While my car was in the shop for 3 weeks I had a combination of an Outback CVT (1 week) and a Forester 4EAT (2 weeks).
The heavier Outback got better fuel economy than the Forester. The CVT did a good job of smoothly putting the power down to the road. A 2.5i Outback is no race car, but the CVT helped to get the most out of the engine and did so quite smoothly. I did like the "virtual" gear changes from the CVT, especially when merging onto the highway. Again, quite smooth. It had no problem keeping up with traffic up-hill at 60MPH. A 3.6r with the CVT would be quite a nice highway cruiser.
The 4EAT in the Forester was nowhere near as smooth. While the shifts weren't "hard" they were certainly more abrupt than the "virtual" gear ratios in the Outback.
Again, the fact that the Outback got better fuel economy was a surprise to me.
The only thing that I didn't like with the CVT - holding speed downhill, especially in school zones. Trying to keep the vehicle at 18MPH downhill was tricky. I'd pop it into manual mode and shift into 2nd, but the vehicle slowed down too much. A tap on the throttle had me speeding up too much. My 5MT in the Outback XT is much better for holding a speed.
While I personally prefer driving a manual transmission vehicle, the CVT was a very good transmission that is certainly very easy to live with on a day to day basis. Yes it's sad to see the loss of manual transmissions, especially in the GT and 3.6r models, the CVT is a very good transmission for the majority of drivers.
You have to realize that those of us who prefer a manual transmission is a shrinking demographic, and Subaru has to build vehicles that cater to the majority of buyers.
Don't knock the CVT until you've driven it for a week. Every manufacturer's implementation of the technology is different and so far Subaru is doing a nice job.