Gene expression changes may underlie much of phenotypic evolution. The development of high-throughput RNA sequencing protocols has opened the door to unprecedented large-scale and cross-species transcriptome comparisons by allowing accurate and sensitive assessments of transcript sequences and expression levels. Here, we review the initial wave of the new generation of comparative transcriptomic studies in mammals and vertebrate outgroup species in the context of earlier work. Together with various large-scale genomic and epigenomic data, these studies have unveiled commonalities and differences in the dynamics of gene expression evolution for various types of coding and non-coding genes across mammalian lineages, organs, developmental stages, chromosomes and sexes. They have also provided intriguing new clues to the regulatory basis and phenotypic implications of evolutionary gene expression changes.