DRIVING sunglasses aren’t just about fashion (though looking good behind the wheel never hurts); they’re designed specifically to help reduce glare from the sun and improve clarity of vision to help you get to your destination safely.
They’re not just for the summer months, either. In fact, sunglasses are especially important for motorists during the winter, when the sun hangs low in the sky and can cause visibility to be greatly reduced in the mornings and afternoons.
Add some rain into the mix, or snow, with objects all appearing to be the same colour and sunshine bouncing off the white stuff, and driving can become quite tricky — even dangerous at times — without a good pair of sunglasses on your head.
We asked a number of manufacturers to send us their best driving sunglasses and tested them on the same day, in the same conditions, and have rated them for style, build quality, light management, clarity, glare reduction and comfort.
1. Ray-Ban Aviator RB3025 sunglasses
- Recommended Retail Price £184
- Buy from Ray-Ban.com (currently £139, or three payments of £46.33)
If you feel the need, the need to look like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, these are the sunglasses for you. A timeless classic, Ray-Ban Aviators look just as stylish today as the original template, the U.S. Army Air Corps D-1 Sunglasses, did back when they were invented in 1935.
The shape is designed to cover the whole field of vision, which makes Aviators ideal for driving, and we found the ultra-slim frames to be amazingly sturdy considering how light and comfortable they feel — you almost forget you’ve got them on.
The frames also held the head very well, we found, with no unwanted movement when rotating to focus on different directions of travel while pulling out of junctions.
The lenses, meanwhile, offer great clarity and, as with most of the options here, a soft golden glow. Light reduction isn’t extreme but glare is kept well under control.
2. Serengeti Geary sunglasses
American brand Serengeti claims to have the most driver-focused sunglasses on the market, with “Drivers” lenses (trademarked in 1985) that offer three beneficial features for motorists.
For a start, they’re photochromic, which means they react to UV light to increase protection when the sun intensity increases, thereby reducing eye strain and making it easier to discern shapes.
In addition, spectral control reduces short-wave blue light to make landscapes more vivid, and of course, the polarisation reduces glare.
What’s more, the mineral lenses with anti-reflective coating on the back side are designed to improve clarity further.
The result is extremely impressive, and the reactive lenses make a difference as the light conditions change on a long journey, though in truth we found the gains in visual clarity and definition when compared with the other sunglasses tested here to be marginal.
There’s absolutely no doubting the quality of the handcrafted frames that come with the Geary model, which is part of the Driving Heritage Collection and inspired by the classic American cars of the 1950s. The acetate and metal construction makes them light and strong, while the extended edges help reduce light from entering via the sides.
3. Donkervoort x Brett Theo sunglasses
- Recommended retail price €489 (£413)
- Buy from store.donkervoort.com
Donkervoort is a Dutch sports car maker that has evolved the Lotus Seven into an ultra-exclusive, Audi-powered, carbon-fibre-clad track car. Attention to detail in its cars is second-to-none, so it’s no surprise to find its range of sunglasses is of equally high quality.
The car maker teamed up with French eyewear brand Brett to create the Donkervoort Eyewear collection, which includes the Theo model you see here.
We love the uber-cool design, which seems to be the result of an unholy union between some Ray-Ban Wayfarers and a pair of Aviators. But a supercar twist comes through the use of carbon fibre frames, which makes the Theo both ultra-lightweight and ultra-strong.
Exposed screws add to the Donkervoort feel, while weight reduction and rigidity is further improved through the use of titanium and stretched titanium for the nose pads and temples respectively. In fact, the Donkervoort x Brett durable construction is deliberately designed so that they can be used underneath a crash helmet.
The lenses? They come from Leica, which is a brand renowned for optical excellence, and Donkervoort chose the top-specification available: Aquadura Vision Pro lenses, which include a coating to protect against water, dirt and grease damage while maintaining ultra-clarity.
We found that they do let in quite a bit of light around the edges but they feel ultra-light and super-comfortable, and look absolutely superb. There’s slightly less of a golden glow to the view through the lenses and glare reduction isn’t quite a match for the Serengetis, but the sharpness and clarity is just as impressive.
Top marks, too, for the exceptionally high quality presentation case and hard carry case that come with these Donkervoort glasses.
