Let the sun shine in

Let the sun shine in

Our favorite cars with panoramic roofs are a great way to get your sunshine on the cheap.

What's a panoramic roof, you ask? They're the oversize sunroofs that have been showing up on a growing number of cars and sport utility vehicles over the past few years.

Whether it's one large, continuous piece of glass, or two or three separate panels, panoramic roofs expose the entire cockpit to the sun and roll back to open at least part of the cabin to the wind.

As you might expect, they have primarily been offered on big luxury cars and SUVs. But our seven recommendations all cost less than $30,000, including destination charges, automatic transmissions and the special roof.

We think they're a great alternative to convertibles, which tend to be pricey and impractical for anyone who lives where it snows.

Do you really want to pay four, five or six grand extra for a feature you can only fully enjoy three or four months of the year? We don't.

Convertibles are also less safe in rollover accidents and tend to let in more outside noise even with the top raised. Second-row legroom and cargo space are also compromised by the extra space a folding top requires.

So here are our panoramic picks. It doesn't matter whether the carmaker calls it a panoramic sunroof or moonroof. They all provide the same bright, airy thrill.

By Russ Heaps

Interest.com Contributing Editor

April 24, 2013