Pros And Cons Of Cars With Panoramic Sunroofs

Technology / 7 Comments

Widely considered one of the most luxurious features everyone wants, panoramic sunroofs have certain drawbacks. And big differences compared to traditional units.

Cars with a panoramic sunroof are becoming more common by the day. Whereas once a normal sunroof was considered a luxury, the feature has become mainstream and has now grown, quite literally, into one of the biggest trends and glass panels you'll find on modern cars. But what is a panoramic sunroof? Are all sunroofs panoramic? And is a panoramic sunroof a good or a bad feature to have? There's lots to break down here to give you a panoramic picture of what's going on, so let's dig into the details.

2020-2022 BMW X7 Panoramic Sunroof BMW

What is a Panoramic Sunroof?

The term 'panoramic sunroof' is pretty self-explanatory, as 'panoramic' means a wide view surrounding the observer, while a sunroof is an openable roof panel of a car. So essentially, a panoramic sunroof is just a bigger version of a traditional sunroof, albeit not always with the same tilting or opening features. Typically extending as wide as possible between the outer structural elements of a car's roof and usually spanning further forward and backward than normal, this creates the impression of an open roof over the occupants.

While a regular sunroof is positioned in the center of a car's roof with roof sheeting surrounding it, a panoramic sunroof typically spans the entire width of the roof and, in many cases, butts up against the top of the windshield and reaches aft of, at the very least, the front-seat occupants. In some instances, a car with a dual- or triple-pane sunroof can be considered a panoramic sunroof, as the see-through roof is only split in two to allow a portion of the top to be opened, while the closed configuration allows as much light as possible into the cabin.

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Types of Panoramic Sunroofs

Within the broader description of the panoramic roof, there are multiple variants thereof. There are variations on the name, like a panoramic moonroof instead of a sunroof, although this is just a naming convention and the two terms are now considered to be interchangeable. Previously, moonroofs were glass, while sunroofs were openable panels that were opaque rather than transparent.

So what other types of panoramic sunroofs are there? They can be broken down into the following:

  • Panoramic Windshield/Windscreen - where the windshield glass extends part way, or all the way, over the occupants without interruption. A great example of this is the Lucid Air's Glass Canopy roof, which adjoins a second glass panel over the rear of the cabin.
  • Dual-Pane or Triple-Pane Panoramic Sunroof - As mentioned above, these cars usually have a full glass roof split into two or three panels, one of which can slide open while the other/s remains fixed. An example of a car with a dual-pane panoramic sunroof is the Subaru Ascent. This is not to be mistaken for a car with a double sunroof that isn't panoramic, like the 2023 Kia Carnival.
  • Fixed Panoramic Glass Roof - This is like the panoramic roof Tesla recently updated on the Model S and is a single fixed transparent panel spanning the entire passenger area. Cars like this have no traditional roof panels.
  • Infinity Roof - This is the name given specifically to the GMC Hummer EV's four removable transparent glass panels. Technically, this is not a panoramic sunroof, however; this glass roof has fixed structural cross members that interrupt the view, thereby negating its classification as panoramic.
  • Sky Roof - While not technically an official term for a glass roof or panoramic sunroof, this has been used by a few brands. Bugatti, for example, had the option of a 'Sky View' roof for the Chiron with two glass panels on either side of the central roof spine. We do not consider this to be a panoramic sunroof. On the other hand, BMW has a Sky Lounge Panoramic Sunroof for the i7, which has LED light threads running through it and can change from opaque to transparent.
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Examples of Cars with Panoramic Sunroofs

There are numerous vehicles with panoramic roofs, spanning different body styles and vehicle segments. Below are some examples of each:

Coupes with a Panoramic Sunroof:

  • McLaren GT
  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe
  • Ferrari GTC4Lusso
  • Bentley Continental GT

SUVs with a Panoramic Sunroof:

Sedans with a Panoramic Sunroof:

  • BMW i7
  • Alfa Romeo Giulia
  • Toyota Crown
2017-2020 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso Rear Passenger Seats Ferrari

Pros of Panoramic Sunroofs

There are several benefits to having cars with a panoramic roof over a normal sunroof or none at all:

