I had a 1999 RAV4 that was bulletproof. I recently upgraded to a 2009 Sport V6 w/appearance package. The power of this V6 is amazing and yet fuel economy is not compromised. On a recent 500 mile round-trip I got almost 28 mpg. The 2009 is much more refined and significantly roomier than my old 1999 model. Rear-seat room is significantly improved, as is cargo room, and it is great for families with children and pets. The only disappointment for me is the ride. You feel every little bump, but I think that is specific to the sport model. And hey, it's an SUV after all, not a Cadillac.
I purchased a 2009 RAV4 4 2.5 litre 4 cylinder, base model, for my wife. Let me tell you this...if I were to get in it blind-folded, not knowing which vehicle I was in, I would have never guessed that it was a RAV4. The ride comfort is amazing! The independent suspension decreases body roll over uneven pavement. Road noise for a vehicle of this size is more than acceptable. Braking is smooth & quiet. It absorbs bumps in the road like they were nothing. Wind noise is average but better than most. Acceleration is excellent. I barely have to apply pressure to the throttle to get it to move. Without even having to stomp down on the pedal & the 4 cylinder turns into a monster & easily pulls away
I've had my RAV-4 for about four months now, and I'm quite happy with it. The ride is smooth and the suspension seems solid. I took it off road recently and it handled the terrain okay. I'm getting 25 MPG with a fairly even mix of city/highway driving. The interior is very functional--the back seats slide forward and back, and they split so you have more cargo options. I like the MP3 jack in the center armrest, and there's a little niche there that's perfect for an iPhone. My only complaints: the back window doesn't open (which would allow you to carry long lumber that could hang out the back, for example), and the rear hatch opens towards the curb.
I purchased my RAV-4 new in Anchorage. It is the basic model, 4WD, V6, with 3,500 lbs towing package and 17" wheels. I owned a 1988 Jeep Cherokee for 21 years and thought that nothing could be better in the ice and snow. Wrong! This baby is like a cat on a curtain in the snow. Awesome! And the heater will run you out of the rig at -20 degrees. Just drove it 2,500 miles down the Alcan and Cassiar Hwys from Alaska through the Yukon Territory and BC to Eastern Washington. Got 22 mpg pulling a 5X8 U-Haul! One pass was 4,000' and it never complained. Now I am in the desert and today it was 104 degrees and the AC keeps it comfortable. I get 30 mpg on trips. Love it! Best rig ever.