Panoramic Sunroofs Are Great Features Until They’re Not: Pros and Cons
Everyone loves those panoramic sunroofs. They’re kind of futuristic, though Ford had a form of them in the mid-1950s. And they give the interior a wide-open feel, along with extra light to brighten things up. They’re expensive, but many owners say they’re worth the added cost. But are there downsides to having them? There are.
Do all panoramic sunroofs retract?
Panoramic sunroofs are called “panoramic” because they extend in all directions to the windshield, and side windows, and farther to the rear to give rear-seat passengers a great view. They’re like a regular sunroof on steroids. Some open at the front, and some like the recently available Tesla Model S panoramic roof, are fixed, with no opening panel.
Did you know they’re healthier than not having one? Your body needs vitamin D, which sunshine initiates in our bodies. Being less claustrophobic, makes us feel a bit better whether we are aware of it or not. And the ones that do open definitely help with air circulation, which is always good.
But they can also pose certain problems that you may not be aware of. For starters, the weight of the glass combined with the extra mechanism to make it articulate means the vehicle is more top-heavy. So the center of gravity is raised, which affects handling. It can even increase the chances of a rollover should you lose control of your car. But the good news is that the structural integrity of the roof is not compromised in a rollover, according to Consumer Reports.
Condensation can form
Another thing that can happen, but you would not think it could, is that in cold weather, condensation can build up on the inside of the glass. Of course, this only happens if the vehicle is outside. So there is the potential of having damp seats, carpet, or wherever else the condensation goes.
Another thing to repair
Adding another mechanism means the potential for an extra thing that will need repairs down the line. Most of us would not give up the air conditioning for this reason. But it could eventually be an additional expense.
Loss of cabin height
Some articulating panoramic roofs slide back above the fixed rear portion. But some slide under that that fixed rear glass. For those that do, you’ll be losing a certain amount of headroom. In most cases, as with traditional sunroofs, the height loss is negligible.
The glass in the sunroof is tempered so that if it breaks it shatters, as do the side and rear windows. But that’s the thing, they can break. And because larger diameter wheels can create a choppier ride, in some cases they’re not available with panoramic roofs. Manufacturers fear that the harshness transmits through the body, and could cause breakage to the glass roof.
Cabins can get warmer
There is a fine line between tinting the glass too much, or not enough. Those that are just shy of enough tint to maintain climate control during hot days mean the air conditioning works harder. And it needs to keep pace with the heat directed through the sunroof. This is especially a problem with some hybrid cars that increase loads on the engine and electric motor use in such cases.
If these negatives eventually outweigh the positives, the panoramic roof may just become a fad. The automakers are working to fix some concerns, so we’ll see the car feature continue, or go the way of ashtrays and vent windows.