  • Style: A panoramic sunroof, particularly one that extends from the windshield all the way back, looks attractive. The reflective sheen and darker tint often have the impression of making a car seem more slender and athletic than it really is.
  • Occupant Health: Humans typically don't see the sun enough, as we live most of our lives indoors. Panoramic sunroofs give us exposure to sunlight, which in turn allows our bodies to create vitamin D, meaning a panoramic sunroof could be better for your health.
  • Improved Mood: In addition to improving your health, a lighter, brighter cabin can also enhance your mood. It can also make the cabin feel airier and less claustrophobic.
  • Improved Cooling: If you've been parked in the sun, tilting the panoramic sunroof will allow hot air to escape upwards. Aiding hot air's natural flow also means that when you get into a hot car, you can quickly vent this hot air and be more comfortable.
  • Resale Value: As panoramic sunroofs are considered desirable luxury items, having one on your car can improve its trade-in or resale value further down the line.
2022-2023 Lucid Air Central Console Lucid
Sunroof Hyundai

Cons of Panoramic Sunroofs

With the good comes the bad, and there may be some cons to cars with a glass roof:

  • Raised Center of Gravity: The glass panels and the mechanisms in place to open them add additional weight higher up in the car. This raises the center of gravity, which can negatively impact handling. Most drivers won't feel the negligible difference, but in a car with a performance bias - like a BMW M3 - replacing the carbon fiber roof with a sunroof can impact performance.
  • Reduced Headroom: In cars where the panoramic sunroof does not open out onto the top of the car, the panel slides into a cavity in the roof. To accommodate this, automakers must lower the interior roof height, which can reduce headroom by as much as 1.5 inches.
  • Moisture in Cold Climates: Because glass lacks the insulation of traditional roof panels and their multi-layer construction, parking cars with a panoramic glass roof outside in cold climates can result in condensation inside the cabin.
  • Reduced Efficiency: While panoramic sunroofs can help evacuate heat, they also reduce the efficacy of climate control systems, as the direct sunlight warms up the cabin. Newer sunroofs with better insulation suffer less, and future sunroofs will be able to dim different areas of the glass, but on older cars, there can be a noticeable difference. Further drains come from the added weight of such systems, which makes the engine or electric motors work harder. This can affect hybrid cars with a panoramic sunroof more than traditional combustion cars.
  • More Maintenance: More moving parts mean more maintenance, and with motors to control the roof and its shades, there is a greater chance of something needing to be replaced or repaired. The rubber seals also perish over time, which can result in leaks into the cabin.
  • Potential Breakages: Glass, while tempered and reinforced, breaks easier than a solid metal roof panel. That's why some OEMs won't let you spec larger wheels with some panoramic sunroofs (we can recall a few global incidents with VW and the Golf GTI). Larger wheels, or anything that can impact the ride quality, meant more shock was prone to being dissipated through the body structure, which in turn had the potential to vibrate and potentially shatter the glass roof. Needless to say, replacing a cracked or shattered sunroof is expensive.
2017-2021 Tesla Model 3 Sunroof Tesla
2023 BMW i7 Rear Passenger Screen CarBuzz

Verdict: Should I Buy a Car With A Panoramic Sunroof?

Ultimately, whether you choose a glass roof for your car comes down to personal preference and what you intend to use the car for. Luxury cars benefit greatly from having a panoramic glass roof, whereas sporty cars are perhaps better without them from a performance perspective.

If buying secondhand, we'd recommend only purchasing a car with a panoramic roof if it's relatively new and has been well-maintained. Unfortunately, older cars with these roofs are prone to more issues.

2022-2023 Lucid Air Driver Seat Lucid


  • Are a sunroof and a moonroof the same thing?

Technically speaking, yes, they are. Traditionally speaking, a sunroof was opaque while a moonroof was transparent, but the terminology is now interchangeable. The term moonroof dates back to 1973 when Ford marketing manager John Atkinson coined the phrase for the Continental Mark IV. You can read more about sunroofs and moonroofs here.

  • What's the difference between a panoramic sunroof and a normal sunroof?

A panoramic sunroof is effectively a larger sunroof that lets in more light. All panoramic sunroofs are sunroofs by today's definition, but not all sunroofs are panoramic.

  • What was the first car with a panoramic sunroof?

The first recorded car with a panoramic sunroof is considered to be the Lincoln XL-500 concept car from 1953, which featured a tinted plexiglass canopy roof. The Lamborghini Espada may have been the first production car with a panorama roof, dating back to 1969 when Lamborghini debuted its version of a full transparent roof panel.

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2017-2021 Tesla Model 3 Sunroof
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