General Motors Europe has developed a panoramic windscreen option which will make its debut at the Paris motor show later in September.

The panoramic roof offers the driver and front seat passenger an almost unlimited field of vision, similar to the view from an aeroplane’s cockpit, and will be available in summer 2005.

The 1.8 square metre arched panorama windscreen, made of six-millimetre thick laminated safety glass, is shaped by means of an innovative gravity bending process. Selected points on the glass panel are heated so strongly in a special oven that gravity pulls it into the predefined shape.

The windscreen glass extends seamlessly from the bonnet up over the front seats to the B-pillar, with no crossbeam restricting the view. This creates a driving experience which can’t be matched, even by a convertible, GME claims.

“Only flying is better,” said Matthias Hallik, the designer who had the initial idea for the panorama windscreen. “This makes driving through beautiful scenery or a brightly-lit city at night a really special experience.”

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While the roof might make it feel like they are open to the elements, the car’s occupants are well protected. Extensive crash tests show that the panorama windscreen maintains the standard Astra’s safety standards, thanks to the car’s strong A and B-pillars, an additional cross member in the middle of the roof and a sturdy floor assembly.

The new model only weighs around 10 kg more than the standard car.

Passengers in the panorama Sport Hatch are protected against excessive sunlight by heat-absorbing glass and a shading system with two fold-out sun blinds.