Home » Automakers Quietly Brought Back The Rearview Mirror Visor And You Probably Didn’t Even Notice

Automakers Quietly Brought Back The Rearview Mirror Visor And You Probably Didn’t Even Notice

Mirror Visor Topshot
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Here at The Autopian, we love automotive dead-ends. From pickups trucks made out of junked cars to fiber optic light indicators, few things thrill us more than vehicles and features that went absolutely nowhere. However, sometimes a feature dies because it’s supplanted by something that performs a similar task in a better way. The exact definition of better may vary, but sometimes the automotive relics of the past are hiding in plain sight. Case in point? The marvelous rearview mirror sun visor.

Going way, way back to when auto-braking cars were pure science fiction, one of the most underrated luxury features on the market was a tiny third sun visor to cover the windscreen around the rearview mirror. Everyone knows the annoyance of having the sun shining in their face through an area impossible to block, and these mirror visors aimed to combat that with varying success.

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Mk4 Golf Mirror Visor

Likely the most mainstream example is the mirror sun visor available on the popular Mk4 Volkswagen Golf and Jetta. This tiny little visor normally sat neatly tucked in front of the overhead console until it was time to deploy it, in which case owners would flip it forward to block the windscreen area above the rearview mirror. Simple, genius, and most importantly accessible — you didn’t need Mercedes Benz pockets to enjoy this third visor.

W124 Mirror Visor

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However, the Mk4 Golf was far from the first car to offer a mirror visor. W124 Mercedes-Benz E-Class models had it back in the 1980s, and W126 S-Class models got it even earlier. In real life, the W124’s middle visor is remarkably sturdy for such a small trim piece, but that shouldn’t be terribly surprising. If anything, it just matches the rest of the car’s peerless quality and vision.

Lexus Sc Mirror Visor

Even Japanese automakers got in on mirror visor mania, with Lexus offering this simple feature in the original SC coupe. Admittedly, the third visor in the SC could’ve been a little deeper due to the rake of the glass, but under certain circumstances, this tiny little visor was plenty enough.

Despite the brilliance of the third visor, it also added cost and complexity to every car so equipped. Each unit would need a visor, a hinge, and associated hardware, adding precious cents in cost. A few dozen cents here and there doesn’t sound like much, but multiply that by hundreds of thousands of cars, and the money adds up quickly. As such, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the third visor never really caught on in the mainstream — or did it?

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In the modern digital era, new cars are more complex than ever. Desirable features such as advanced driver assistance systems and rain-sensing wipers require a litany of sensors, and automakers often don’t have much choice on where to put them. You want several of these sensors to be forward-facing, well-protected, as high up on the car as practical and as centered as feasible. The obvious solution? Place them inside the top of the windscreen, right next to the interior rearview mirror. However, these sensors can’t be exposed from the inside because that’s ugly, so they’re typically hidden under a smooth plastic shroud. A shroud that more often than not conveniently blocks light from around the rearview mirror.

2024 Chevrolet Trax Activ

From Chevrolets to Subarus, pretty much every new car now comes with a convenient piece of plastic acting as a fixed third visor, preventing glare from leaking through the space between the top of the rearview mirror and the top of the windshield. They don’t all form a seamless band in combination with the sun visors, but adjustable third visors rarely did either.

[Ed note: I love the third visor and have long mourned its disappearance so, credit where credit is due, this is something I’ve seen in dozens of cars and it didn’t occur to me once that this basically does the same thing. It’s also exactly the kind of thing Thomas would notice. – MH]

Long live the mirror visor in whatever form it takes. From flip-down pieces to plastic used to hide sensitive components, the mission of keeping glare out of our eyes is both noble and caring. Could a similar objective be achieved with a wider frit band? I suppose it could, but making a dedicated part is just plain cooler.

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(Photo credits: eBay seller, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Chevrolet)

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TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
9 months ago

My ’15 Jeep Renegade has a rather large plastic box behind the mirror. In more highly-optioned models it would have more stuff in it, but on my Latitude it contains nothing but a single light sensor. All that empty space turned out to be the perfect size for a plastic multi-state toll transponder. A bit of velcro to keep it from moving around and I’ve got full functionality without having that hideous plastic box hanging on the windshield.

W124
W124
9 months ago

I’ve had it good when it comes to rear view mirror sun visors. I’ve had two W124s with that magnificent equipment, and also my MK I Audi A3 (basically the same as MK IV Golf) also has one. Lucky me.

Things and stuff
Things and stuff
9 months ago

I had a 93 Lexus LS400 with the middle visor. Other than the backlit fudge cluster going dead that thing ran to at least 350k miles with minimal maintenance or issues.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
9 months ago

A bit of a tangent, but still related…

An open letter to rearview-mirror-sensor-pod designers,

For the love of God, put some damn USB power ports in these things! Some of us have dashcams and/or radar detectors we’d like to power without cords hanging all down the dash!

Warmest Regards,
Maxi Meen

Alexk98
Alexk98
9 months ago

For cars with auto-dimming rear view mirrors, you can very often buy a jumper online that will adapt to both the mirror and a USB port! I did exactly that on my CX-30 and its low enough profile it fits entirely within the shroud while still getting power to my dash cam and allowing the auto-dimming mirror to work flawlessly!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
9 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

Do you have a link? I haven’t found anything like that, but it has been awhile since I looked.

YourMedic
YourMedic
9 months ago

Took me some googling, but here’s one I found: https://dongar.tech/products/10pin-type-d This will really be great: I have a USB power cable snaked all the way around the window trim to get to my dashcam now, and this seems like a great solution for that.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
9 months ago

Coincidentally I just saw a review of the new Hyundai Palisade yesterday, and it features a USB-C port on the passenger side of the windshield sensor pod. I thought, “What a great idea!” So it was funny to see your comment just now.

