Well, this thread sure became a train wreck.
My two cents:
-Nobody said that every CVT 2012 Impreza would get 36 mpg highway. It depends on the conditions, and on how you drive it, and how far you drive it, and random variations between cars. Some will do better, some will do worse. If you aren't happy with your car, you can take it up with Subaru, or call a lawyer, or sell the car.
-Is a manual transmission always inherently superior to automatic? No. Automatics have come a very long way, and they'll continue to improve. Most of us will probably agree that manuals are generally preferred by people who want to be more involved in their driving, but that doesn't apply to everyone.
-My personal anecdote: My 5 speed gets 34 mpg cruising at 70+ mph on the highway. Most of my driving is more local though, so I've been averaging slightly under 30.