I've test-driven a Limited gas model, a Hybrid LE, a Hybrid Limited, and as of today, an XSE. (Full disclosure: I have had an order in for an XSE since last week, so you should consider the potential for confirmation bias in this commentary.) Note also that I'll constantly use the terms "thought" and "felt" because this is a hugely subjective area. If you feel differently than me about these vehicles, cool! You like what you like, and that's as deep as I ever get.
For all these drives I've been doing speeds averaging 40 mph on generally flat, curvy back roads, mostly in Sport mode (when so equipped). There's one flat straight stretch where I can get it up to 65-70. All have been in sunny, mild weather.
Bottom Line Up Front: I found the XSE to be a noticeably better drive than either of the other two hybrids, primarily because of suspension, and miles above the gas version, primarily because of power.
Since the thread is about suspension, first things first: I thought the XSE had noticeably less roll entering curves. This, combined with what felt like more responsive steering input, made it feel like it was taking a more precise track. On bumps and potholes, I think it was noticeably stiffer than the other models, but did not transmit that through the frame and seats to my butt or spine. It just felt more solid. For the record, I love cars with firmer, sportier suspension. To date, my favorite driving car was a 2006 Jetta GLI (basically a GTI in sedan form). That one had very stiff suspension, felt like the car was muscling down over every rise, beating every bump and pothole edge into the asphalt. The XSE is nothing like that. It is still a very comfortable, easy ride, but feels much less springy than all the other RAV4 models I've driven. I think the suspension helps acceleration a bit, too. From a dead stop, it seems like the body doesn't rock its weight onto the rear wheels as much as in the softer systems, so there's less overcoming of momentum, and it seems to jump forward more eagerly.
Transmission/power: I was really wary of the CVT, but Toyota has sold me. The power is right there, especially with the XSE in Sport mode, pulls as soon as you step down on the pedal. I didn't mind the 8-speed in the gas model, either, but it wasn't nearly as responsive. Didn't feel any quicker off the line than my 176-hp 2010. For the record, I didn't experience any of the "rolling stop" tranny thunks in the Limited that have been discussed around here.
Noise: the hybrids are quiet. Under heavy 25-65 mph acceleration, I didn't even notice the intrusion of engine noise until the upper RPM range, and at that point, it had already gotten me up to 70 and it was time to come off the accelerator anyway. I haven't had a conversation with the salesperson affected in the least. No need to raise voices, even when the radio was playing, too. That being said, I didn't think the gas model was particularly loud, either.
Mirror shake: none of the models I've driven have had this. The XSE's VIN started with 2, so it was Canadian, wish I had thought to get VINs from the others.
Last random thought: the interiors of the XSE and Limited are beautiful. I wonder if there is additional sound dampening in higher trims, or if the harder plastics in the LE interior transmit more vibration, or some other pseudo-science-y explanation, but the nicer interiors made the XSE and Limiteds feel heavier and steadier. I know there's virtually no difference in curb weight, but it sure felt like they were more solid cars. Totally psychological but like I said, this is a seriously subjective area.
Now I really can't wait for that XSE to arrive.
2010 RAV4 base trim, 2.5L 4-cyl, AWD, Black exterior, Beige interior with highlights of melted ice cream/dog vomit
, Third Row, Roof Rack, and not much else
125,000 miles, not one day off the road for mechanical stuff
New pads/rotors x2, new tires x3