No matter what they call them, automakers are acting as if the sky is the limit in trying to make bigger sunroofs, moonroofs or glass roofs in their new models.
Ford Motor is touting a 15.2-square-foot “glass roof” on the new 2013 Lincoln MKZ unveiled earlier this month in New York. Covering the front and half of the back seat, it is the largest in its midsize luxury class, Ford says. MKZ’s glass top follows the introduction of a supersize sunroof in the new Infiniti JX full-size luxury crossover and other models.
Automakers have been gradually smashing the glass ceiling when it comes to the size of sunroofs to make car interiors feel more bright and airy. They’re also adding newfangled touches such as pop-up baffles to reduce wind noise.
Besides the added cost, giant sunroofs detract from a performance car’s structural rigidity and add extra weight, so for instance, Scion won’t include a sunroof option in its new FR-S performance coupe, because it wants the car to feel stiffer and have a lower center of gravity, spokesman Craig Taguchi says. Plus, sunroofs remain dogged by a reputation for leaks, a flaw that automakers perennially insist they have licked.
What enticed Lincoln to make a big deal about big sunroofs? Lincoln decided to go for the big glass roof in the MKZ because 80% of buyers of the larger MKS sedan have opted for a dual-pane sunroof, says Lincoln spokesman Sam Locricchio.
MKZ’s glass roof slides open by 2 feet in 10 seconds for open-air driving. The noise-reducing wind deflector deploys at 40 miles an hour.
The glass-roof phenomenon mirrors what’s happening in architecture, where open-air “marketplaces” have replaced enclosed shopping malls, and more buildings are built to maximize natural light. People want “the openness, bringing the outside in,” Locricchio says.
How other automakers are reaching for the stars:
• Volkswagen. “Panoramic” sunroofs introduced on the 2009 Jetta SportWagon proved so popular that similar transparent roofs are now offered on the Tiguan and Touareg crossovers.
• Land Rover. The “full-size glass panoramic roof” in its stylish Evoque crossover “bathes the interior with natural light,” says the British luxury all-terrain vehicle maker.
• Mini. A majority of buyers of the Mini hardtop, mainstay of the resurrected Mini line, opt for its two-pane sunroof, the BMW unit says.
• Scion. Toyota’s youth brand has made a sunroof standard in its sporty tC since its 2004 debut. “It was seen very premium in a car that is affordable,” says Taguchi.