI Utility Revealed

Since the introduction of the Next Generation Police Interceptors in 2013, Ford has regained its dominance as the top-selling mark of police vehicles in America today, with 55 percent of the market. Based on registration data, the Ford PI Utility has become the best-selling police vehicle in America. The PI Utility redefined the police vehicle with the trend from sedan to SUV. Law enforcement is being asked to carry more equipment than ever before. The climate-controlled cargo area of an SUV is much preferred over a damp, cold, dark trunk.

With so much success after the 2013 launch, why mess with success? Well, the 2016 retail Explorer got a refresh and the engineers on the Police Program listened to their customers who are using the PI Utility in the field. The engineers took that opportunity to fine-tune the PI Utility just that much more—making a great police vehicle even that much better.


Front & Rear Fascia

Like its retail brother, the 2016 PI Utility has a new front fascia with a unique-to-police new front grille that not only looks great but also improves cooling. Customers requested Ford to improve the cooling and as such, the new police grille allows for significantly more air to pass through. This allows for much better cooling not only for the engine oil cooler, but also the power transfer unit cooler, and the transmission cooler. The front end and rear freshening also reduces aerodynamic drag by 5 percent.

The unique front fascia also includes completely redesigned headlamp housings, and these are specific to Police headlamps, including integrated high-beam “wig-wag” lights. Yes, wig-wags are back. What’s always been a touchy subject, many in law enforcement were faced with the newer “shutter”-style projector headlights that were difficult, if not impossible to wig-wag.

Ford listened to its users and for 2016 the new headlights have a standalone high-beam incandescent halogen bulb that allows for the traditional wig-wag lighting. This is a significant improvement over the previous models as the actual headlamp “can” or “reflector” size has also increased, maximizing the effect.

Also on the front fascia are the new 2016 “mini F150”-style driving lights that can be optioned as emergency lights. These lights are well-positioned on the front leading edge of the PI Utility to allow for not only front viewing but off-axis visibility as well. The new rear fascia and tail lamps are also upfit-friendly and allow for several new optional police lighting packages, with even more customization for varied customer needs.


Ergonomic Interior

The interior wasn’t forgotten as Ford carried over some of the retail improvements with a new, improved ergonomically friendly center stack, steering wheel and gauge cluster. The center stack comes with the standard 4.2-inch screen for multimedia and HVAC controls. New for 2016 is the option for the customer to request the (standard) high-definition 180-degree view rear

camera to display in the 4.2-inch screen as opposed to the current 2-inch display in the rear view mirror. Each agency will have to decide based on their particular mobile computing solution as to how this rear view camera display location will work best.

The steering wheel is all-new for 2016 and the feedback from the front-line users was to make the police-unique steering wheel controls better by improving switch ergonomics as well as making them more resistant to accidental touch and improved positioning. For 2016, this request has been met with significantly better placement, touch and feel.

In the cargo area, the issue of quick access for the officer while keeping the equipment secure has always been a hot topic of debate. For 2016, Ford has offered a 45-second liftgate release activation button in the interior overhead console. The cargo-area timed liftgate switch in the map light area of the headliner improves security of equipment stored in the cargo area of the PI Utility.

When the liftgate switch is actuated, with the key in “run” position, the liftgate switch membrane is powered for 45 seconds, allowing the officer to press the membrane on the liftgate-door release pull cup (handle) and allow it to open. If the 45 seconds is reached before the switch membrane on the liftgate door is pressed, the switch in the map light area must be re-activated. If the liftgate door is opened, the map light switch must be actuated to initiate the timer.

To further ensure cargo equipment integrity, the liftgate access is independent of the keyless entry fob or the interior door unlock/lock switches. The interior lock/unlock switches do not power the liftgate membrane switch. These switches only control the four passenger compartment doors and leave the liftgate locked to ensure the cargo area as a completely separate entity. The keyless entry FOB will only unlock/lock the same four doors, not the liftgate. Using the blade key will unlock the liftgate manually in the lock cylinder located on the right side of the liftgate trim.

For years, most agencies have upfitted some type of battery saver (timer or voltage sensing) to monitor battery load and turn on the engine should demand exceed capacity. For 2016, Ford has significantly updated the Police Utility electrical architecture to support new lighting packages and to better offset electrical loads. This is done by improving the vehicle’s ability to better predict upcoming loads from aftermarket equipment and increase the engine rpm if needed. The more drops in voltage the battery has to go through, the shorter its life cycle will be. By stabilizing the load variances on the battery, improved duty cycles will be realized.



Proven Technology

The 2016 PI Utility continues to use proven technology/attributes offered on today’s Ford Police Interceptor Utility. One of these is Surveillance Mode. This technology, developed in house by one of the Ford Police program engineers, allows the vehicle’s own OEM sensors to warn the officer of a threat that may be approaching from the rear and give the officer time to react.

Surveillance Mode is a Ford-first technology that warns when someone approaches the rear of the vehicle. Upon detection, the driver’s window automatically raises and all doors lock. Intermittent fault filter technology sifts out erroneous changes in sensor signals. This technology has proven to be so successful that Ford has decided every officer should have an opportunity to use it regardless of what vehicle they are operating.

In an effort to offer law enforcement every possible safety advantage available, the PI Utility uses retail technology such as Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®), AdvanceTrac® with Roll Stability Control™ , Cross Traffic Alert, Safety Canopy, hands free SYNC, along with standard Intelligent All-Wheel Drive carried over from 2015.

Also available for the 2016 model year are the Fleet key/exterior locks (one key for entire fleet of vehicles) option, Police-rated heavy-duty braking system, large-diameter rotors, unique calipers for extended pursuit style driving dynamics. Unique door tethers strengthen hinges during police work. A Police-only undercarriage deflector plate protects under body with heavy-duty subframe and powertrain mounts.



Powertrains for the 2016 Ford PI Utility will carry over from previous years. The standard 304hp, 3.7L Ti-VCT V6 is the clear engine of choice. For those with specific high-speed applications, the optional 365 hp, 3.5L EcoBoost V6 is an excellent choice. Intelligent All-Wheel Drive is standard on all PI Utilities.

The 2016 Utility has a unique six-speed automatic transmission with Pursuit Mode technology—programmed for law enforcement use. The transmission automatically switches from normal, fuel-saving operation to Pursuit Mode when it detects aggressive driving situations, based on brake line pressure, deceleration, and lateral acceleration rates.

Once in Pursuit Mode, up shift and downshift performance of the transmission is optimized for aggressive driving—reverting to fuel-save mode when it senses the aggressive driving is complete. The software is tuned to perform the driving maneuver known as the reverse J-turn when a reversing vehicle is spun 180 degrees and continues, face-forward, without changing direction of travel.

The 2016 PI Utility also allows the customer more Vehicle Special Order (VSO) options. Inquiries can be made for various lighting color combinations in Red, Blue, White, Amber, Split Red/Blue, Split Blue/White, Split Red/White on the grille lights, mirror lights, marker lights, Rear Quarter Glass Lights, and the “Rear Lighting Solution.” The VSO inquiries can also be made for the Forward Indicator Pocket Warning Lights and the Forward Aux Warning Light for color combinations in Red, Blue, White and Amber.

Also continuing for 2016 is the Ford factory upfit process at the Chicago Modification Center just a block away from the Chicago Assembly Plant. The Chicago Modification Center is fully integrated into the Ford system; the vehicles are fully warranted by Ford rather than an aftermarket supplier. PI Utility customers can select from more than 125 upfitting packages, which include different lighting offerings. All the upfitting is completed covered by the Ford factory Warranty.


Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 27-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He sits on the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2015

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