I bought this car for the engine, and it remains the best feature of the car. But I have had ongoing problems with the transmission, and many others have, too. This is only true with the 5-speed transmission on the V6 (not the 4-cyl.) The now infamous "whining transmission" noise that has been well documented on the owner's forums (search transmission noise on RAV4 World and others) is something you will want to consider when you're buying this vehicle used. Also the poor response from Toyota in fixing the problem under warranty has completely soured me on the ownership experience, so I wouldn't be able to recommend this car to anyone. Go with Honda.
I don't know what the fuss is all about. It's nice for the first few months, then you start seeing all the negative aspects of the car. Yes, it looks nice, it has lots of room, but there are issues. Overall, very overrated car. In reality, as an owner - I'd say it's terrible.
Before the final stroke of the pen, I decided to buy the Toyota extended warranty - which actually seemed ridiculous that a Toyota wouldn't go 100K without a major problem. That was the only redeeming feature of my purchase: by 80K miles they replaced the alternator, air conditioning condensor, all valve stems and the COMPLETE ENGINE. When I informed Toyota of this total disaster they produced, the best response I got was that it was a good thing I bought the warranty. It is now gone and I'll never deal with a Toyota product again.
After testing other brands as well as the base and Sport model RAV4s, decided on the Limited. Much quieter, more comfortable ride (it's based on a car platform, not truck) and better interior materials than the base. The two extra hidden storage behind the rear seats are awesome as well as the three 12v outlets and iPod jack. Seats are super comfortable. The 4WD handles off-road duties superbly. Everything on this vehicle is laid out well with emphasis on order and functionality. Purchased rain guards, mud flaps, bug deflector, and better crossbars for my kayaks to make it perfect. I purchased this car used and it now has 48,000 miles. Every tank has been 24-26mpg with mixed driving.
Sadly, though not my first Toyota, this will be my last. I had to replace my engine due to a hose failure. No recall on this part, but they changed the design in 2009.... wonder why...mmm. I take good care of my vehicles and got regular oil changes. This has become the most expensive car I have ever owned. And I bought it because of the Toyota reputation.
Torque and power are immediately available -- causing palpable tire nibble and chassis wiggle with wide-open throttle. Shifts are quick.
First stop was shortest and each successive stop grew longer (slightly). Soft pedal goes hard with full-ABS stops. Fading and odor only after four-plus quarter-mile runs.
Skid pad: There's a sweet spot between ESP warning bell and actual ESP intrusion. This point is easily found and maintained all the way around the skid pad. Steering gets noticeably heavier with speed. Did Toyota change the electric power steering program (compared to earlier examples)? Slalom: Awkward driving position and lack of lateral support make the slalom especially challenging. Still, there's quite a lot of grip and agility here before the non-defeat ESP limits the RAV4's performance. The steering feels heavier than in previous RAV4s.