In the face of overwhelming crossover competition and rising gas prices, it's time for the Explorer to reinvent itself. The car-based unibody Explorer America may be a thinly veiled look at the next-gen Explorer. Designed by Freeman Thomas, the America is slightly smaller than the current Explorer and has a passenger-side sliding rear door that isn't likely to make it to production. The next-gen Explorer should be about 500 pounds lighter, powered by fuel-efficient, CO2-friendly direct-injection gasoline turbocharged I-4 and V-6 engines mated to six-speed transmissions. The V-8 option may disappear, to be replaced by a higher-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6.

SUM UP: Is the original SUV ready to truly evolve?