Subaru buyers are a loyal bunch, but loyalty does have its limits. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, for example, loved their Outback, but that’s before little Johnny and the twins came along.

Subaru has sold some 9 million vehicles, but not one of them has been a large 3-row SUV. Alas, the Smith’s beloved Outback just wasn’t big enough anymore. When the Smith couple became the Smith family, they had to look elsewhere for their next car.

That, in a nutshell, is the reason for the Subaru Ascent. It has three rows and it’s the largest Subaru ever.

“We knew we had to have a vehicle in that segment,” said Peter Tenn, car line manager for Subaru of America. Speaking to journalists gathered in Portland for the launch of the 2019 Ascent, Tenn said Subaru wanted to do its homework instead of tossing together a big SUV and rushing it to market.

So, the company studied the buying habits of American families to learn what they need in an SUV. The company learned the shapes and sizes of the top-selling strollers, car seats, ice chests and other items. “We knew we had to fit all this stuff in the Ascent,” Tenn said.

Buyers of the 2019 Ascent are going to appreciate the effort.

My first impression of the new Ascent is that it’s one of the most thoughtful, comfortable and useful mid-size SUVs I’ve been in. And there are a lot of good mid-size SUVs out there.

One of the principles that guided designers is that “everyone in the vehicle should have the same comfort and convenience as everyone else in the vehicle,” Tenn said.

While that’s not practically possible, the Ascent comes closer than most.

While lots of attention is focused on the front seat, passengers in rows 2 and 3 get their own AC vents, they get their own USB ports and they get pretty decent headroom and legroom to boot.

The 2019 Ascent will be offered in four trim levels: Ascent, Premium, Limited and Touring. Limited will likely be the trim most selected. The Ascent will start at $31,995, the Premium will start at $34,195, the Limited will start at $38,995 and the Touring, which includes every available Subaru option, will cost $44,695.

With a 113.8-inch wheelbase, the Ascent won’t be the biggest mid-size SUV on the market, nor will it be the smallest. But from its standard AWD, to its standard Eyesight safety system, the 2019 Ascent could be the best designed, safest and the best value out there.

The Ascent can be configured for seven or eight passengers. Admittedly, they can’t all be Shaq, but with 153.5 cubic feet of interior passenger volume, the Ascent is roomy enough for the Smiths and their progeny.

Cargo space behind the third row is a generous 17.8 cubic feet. Fold down the third row and there’s 47.6 cubic feet of space. Fold down both rows in back and you’ve got 86.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

The new Ascent is powered by 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine that develops 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to a CVT transmission specifically designed for the Ascent.

This excellent powerplant promises to take you up to 27 highway miles down the road on a single gallon of regular unleaded gasoline (subtract one mpg with 20-inch wheels). The 19.3-gallon fuel tank means the Ascent has a highway range of more than 500 miles. You’d be able to pack the kids and luggage in the car, leave Baton Rouge and make it all the way to Panama City Beach without stopping for gas. The Ascent has a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, so you’ll be able to bring your jet skis and other toys.

And when it comes to safety, “We fully expect to get the highest ratings” from the government and the insurance industry, Tenn said. With its high-strength steel structure (resulting in narrow pillars and increased visibility), advanced safety technologies and past safety record, we fully expect Tenn is correct.

With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Ascent even has some off-road chops, as well as lots of cool features like a panoramic sunroof, standard roof rails, a smart rearview mirror and a sophisticated camera system.

We’ll be bringing you lots more details on the Ascent when we test it further, but right now the Smith family should be feeling pretty good that the Ascent will be arriving in showrooms in late June or July.

2019 Subaru Ascent

Engine:

2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine

Horsepower/Torque:

260/277 lb.-ft.

Transmission:

CVT automatic

Price:

$31,995

EPA mileage estimates:

21 mpg city/27 mpg highway/23 mpg combined

Estimated highway range:

521 miles