Jeep Liberty Sky Slider

These days, not all sunroofs are created equal. They’ve come a long way from the manually-operated pop-up version of the late ‘70s. Now, they are more sophisticated than ever, offering solar panel-operated ventilation systems, car-length openings and dual sunshades for the front and rear passengers. Here are eight of the most interesting new designs that beckon drivers to let the sun shine in.

 

Acura ZDX

The ZDX, which boasts the longest continual expanse of glass on the automotive market, has a panoramic roof that extends from the leading edge of the windshield to the edge of the tailgate glass. Over the front seats is a sunroof that opens 10 inches, sliding up and back along the roof (rather than inside the car, which would have compromised headroom). The 10-inch opening isn’t hugely impressive, but combined with the panoramic roof (that filters 90 percent of UV sunlight), this sporty crossover feels airy.

Jeep Liberty

On the other end of the size spectrum is the Liberty’s Sky Slider, which is a 33-by-60-inch opening. According to Jeep, it is the largest opening in its class (by 255 percent). The roof is made of acrylic cloth (like that used for convertibles), which electronically scrolls back and can be stopped at any moment for varying shade options.

Mercedes SLK

It’s not on the market yet, but in June, when the new 2012 SLK hits, it’ll be the first with Magic Sky Control. The driver can press a button to shift the sunroof’s glass from light to dark immediately. The light mode leaves the window transparent (effectively blocking UV and infrared light), while the dark creates a near-opaque sun shield.

SmartCar Passion Coupe

The Passion Coupe offers an ultra-light panoramic roof (made of clear polycarbonate) that helps prevent feeling claustrophobic in this petite vehicle. If you feel like you’re baking in the sun, a sun screen comes standard with the car.

Ford Crossovers and SUVs

A Vista Roof can be ordered with several of Ford’s larger vehicles (Edge, Explorer, Flex). The front panel of the two-piece roof opens over the front of the cabin, while the rear panel is fixed. Twin power-operated shades can close to block out sun (and nearly 100 percent of UV rays).

Volkswagen Tiguan, Jetta Sport Wagon, Touareg, Eos

The Tiguan, Jetta Sport Wagon and Toureg all have a two-panel system, where the front panel can tilt or open and the back is stationary. (This is an optional feature on all, but standard on the Toureg Hybrid.) VW’s cabriolet, the Eos, has a unique feature – it is the only hard-top convertible with a fully operable sunroof (thanks to a five-panel design). The sunroof, standard in the Eos, has a sun shade and can also tilt open for air flow.

Audi A8

The A8 (and it’s slightly longer cousin, the A8L) has solar panels beneath the sunroof glass that power a fan inside the cabin to create a constant stream of fresh air, which reduces interior temperatures on warm days, even when the engine is off. The sunroof also boasts wind deflectors that reduce noise and the necessity to shout when you drive on the freeway.

Toyota Prius

The Prius also has solar panels that help power the vehicle’s ventilation system, reducing the interior temperature in the car, which in turn limits the need to use an air conditioner. This feature is part of an option package only available for Prius III and IV.

 

So, next time you test drive a new car, don’t forget about the window that sits just above your head. You may be enlightened by what you find.

author photo

Meg Hemphill is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle writer who covers the good life: style, food, automotive, travel and entertainment. When it comes to cars, it is less about the nuts and bolts and more about the aesthetic, luxury and occasional practicality. A former editor at InStyle, she writes for the Huffington Post and a variety of other publications.

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