The 2009 Ford Glass Roof Mustang, which is shipping to dealerships now, offers convertible-like sunbathed driving enjoyment without the need for sunscreen. That's because the best-selling sports car's panoramic glass roof - a factory-installed first in the segment - filters 90 percent of the sun's heat-generating infrared (IR) rays and 96 percent of burn-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays.

The UV-filtering capability of the new Mustang's fixed glass roof is comparable to sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of approximately 50, which exceeds the dermatologist-recommended sunscreen strength of at least SPF-15.

In addition, the glass roof's ability to filter IR rays reduces heat load in the cabin so that occupants remain comfortable while enjoying the sun. The reflective glass also reduces energy used by the vehicle's air conditioner system while protecting the interior fabric from fading and deteriorating.

"The Mustang's glass roof gives customers more of what they want, sunshine, while protecting them against the sun's harmful rays," said Chester Walawender, Ford's glass technical expert. "But if an occupant wants less sun or additional privacy, the Glass Roof Mustang comes standard with a retractable mesh sun shade."

To ensure a comfortable driving experience, the panoramic roof is made of tinted privacy glass which reduces both vehicle cool-down time and infrared energy. Measuring more than one square meter in total size, the glass roof consists of two layers of glass with a layer of transparent vinyl in between.

The outer ply of glass is clear while the inner side is treated with a silver pyrolytic coating to reflect some of the sunlight. A thick polyvinyl butyral layer filters harmful rays and has acoustic properties that muffle wind and traffic noise by as much as five decibels. The inner glass layer further limits light transmission by 20 percent, and the manually retractable mesh sun shade decreases it even further.

Sun-soaked cruising is the Glass Roof Mustang's top appeal factor. Scientific studies show that increased exposure to sunshine or bright light is therapeutic because it regulates the body's synthesis of melatonin, a mood-regulating hormone that modulates the circadian cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Sunshine also triggers the body's conversion to active vitamin D, considered to be an effective natural remedy for "the blues."

"I recommend light therapy - be it natural or artificial - to all of my patients, because it helps elevate mood and energy," said Dr. Douglas J. Arends, a psychiatrist practicing in Royal Oak, Mich. "Driving or riding in a convertible certainly is one way to enjoy the health benefits of sunshine."

The 2008 Mustang convertible became the first sports car and the first convertible ever to earn the highest possible safety ratings in new car crash tests performed by the U.S. government, including five stars for both frontal and side for driver and passenger, as well as for roll-over performance. Nearly one out of two sports cars sold in America is a Mustang and it remains the best-selling convertible. Mustang also earned first place ratings in the 2007 J.D. Power and Associates' studies on Initial Quality, Vehicle Dependability and Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL).

"The Glass Roof Mustang maintains the brand's safety and quality reputation," said Paul Randle, chief nameplate engineer for Mustang. "Mustang owners have high expectations and we always want to meet them - with strong features like this glass roof option, plus quality and performance."

The idea of offering a glass roof was researched with Mustang customers beginning in 2005 to determine interest and pricing. Of those polled, 51 percent said the styling appealed to them and 42 percent said it would help make their car more unique. Ford dealer and marketing research indicate that about 20 percent of Mustang shoppers are likely to order the glass roof version, said Allison Revier, product marketing manager for Mustang. According to J.D. Power feature content research, 62 percent of buyers in the sports car segment wanted a sunroof/moon roof on their next vehicle.

The Glass Roof Mustang, which is available as a $1,995 option on both the V-6 model and the GT, is just one Ford model that features ample sunlight and generous views. The 2009 Ford Flex, 2009 Lincoln MKS, 2008 Ford Edge and 2008 Lincoln MKX also offer sun-splashed driving enjoyment thanks to optional panoramic roof glass that is privacy tinted for the occupants' comfort and protection.

According to CSM Worldwide, more and more consumers are opting for vehicles with some type of glass roof, with multi-panel panoramic sunroofs expected to double in installation volume to more than 260,000 by 2011.

"They deliver what appears to be a more spacious and less confined interior and are being used primarily on luxury vehicles, providing easy brand differentiation for OEMs," said Manuela Dennis, market analyst, North American Supply Chain and Technology Forecasts, CSM Worldwide.

Dennis added that as design and technology becomes less complex and expensive, panoramic sunroofs will become a market trend as volumes increase due to lower pricing.