Here's an update to all who are interested.
In 2 hours, this car is going into the Ford dealer. (shudder)
I've never owned a car that I've taken to a mechanic, nevermind a bloody DEALER. But I've got no more time to spend with this problem.
Once I hear back from the dealer, I will post ALL the results here, as someone with a similar problem may stumble upon this thread in the future. Thanks to all who gave suggestions, I'll let you know.