4. Persol New Protector PO2496SZ sunglasses
- Recommended retail price £321
- Buy from Persol.com
To modern eyes the Persol Protector eschews steampunk cool, with a vintage aesthetic that is clearly as functional as it is stylish. That function was crucial to early desert explorers and high altitude climbers of the 1930s, with the leather sweatband and blinders keeping the sweat, dust and icy wind away from the adventurers’ precious peepers.
The Persol Protectors were relaunched for 2022 and accompanied Porsche 964 Safari driver Agostino Rizzardi and co-driver Alberto Vassallo on the Dakar Classic rally in January, while the company partnered with The I.C.E., an ice racing event that takes place on Lake St. Moritz. With Persol’s classic association with Formula One, and movie star and speed-lover Steve McQueen having launched his own range of Persol shades, the brand’s motorsport pedigree is unquestionable.
We found the blinkers on the New Protectors to be excellent at eliminating unwanted light entering the sides of the glasses while driving, offering unrivalled clarity of vision straight ahead in all light conditions, with the edges of the metal frames creating a viewfinder-style vision of the road ahead.
Not everyone will enjoy the leather touching their face at all times, though — you sacrifice comfort for function here — and if you’re thinking they must inhibit peripheral vision, you’re not wrong.
But when you’re not in the desert or up Everest, you can always remove the leather trim and store it safely in the leather case, and we found the soft golden glow and crystal clarity of the lenses to offer exceptional definition while driving.
5. Ray-Ban Aviator Outdoorsman RB3030 sunglasses
- Recommended retail price £137
- Buy from SunglassesHut.com (currently £137 or three payments of £45.66)
Take the classic Ray-Ban Aviators (above) and add an acetate brow bar combined with flexible cable temples for an extra-firm hold on the head, and you get the Outdoorsman.
It combines all of the benefits mentioned in the review of its sister-sunglasses above — great field of vision, excellent clarity and style, lightweight but strong construction — but adds an extra layer of stability and rigidity, making them suitable for competitive driving and other outdoor pursuits.
We found they stuck to the head like glue, though some testers weren’t especially keen on the reduced comfort that comes with this extra level of performance.
6. Serengeti Delio sunglasses
A second appearance for Serengeti in this list, and by rights we could include all their frames due to the brand’s claims around its advanced driver-focused lenses, though we picked the Delio, from the American brand’s Essentials Collection, because of the classic Wayfarer-style design that will appeal to many drivers looking for that California-cool look while behind the wheel.
It comes in a number of frame and lens colour combinations, and we tried the Shiny Crystal versions, which offer a modern take on the popular style.
As with the Serengeti Geary frames, the Delio comes with lenses that offer triple benefits: polarisation for reduced glare, photochromic technology that adjusts to UV light to help improve clarity in varying light conditions, and spectral control to help reduce eye fatigue by eliminating disruptive glare and reflections coming from the road, snow, sea and other surfaces.
We found the frames hug the head much better than expected while still feeling supremely comfortable and sturdy, and the clarity of images was a cut above most competitors, though again, any improvement when it comes to glare was hard to discern and the style of frame isn’t the best at eliminating light entering from the sides.
7. Donkervoort x Brett Denis sunglasses
- Recommended retail price €549 (£464)
- Buy from store.donkervoort.com
Another from the new Donkervoort cars and Brett Eyewear collection, which focuses on neo-retro design and high quality materials, the Denis combines a large exposed carbon fibre frame with ultra-thin titanium temples for supreme strength, comfort and weight reduction. The look is completed with the trademark exposed screws.
As with the Donkervoort x Brett Theo (above), the Denis features Leica lenses, which we found offered superb clarity and excellent reduction of glare, all with a pleasing golden glow that helps improve object definition.
The larger frames of the Denis mean there’s less chance for light to enter via the sides, while the louvres in the brow bar are reminiscent of those on the back of classic supercars such as the Lamborghini Miura.
- If you were interested in this guide to the best driving sunglasses, you may also want to check out these dash cams
- Enjoyed our roundup of the best driving sunglasses? Take a look at these best car Lego sets
- And sunglasses appear in our list of 12 things drivers should not leave in a hot car
- BMW 3 Series updated for 2022 with exterior design tweaks and Curved Display dashboard
- Extended test: Mini Clubman 2021 review
- Lego Transformers Optimus Prime model actually transforms from robot to truck
- Rolls-Royce Phantom updated with reworked grille, 1920s-inspired wheels and Bespoke Phantom Platino edition
- Man who drove Maserati down Rome’s historic Spanish Steps was ‘following sat-nav’