I have an even better idea for automakers though: Use the built-in sensor cameras as dashcams, instead of making us buy a kludgy separate device that we need to affix to the window and wire into the car’s power. There are so many cars that have camera-based sensors, and it’s just senseless to not make them a dashcam.

(Nissan came up with a half-measure solution on the Pathfinder, which is to offer their own dashcam as a dealer accessory. It’s custom-designed to integrate alongside that specific pod.)

Last edited 9 months ago by Mr. Fusion
MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Fusion

I believe Teslas do this, but for whatever reason, Tesla is the only OEM I know of that does.

Vc-10
Vc-10
9 months ago

Various VW Group products do – mostly Skodas. Think it’s an optional extra on certain models! It’s just a power-only USB-C port, designed to be a dashcam power supply.

Some cars also have a built-in dashcam in the sensor cluster.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
9 months ago

Of course I didn’t notice. I drive a 15 year old car.

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
9 months ago

My B3 Passat GLX had the little flip down visor behind the rear view mirror. So many things I loved about that car. The OEM BBS wheels, the VR6 exhaust note, so much goodness. The mouse-track seatbelts? No so much.

Michael Castro
Michael Castro
9 months ago
Reply to  Hiram McDaniel

I have one now and I get choked out by the shoulder belt once or twice a month. Otherwise, great car, I can’t blame VW for vague USDM restraint regulations.

Greg
Greg
9 months ago

First car I noticed this on was my 2016 taco. First week or two I was put off by the big blocky thing in my view, but you quickly get used to it.

Only big difference from the past is you cannot move or remove it now!

Dsa Lkjh
Dsa Lkjh
9 months ago

My Series 1 Lotus Elise had a height adjustable rear view mirror. It was on a linkage with a ball joint at each end so you could rotate it up and down while keeping the face of the mirror vertical.

I had mine all the way up so there was no gap between the mirror and top of the screen.

It was a remarkable piece of adjustment in a car with very few other features. Not least no sun visors at all.

Bob Rolke
Bob Rolke
9 months ago

The late 80’s and 90’s suburbans had an visors that extended behind the mirror to accomplish the same thing. I liked this design because you could use it to cover more of the side window too if you needed coverage from that direction.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/295401580613?chn=ps&mkevt=1&mkcid=28&srsltid=ASuE1wS35hz-6XO5SrSe7ksSCYcdqHEIz6_DPBeCvBw2KUu3th3VoVfEU-Q

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
9 months ago
Reply to  Bob Rolke

Some smaller sedans had that too, early ’00s Accords I think? I miss it.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
9 months ago
Reply to  Bob Rolke

Some Fords had that as well in the 90s and 2000s.

Robn
Robn
9 months ago

The redesigned L663 Defender featured a middle visor at launch in 2020, but was quickly and unfortunately phased out within a year or so (along with a bunch of other stuff) under the guise of the global parts shortage.

Paul B
Paul B
9 months ago

Could we have an ode to the OEM in glass tinted band at the top of the windshield? Having it done with tint film (at least on my budget) leaves you with a sharp line and not a fade.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul B

Often the black band around the glass (there to hide the adhesive holding the glass in) had a dip behind the mirror.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
9 months ago

This was also something that the Mazda Millenia had, though in my first one, it was broken, so I didn’t realize what it was until I got into another car in the junkyard years later.

Cerberus
Cerberus
9 months ago

My Focus ST visor slid in and out on its hinge rod. Seemed like such an obvious solution, yet that’s the only car I noticed with it. Some have the half-assed looking extension that slides out and is undersized, which is better than nothing, but not as effective and probably more expensive to make

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
9 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

The most annoying part of these is when they don’t slide far enough to reach the width of the side window. My seat – and therefore my face and eyes – can move all the way back to the B pillar, but the sunshade is useless if it only covers 2/3 of the window.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
9 months ago

I remember the 3rd visor from the W126 launch. I’ve never had a car with a third visor. but fake in my Mazda CX-5 by carefully using the sliding extension piece normally used when the visor is against the side window.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
9 months ago

When I was a kid we had to walk 10 miles to school, uphill both ways! We didn’t have no woke third visors in our cars neither. We got blinded every damn day by gap sunlight just like God intended, until our cataracts developed enough in one eye to dull it down. And we liked it!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

Never knew these were anything but a JC aftermarkwt thing. I made my own with a bathroom static cling frosted window from lowes. Cut to fit. EZ to position and remove and reinstall.

Flatisflat
Flatisflat
9 months ago

So instead of a flip-down visor, we now have no access to that windshield real estate ever. This is just another DLO / greenhouse encroachment, and I won’t stan for it!!! ;P

Mashkhazamfahr
Mashkhazamfahr
9 months ago

This reminds me of the visors in the 2nd gen MDX I had which would extend further toward the center of the car without those chintzy secondary visors so you could approximate a third visor position. The other fix for this is adjusting the entire mirror upwards. Most rear view mirrors I’ve encountered are hinged at both the windshield mount and at the mirror itself, but when adjusting, you typically interact with that near hinge on the mirror. But if you adjust that windshield hinge so the arm is angled the highest it can be you get greater visibility and sun blockage.

i3 Driving Indicator Fetishist
i3 Driving Indicator Fetishist
9 months ago

Great observation! I loved the third visor in my MK4’s back in the day, it was such a nerdy little feature that rarely got used but when you did it made your day 😀

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