Tips, Tricks & Trends

Why You Should Never Get a Car With a Panoramic Sunroof

Have you ever had a car that offered some really cool features you never ended up using much? For example, maybe you thought for sure you’d love those heated seats, only to count on one hand the number of winters you used them. Or it could be you opted for satellite radio and later had second thoughts about its value. The panoramic sunroof is another such feature for many car-buying consumers. 

When prominently listed as a feature on the window sticker, a panoramic roof sounds like a luxurious extra. It might even prompt you to picture your hands waving in the breeze as your hair tousles in the summer sun. But sunroofs are often expensive, and drivers who’ve had them in their vehicles can probably list several reasons why they’d never have one again. There could be more setbacks than benefits to a panoramic sunroof, and here’s why you should avoid getting a car with one already installed.

The additional heat factor

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The panoramic sunroof, despite tinted applications, can crank up the heat in the vehicle’s cabin. If exposed to a blue sky on a midsummer’s day for 15 minutes, the interior temperature can increase exponentially. After all, you have a large sheet of glass radiating heat into your ride. And cooling that super-baked cabin can be more work for your engine, in turn burning more gas, according to Top Gearbox.

It’s a weight distribution problem

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When automakers design vehicles for efficiency and safety, they have to pay special attention to the overall weight of a vehicle and how well that weight is distributed. Heavier components are typically set as low as possible to improve handling and stability. But a 200-pound glass roof is far from lightweight, and it’s certainly not a feature that gets installed at a low point of the vehicle. This kind of weight-distribution faux pas can impede acceleration, fuel economy, and even braking, Car and Driver explains.

A panoramic roof is essentially a giant hole

Sure, a panoramic sunroof is designed to contribute to the structural integrity of the vehicle, according to Badell’s Collision. But it’s essentially a giant hole. That means it won’t offer the support of a conventional roof. And though panoramic sunroofs are typically sealed to prevent moisture intrusion, there’s a greater risk of drainage complications and leaks. There are also potential issues with road noise and wind penetration. For the most part, new installations of these panoramic roofs seem to perform wonderfully. But most consumers keep their vehicles for a number of years, and the aging and wearing of components can lead to panoramic sunroof failures.

Oh, and sometimes they explode

Wait — what? Yes, you read that right. When the panoramic sunroof debuted in the United States some 20 years ago, there were, as there always is with new tech, a few problems. Consumer Reports logged 82 Nissan-specific issues that involved exploding sunroofs between 1995 and 2017. According to official court filings, Nissan and Infiniti models reportedly experienced shattering panoramic roofs, seemingly for no reason. And Mercedes-Benz found itself at the heart of a class-action lawsuit for similar imploding panoramic sunroofs. Consumers reported driving normally before being alarmed by a shotgun-like sound resulting in cascading glass throughout the vehicle’s cabin.

There’s something luxurious and satisfying about reclining in your vehicle seat to gaze at the stars through your panoramic sunroof. The kids find the views of falling rain mesmerizing. And nothing says “welcome to spring” quite like a convertible-like drive with 75-degree air blasting through the cabin. But panoramic sunroofs have their downsides, some more serious than others. And it may just be a feature you’d rather not have in the end.