Panoramic Sunroof

There is nothing more beautiful and attractive than the appearance of a car with a panoramic hatch. Cars equipped with all black tinted glass roofs look simply stunning. Especially cool is the contrast between a dark roof and a lighter overall colour such as white pearl or light silver metallic.

Most people would agree that these cars look very good, but in practice having a car with a panoramic sunroof may raise important issues to consider when buying a new car before checking this option.

1. Increasing the temperature in the interior of the car

It is obvious, of course, but the panoramic roof hatch literally creates a massive window through which direct sunlight penetrates into your car. The severity of this problem depends on your geographic location, how high the summer temperature is, and the clarity of the sky – which will determine how strong and intense the sunlight is.

For example, in Australia, the average summer daytime temperature exceeds sometimes 40°C, combined with a crystal clear blue sky. These conditions allow the sun to be simply “sizzling”. In Russia you can also find places with hot and sunny climate.

On hot days, leaving any vehicle in the sun for 15 minutes or more, you will see that the temperature in the cabin will rise significantly, and a car with a panoramic hatch will instantly rise to the sky.

It is possible to assume that the tinted glass will help, but, unfortunately, in our experience, it changes little. Tinted glass works on the principle of direct absorption of ultraviolet rays instead of letting them in, and essentially creates a large black overheated element at the top of the car.

Extendable fabric awnings mounted directly under the panoramic roof hatch prevent some of this heat from being transferred into the cab, but this also means that an incredible amount of heat will accumulate in the space between them. This heat can radiate into the cab for some time after you get into the vehicle and start driving, which means that your vehicle’s air conditioning system will work much harder to lower the temperature in the cabin and then maintain it.

2. Decreasing the height of the ceiling in the cabin

If you think choosing a panoramic hatch in your car will give you more space, then this is not the case. You see, the extra space required for the panoramic sunroof motor and sunscreen rollers means that your car is more likely to have less space in height than the one you used without it. Sometimes the difference can be as much as 50mm.

Removing the roof canopy or opening the sunroof does not solve the problem either, because the opening itself is not far enough away from where the driver’s head is. Simply put, taller drivers would have to tilt their heads to the centre of the car to position their heads within the panoramic roof opening.

The only alternative for taller drivers is to tilt the backrest to increase the height reserve, but this can create ergonomic problems with the steering wheel and pedal radius.

Therefore, if you are a fairly tall person, then you should definitely check the position of the seat in a car equipped with a sunroof before you decide to buy a car with this option.

3. Added weight to the car

Car manufacturers make every effort to reduce the weight of their vehicles, as it is beneficial when it comes to acceleration, braking and fuel economy. Wherever possible, they also try to place heavy objects (e.g. engine, gearbox and fuel tank) as low as possible to improve the stability and handling of the vehicle.

Therefore, specialists do not need to be reminded that a glass roof weighing more than 100 kg, passing through the top of the car, is not a good idea. The reason why they weigh so much is because the glass is so damn thick and heavier than steel or aluminium roof panels, not to mention all the necessary extra reinforcement rods, electric motors and drainage channels.

Think of it this way. Having a panoramic sunroof on your car can be tantamount to having an extra passenger in your car – and that’s almost forever.

4. Complication of design and addition of noise

Although this is similar to the overweight problem we mentioned above, it is an important issue that needs to be addressed separately. Panoramic hatches add to the complexity of the car. Where there used to be only a sheet of metal and an upholstery ceiling, two or heavier glass panels suddenly appear; motors, switches, channels and castors for the canopy; plus the main motor and sliding mechanism for the hatch panel itself.

In addition to all these parts that can break or malfunction, they’re also located right above your head – with the potential for all kinds of noise, creaking and rustling that can develop and annoy you while you’re driving. It is also worth noting that the drops of rain falling on the glass roof also sound a little louder.

A normal steel or aluminium roof is not only quieter but, most importantly, it does not contain anything that could over time catch on or break down.

5. Reducing structural integrity

The panoramic roof hatch is basically a giant hole in the roof of your car, and while this can contribute to the structural rigidity of the car, it will never be as strong as a car with a regular roof. It’s also worth considering that the hatch’s rubber seals aren’t 100% waterproof in nature. While rubber seals retain most of the water, the entire structure of the sunroof relies on drainage channels in the car roof to prevent moisture from entering the interior.

These drain points can sometimes get clogged, which can lead to overflowing of the drain channels and water entering the cab.

6. How often will you use it?

People often buy convertibles because they feel like they’ll be cleaning the roof all the time, but in reality it’s not like that. Often it’s just too hot, too cold or too windy to drive with the roof down, and the driver eventually stops using it. Cars with a panoramic sunroof often face a similar fate.

Like a convertible, a panoramic hatch is all or nothing. In most cars, the sunroof cannot be opened unless the interior curtains are completely removed, which means that the entire car will be open to the sun. This makes it pointless to leave the sunroof open during parking (in order to release hot air from the car) because the glass roof will let in much more heat than the sunroof can displace.

Roof hatches are also often too loud when they are open, at speeds above 80 km/h, unless you like to yell at your passengers too much just to talk.

So, you still want a panoramic sunroof?

Despite their shortcomings, some car owners love their cars with a sunroof. But perhaps they live in a more gentle climate, or the systems used in their cars are better designed. Maybe it’s better to save money and buy a car without a panoramic sunroof?

Such cars can look fantastic, and the idea of owning a car with a panoramic hatch installed is extremely attractive, but keep in mind that the reality may not meet your expectations.