Little problems can be a big deal. Consider the 2013 Ford Fusion Titanium midsize family sedan.
It is a beautiful car, often likened to an Aston Martin, an automobile substantially more expensive and prestigious than anything wearing a Ford label.
In its Titanium edition, the Fusion comes with so many gadgets and so much standard equipment that it well could be mistaken for a genuine luxury car. In sum, it is one of the best midsize sedans ever made by Ford, or any of its domestic or foreign rivals.
That is why what a toll-booth operator told me along the way of a nearly 300-mile drive from New York City to Northern Virginia was so disheartening.
“Pretty car,” said the operator.
“New?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, fighting the urge to brag about my occupation.
“Well, you’d better be careful,” the toll-booth operator said. “The Turnpike cops might pull you over,” he said, referring to the New Jersey State Police. “Your right headlamp is out.”
I was shocked, devastated. How could that be? There was a defective headlamp on this Ford?
I played with the idea of pulling over and checking it out myself. But my fantasies of being an ace automobile technician succumbed to the reality of the outside below-freezing weather. I checked out the problem the old-fashioned way, switching from low beams to high beams to see if I would get a bright spot where a dull spot appeared to be.
Surely enough, the right low beam was not working. Devastation became deflation. All of my pride in the new Fusion became the embarrassment of driving a pretty new car with the right-side low-beam headlamp missing. I imagined being pulled over by one of New Jersey’s finest:
Trooper: “Do you realize you have no right headlamp?”
Me: “Yes sir. But do you realize that this car comes with Ford’s Lane Watch and Lane Departure Warning systems?
“I can’t fall asleep in this one. No, sir! This car will make noises and vibrate as soon as it senses that I’m not paying attention to my driving. Wake me right up! Yes, sir.”
Trooper: “You have no right headlamp. You need two functioning headlamps to drive legally in the state of New Jersey.”
It is funny how some things are reduced to their basics, how all of the technological stuff that constitutes so much of today’s automobiles can come down to a broken headlamp filament or a defective fuse. The right low-beam was not working.
From the northern top to the southern bottom of the New Jersey Turnpike, I paid attention to little other than working those headlamps, trying to give the appearance of driving legally. It mattered not that the Fusion Titanium came with one of the best in-line four-cylinder engines in the business — a two-liter, turbocharged (forced air), 231-horsepower gasoline engine that produces a maximum 270 pound-feet of torque.
Nor did it matter that the little engine could do all of that burning regular gasoline and getting 22 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The right headlamp was out.
I tried to turn my mind toward the Fusion’s performance. This was a Fusion with Ford’s all-wheel-drive option. Right headlamp notwithstanding, it was a nifty car.
Equipped with a smooth-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission to accommodate its four-cylinder engine, it moved nicely, easily through the night. It was fun to drive. No doubt about that.
But I could not lose myself in the revelry of the road. New Jersey State troopers have a way of pointing their cruisers toward the highway that get your attention. I mentally prepared for being pulled over, all because of a defective low-beam headlamp.
It did not happen. I pulled into my Northern Virginia driveway free of a traffic citation. It was late Wednesday. I figured that I had all day Thursday to figure out that headlamp problem.