By on October 21, 2011

Panoramic windscreens are something of a building trend in Europe’s premium-ish small car segments, combining the benefits of a sunroof with improved visibility. GM debuted the concept as a rarely-chosen option on the previous-generation Astra three-door, and it’s coming back with the forthcoming Astra GTC. Which raises an interesting question: since I’m convinced the GTC will come to the US as a Buick coupe, will this funky look come across the pond as well? Bob Lutz emphasized his preference for “glowering” low rooflines, telling TTAC that an early version of the forthcoming Cadillac ATS looked like “a kid with too large of a forehead” before he told designers to bring down the browline. Will an exception be made for this unique (to the US Market) feature on what should be one of GM’s most purely European cars? Or will Lutz’s aesthetic tastes doom GM buyers to observing traffic lights out of their side windows? Is this an option that other automakers should consider making available?

 

 

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55 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Receding Hairline Edition...”


  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I’d love the increased visibility (especially in those vehicles that have the feeling of tunnel vision), but I think I’d want to see it in person before passing any kind of judgment on it.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Wasn’t this tried in some concepts in the 50s and ended up being scrapped because the greenhouse effect would make the cars hot enough to be unbearable?

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, this. Pity the poor folks who get one with a black leather interior anywhere that actually has a summer.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I assume glass technology has advanced somewhat and the ability to block, reflect, etc. solar radiation is better than it was in the 50s.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        Though there are a lot of neat things you can do with glass these days, glass technology, as you put it, really hasn’t come very far in the past few hundred years. At least, not compared with the pace of the rest of materials technology.

        The fundamental problem with absorbing and reflecting solar radiation is that the spectrum of radiation (visible light) that we want to pass through the glass is also the bit that does most of the warming up. I think standard auto glass is opaque to all but the near infrared, anyway, so you’re really only talking about a small gain.

        Maybe they could do something with electrochromatic glass, but I don’t know if they can combine that with auto safety glass at a decent price point.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I’d be very surprised if this option didn’t include some sort of retractable shade. Every moon roof available has this feature.

      On a more fun note, we’re getting closer to that 50′s SF cultural icon, the bubble canopy! That MUST mean that the ability of cars to fly isn’t far behind.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      That would be the Mercury Sun Valley:

      http://54merc.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/1954sunvalleyad.jpg

  • avatar
    srogers

    Europeans must not have stones anywhere near their roads. I shudder to think of the cost of replacing one of these windshields.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Personally, the more I can see out of a car the more I tend to like it. As long as the roof itself is tinted, I’d love a good panoramic glass roof.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    As a guy who sits too tall in the saddle in every car I try, I’d love this! I even think it adds a safety factor. Our eyes are attracted to the brightest things in the visual field. When that’s the side window, it becomes a subtle distraction. I remember owning cars long, long ago where the windshield was subtly taller than the side windows, and that seemed to help keep my attention forwards, where it belongs.

    There would have to be commensurate improvements in sun visors, or a sliding shade, or something. The sun can get overpowering. But I’d like to have this choice in car-chetecture. And aaI really, really don’t care what the Lutz thinks about it. His macho, caveman-in-a-pillbox-gun-emplacement fantasies have done enough harm to our cars and our psyches.

    But all I really want is a brand new BMW 2002, with air bags and high-strength steel…

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Replying to my own thread, for the sake of argument, I do have some doubts about this design. Here in the dusty American West, windshields are a wear item, just like brake shoes and tires. In a few years, our windshields encounter enough dust, sand and gravel to make them functionally opaque, especially when driving towards the sun. Even the going rate of $200 for conventional windshields is a pain. How much would this one cost? More, by multiples, I bet.

      I’d settle for a windshield that’s just a few inches taller than the norm, thanks…

      • 0 avatar
        racebeer

        I understand your point about cost. We had a 1990 Pontiac TransSport with that huge front sheet of glass. In 1996 it got hit with a rock and subsequent to that impact a crack started to spread necessitating a replacement. Thank goodness for glass coverage on our auto policy because the cost was $950 to replace it wayyyy back then.

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        In addition to the increased target area and price of windshields, look where your head would be relative to the sun visors.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Yeah, this, when I saw the picture my first though was “that’s going to be an expensive piece of glass to replace”. I bet insurance rates will reflect that as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, just gimme a car with a greenhouse like the old 2002. Or the latter day Caprices (the bubbles). Or the Forester. I hate slit windows, and I don’t have much use for gimmicky overhead windows like on that opel.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    That? No way. Wait…do I see a little button visible on the rear of the quarter side glass? Does that mean you can pop open the back window? O.K., I guess it’s all right then!

