Automobile

Glass roofs are actually bad

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One of the worst trends in new cars today is the proliferation of glass roofs. We have but one automaker to thank for accelerating the trend, and that’s Tesla. I don’t say this as a diss toward Tesla, but more in disappointment toward all the long-established car companies that followed Tesla into this unfortunate endeavor.

Before I get too deep into the blame game, though, let me tell you why glass roofs are bad. Specifically, I’m referring to the ones that don’t feature a shade that extends to cover the roof. All (or at least most) is forgiven if you let me block out the sun with such a convenience.

For starters, glass roofs let the sun in! Yeah, it’s rather obvious, but it needs to be said. And while the glass used in such applications might block nearly all of the harmful UV rays from the sun, you, the occupant, still feel the heat of the sun’s rays through the roof. As an example, I was driving the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge around Palm Springs, Calif., earlier this year, which is easily one of the sunniest places in the country. Despite the laminated glass featuring heavy tint, I could still physically feel the heat of the desert sun beating down onto my exposed forehead. Since the Volvo doesn’t have a shade, there was nothing I could do about this besides live with the constant discomfort of the sun. And no, it’s nothing like standing outside in the sun with no protection, but drive around like this for an hour or two, and it’s guaranteed to wear on you. At a certain point, I was regretting not bringing a hat along.

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But oh, that’s only a problem in the desert, right? Wrong. The most recent glass roof-equipped car I drove was a Ford Mustang Mach-E. Just like the Volvo, the Mach-E had no shade to cover the all-glass roof. And even though I’m here in the Midwest, a long day of driving in the summer sun had me wishing for a hat to protect my face from the hot sun yet again.

It’s not just the driver who can suffer with a glass roof, though. Folks in the rear seat might actually have it worse, despite the gorgeous view you’re afforded of the sky back there. Said gorgeous view could ultimately just be a view of the sun directly in your eyes. Depending on the angle of the sun and the direction you’re traveling, rear seat passengers could find their eyes directly in the sun’s line of fire. And no, there is no visor that you can pull down, like those in the front seat enjoy. Instead, you live with it, and probably complain a little bit to the person driving you around, trying to explain that their car has a dumb roof.

What really grinds my gears more than anything when it comes to glass roofs, however, is that they cannot be opened. It’s basically just like a metal roof without a moonroof or panoramic moonroof option. Sure, you can see the sky overhead, but you’ll never be able to stick your hand up through it and feel the breeze through your fingers. You’ll never be able to feel the gentle air flow through your hair on a cool summer night. And you’ll never be able to vent that roof with a tilt upward to get that perfect bit of fresh air through the car when you want it. It’s just plain sad. 

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But wait, the starry night sky must be the best to look at through a glass roof, right? Alas, that night sky is rather dim through the glass roofs I’ve experienced. Car companies use enough tint and UV protection to make the cabin semi-bearable in the hot sun, which in turn makes stargazing difficult through the tinted glass. Truthfully, there are very few advantages to a glass roof outside of the “well it looks cool” reasoning.

A similar effect can be realized through a panoramic moonroof, and this sort of roof actually opens to the outside world when you want it to. A huge amount of natural light can be let into the car with a panoramic sunroof, too, and virtually every vehicle with such a roof option features a sunshade to block it out when you don’t want it. This is especially helpful when parking the car in an area exposed to the sun. Fully blocking out the sun’s rays from an interior will keep a car’s interior cooler for longer, but with a glass roof, you’re relying on the glass’ ability to reflect the sun away from the interior.

If every glass roof-equipped vehicle had an electric sunshade that came with it as standard equipment, this trend wouldn’t be as irritating as it is. But even then, glass roofs feel like a step back in functionality and usefulness. It’s something to ooh and ahh at when in a dealership showroom, but the pleasing aesthetics and wow factor quickly wear away once the reality of the situation hits.

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Glass roofs are not cool. They’re hot, annoying to live with, and I hope, a fad that doesn’t stick with us for much longer. Give me a moonroof or a big panoramic moonroof over a solid sheet of glass any day. That’s where the real enjoyment and luxury is.

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