Does a sunroof affect a car’s performance?

A sunroof is an extremely popular piece of additional equipment for most cars these days because it makes the car feel spacious and more enjoyable to spend time in. It also enables you to let in some extra air, makes the car look nicer, and offers you visibility on top which would otherwise not exist.

On the other hand, a sunroof tends to cost a few thousand dollars depending on the automaker, the size of the sunroof, and the car in question. Sunroofs add more complexity which can be detrimental if the roof mechanism is not working as it should.

However, the greatest drawback of sunroof-equipped cars is that they affect a car’s performance because they impede structural integrity, add more weight and increase the car’s center of gravity. If you are a hardcore performance driver, it’s better to skip the panoramic roof.

Despite the fact that sunroofs do carry a bunch of drawbacks, most customers are still fond of driving a car with a panoramic sunroof. For 90% of people out there, the sunroof will work fine and the driver will not even push the car as much to be able to tell the difference.

Structural integrity – Chassis rigidity and pose

A car’s structural integrity is a terminology used to describe a few things. It primarily refers to how the car withstands a crash and how it deflects such forces away from the occupants. It also describes how rigid the chassis is, and how that favors performance and handling.

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If the body of the car flexes, it means that during cornering the car tilts more from one side to the other, and it requires a stiffer suspension setup in order to keep the car posed through the corners. This does remedy the issue but it makes the car more uncomfortable over bumps.

A sunroof, especially a large panoramic sunroof significantly decreases a car’s upper structural integrity so the engineers need to strengthen the car in other places to avoid those negative effects. That’s because most cars have central beams running through the roofline, so a car with a smaller sunroof might not be as affected as those with a larger one.

Weight – The arch-enemy of performance

There are two basic principles of how one can make a car faster. The first option would be to add more power to the car by tuning it and upgrading some of its powertrain and cooling components. The second option would be to just get rid of additional weight.

Even though these two methods do seem similar, they are a world apart when viewed from different angles. A lighter car does not only accelerate better, but it also steers better and it slows down better. This means that a heavier car does all the opposite.

That’s the reason why most “true” track-focused performance cars out there are not even offered with a panoramic sunroof. However, the greatest drawback is not necessarily weight by itself, but rather the place the weight is situated at.

Center of gravity – Average weight location

A center of gravity is a term used to describe where the central point of mass is on a car, and how it affects a car’s performance. This term has become especially relevant these days with the introduction of EVs which tend to rely on a low center of gravity to increase performance, even though they are extremely heavy.

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That being said, if the weight of the car is increased on top, it increases the car’s center of gravity which makes the car flex more and tilt more during cornering. To remedy this, automakers spend a lot of money on clever technology solutions, but they also add weight which does not really solve the issue.

On the flip side, EVs tend to situate the majority of their weight down low (batteries), and that lowers the center of gravity and makes the car more stable and better controlled through the corners. With that in mind, adding a 50-100lbs panoramic roof at the very top of the car certainly does affect performance.

FAQ Section

Is it worth it to opt for a panoramic sunroof?

It depends on what you value the most, and how dedicated you are. If you value comfort, style, convenience, and a breath of fresh air, a panoramic sunroof is certainly a great option to tick. On the other hand, if you value performance, value, and safety, it’s better to skip the panoramic roof option.

It also depends on what type of car you want. If you want a large SUV or a large sedan, a panoramic roof is a worthwhile consideration because the car in question holds a better resale value, and it’s not a performance car anyway. On the other hand, if you want a true sports car, it’s better to skip the sunroof once again.

More about if a sunroof is worth it.

How much does a car sunroof cost?

A car sunroof costs anywhere between $1000 to $2000 on average, and that’s for a standard-sized sliding panoramic sunroof. Those larger sunroofs that accompany the entire length of the roof usually cost a few times as much. Old-school small sunroofs are usually the cheapest, but hardly any car offers them these days.

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The costs of fixing/replacing the sunroof are the reason why many people tend to skip buying a car with a panoramic sunroof. However, automakers these days spend vast amounts of money on perfecting the sliding mechanism to increase the overall reliability of the sunroof.

Can I retrofit a sunroof to a car?

In theory, all cars can be fitted with a sunroof, but this is an extremely difficult thing to do because it requires both precision and experience. Furthermore, if you do decide to retrofit a sunroof to your car, you need to be aware that the value of your car might plummet to abyssal depths because hardly anyone would ever buy a car with an unoriginal sunroof.

That being said, it’s better not to do so, especially if the car in question is valuable. Even if the installation process goes as smoothly as possible, it’s still not factory-made which means that hardly anyone is willing to take that risk.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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