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I really like the idea, but I agree with others that the greenhouse effect might be a problem in Florida, Arizona, and other sunny places. Here’s hoping for some type of sunshade and a powerful A/C system. It would be wonderful to have this view on a nice night, however. Also, I’ll bet that the glass replacement cost is a shocker. Some late ’50s and early ’60s cars had high-header windshields, with Mercury taking it to the most extreme.
    http://valenticlassics.com/valenti/images_uploaded/vehicle/510_70/143_510_487.jpg

  • avatar
    tced2

    What about the cost of replacing a windshield (due to a stone impact)? This would seem to raise the cost a lot.

  • avatar
    paxman356

    Having just come from the Netherlands, this kind of window could come in handy there. Most stop lights are on the pole on your side of the road instead of the opposite. You would seriously need to open the side window to see out, if it weren’t for the mini stop lights they have further down the pole.

    • 0 avatar
      JJ

      Being from the Netherlands, this is a real problem. At 6’3″ I’m only slightly above average height for a Dutchman (tallest people in the world, yo) and in any car that’s tiny and/or Asian, when I’m first in line at the stop lights I have to awkwardly duck/tilt my head to be able to see the lights above the road (if my view of the light next to the road is blocked which happens quite a lot for instance on two lanes when you are on the inside lane).

      Our plentiful tax Euros at work no doubt…(seriously the taxes on anything automotive here are insane).

  • avatar
    bolhuijo

    I like it. I can imagine 1 or a pair of sliding shades (maybe electric) that can go as far down as the rear view mirror, eliminating the need for standard sun visors. Lots of daylight when you want it, ability to see stoplights & police helicopters, and plenty of shade available when needed.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I sense a positive trend here. Maybe this will be the first shot in the next wave of wide-open, extroverted cars. Every pendulum swings back, right? After all these sullen, couped-up cars that feel much smaller than they are, how about a generation of bubblecars?

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Tall green houses and panoramic windshields/roofs should be the standard on most cars. The advantages of light and visibility being obvious. Proper tinting, shades and photo-chromatic darkening would allow fine tuning the amount of light present inside the car.

    For Lutz and wanna-be slim shadys, there would be precious few car models with bunker-like slit windows so as to give them the ego satisfaction of being part of the small select group of hip juggalos.

    Each sports car would include a ball cap that can be pulled down low on the forehead to further limit visibility and add a sense of lurking danger.

  • avatar
    fozone

    Yes, please.
    Modern photochromic glass can do wonders to block excess UV.

    I’ve heard the rationale in the past that the obsession with gunslits/crap visibility has to do with meeting more stringent rollover standards. I would hate to think that’s not the case, and that we’ve been forced to suffer with rolling caskets for all these years purely because of a few people’s insecurities and weird styling predilections.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Photochromatic glass would work in keeping UV out but very dark glass can get incredibly hot in bright sunshine and would radiate heat into the interior. A retractable inside sunshade would be a big help to minimize that.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      Although photochromatic glass reacts to UV, I don’t think it inherently block any more UV than any other glass of similar thickness.

      Besides, I’d think the reaction time could present a significant safety hazard.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      I suppose the manufacturers face this kind of choice: either construct the roof pillars from the best, highest-strength steel and keep them narrow, offering a good view but risking that customers will think they look flimsy; or using cheap steel, in generous thickness, closing in the windows but showing an illusion of bank-vault solidity. Which strategy seems safest, from the company’s point of view?

  • avatar
    don1967

    Does it come with double-jointed gull wing doors, for comb-overs?

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    I can’t tell you how much i do not want that feature as i live in a country where there is a very real risk of hitting a moose.

    • 0 avatar
      Bryce

      So not having windows helps avoid animals

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        Unfortunately, not so with moose. The body of a moose is 6 feet above the road on long spindly legs. Its fur is dark and is extremely difficult to see at night. Even without this funky glass there is a very good chance of being paralyzed when its body and your roof collapses on your head at speed.

        Wikipedia has a good writeup. Spindly is a good descriptor for their legs, apparently.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose#Vehicle_collisions

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Oh heck yes. I’m only 5’11, and in my Mini I can’t see stoplights unless I stop way behind the crosswalk or hunker down in the seat. For those worried about the greenhouse effect, do they have moonroofs where you live? Put some tint in that upper area, no big deal.

  • avatar

    There was an article somewhere on how the polycarbonate companies are lobbying for this kind of thing. It uses excess capacity. They also want to supply whole subassemblies, which is more lucrative than just stampings for headlights. The upside for the car companies is the reduced weight. CAFE, you know. The downside for consumers is possible climbing cost and that polycarbonate gets opaque over time. You don’t want to have an antique with this feature.

    Note however that polycarb companies push “from the rear”: they want rear windows extend all the way over the rood. Windshields are still mostly made from glass these days.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Sydney

    I love the visibilty and the feeling of being part of the outside world. I love convertibles. My only ride in a Camaro made me feel boxed in. But in Australia it must be able to deal with the hot sun. With the improvements made by smartphones in Gorilla glass and mylar covers, couldn’t we have some kind of replaceable, cheap, scratch proof cover sheet?

  • avatar
    JMII

    As someone in FL I give this the thumbsdown. I already drive with BOTH my sunvisors down and a strip of window tint at the top of the window due to sun burning my eyes out (even with sunglasses) at certain times of the day. This larger window would simply increase the hours of the day in which driving would be painful due to the sun rays. And yeah… the extra heat would suck too.

    Other that I love the look of the car itself – pop out rear windows included :)

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    5 pm into the sun, you’re tired, cranky and this thing is just blasting you even around the shades. No thanks.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Panoramic windscreens, like fixed sunroofs, just suck. Panoramic windscreens suck even worse than fixed sunroofs. If it can’t open then just leave it steel.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Too bad some folks can’t appreciate the potential benefits of this. Imagine riding as a passenger through some national park, say Zion Canyon, with an unimpeded view of the canyon walls stretching above. It would be better than any convertible, because you’d have an unimpeded upwards field of view. That beats the convertibles I see, which usually have the windshield header set barely above eye level, a foot from your face. Yeah, I know we should all keep our eyes on the road, but there are places where driving is a simple activity done in scenic surroundings. Here in Colorado, we have a lot of those places.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      How many hours a day do you spend in your car sightseeing?

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      As I make the hop from Colorado Springs to a friend’s home in Utah several times a year, I know precisely what you mean about the views during the trip, especially that incredible river canyon section between Gypsum and Glenwood Springs, then onwards to Grand Junction and Utah’s gorgeous scenery. The car as observation bubble is ideal for my own preference, as I’m averse to convertibles but still enjoy seeing as much of the surrounding world as possible.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Some, for sure. If I were retired, much more. Surely there’re enough enough of us living in lovely places to constitute a niche market. If not, that’s sad, because neither your or I will have a chance to choose something crazy like this.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v391/dogsledder54/buick2.jpg
    Just squint a little…excuse my quick MSpaint job.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    For some reason that vehicle reminds me of the punchline, shave its a$$ and make it walk backwards.

  • avatar
    drifter

    Current and previous generation Civic have large windscreen, greatly driver mood by getting rid of tunnel vision.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Pro:
    Looks cool
    Great Visibility
    Con:
    Thermal control
    Being blinded by the sun
    Cost of replacement
    Meeting roll-over standards

    And is it heavier or lighter than the metal stamping and liner it replaces? If heavier, you couldn’t possibly put that weight in a worse place.
    Agree with the commenter who said just make a standard windshield a little taller. Not every car has to look like its been slammed.

  • avatar
    MrBostn

    This might be perfect for sightseeing with that special person.

    http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGHP_enUS453US453&q=pope+mobile

  • avatar
    robc123

    What about this;
    http://onscreencars.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/TheHomer.jpg

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    You mean will Buick doom this car like the Regal, no 6 cylinder, no awd, no turbo, no fun and lastly no color on the car. Yep, they sure will.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in the late 70′s Buick offered the Skyhawk which was version of the Chevy Monza hatch with a fixed glass roof. Back in the early 80′s I saw a nice one for sale w/3.8 V6 most options The roof had a crack in it. I think moisture got in between the panels and caused it to crack. Malase era quality though it did not leak. The price of a replacement panel made me shy away.

  • avatar

    Last year I had a Citroen Picasso C4 with the panoramic windshield. It has a sliding visor in addition to being tinted, so you don’t get very hot. I would think the negative side would be weight and cost BUT unless you drive one of these you cannot imagine how fantastic it is to have this visibility. We were joking about the F-16 feel of what was a seven-passenger minivan! I definitely want this feature on my next car. However, Ford has offered it on the Mustang for a few years but after an excellent initial take-up, buyers have not ordered it so much. I understand Ford is now putting it on other vehicles and is delighted by the nice profit. I think the Flex and new Explorer have it as options.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    What’s Wrong with this Picture??

    How ’bout the fact that one of Europe’s best small cars is coming over here as A BUICK, GM’s grandpa division. You could paint it Go-Man-Go and give it a kick-ass turbo four banger and the fact alone that its marketed as a Buick will kill it.

  • avatar
    redav

    I don’t like that car, and I don’t like Lutz’s ideas.

    I see no benefit to a sunroof and refuse to buy one.

    What we really need is to leave the roof line alone and lower the belt line so that there is more visibility to the road in all directions. Too many cars/SUVs have huge blind spots, and other drivers can’t see through them because the windows are designed to be stylish instead of functional.


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