Do you have some before/after scans or images of prints that exhibit the quality improvements you've outlined?
Nope! I always sharpen after scaling so I haven't eliminated that variable.
If upscaling matters at all beyond giving you per-pixel flexibility with sharpening, adding grain, etc. it's not much. But that's only because any decent printer that prints really large has built-in upressing software.
Your point about sharpening is spot on: sharpening for the print helps make up for the printer's softness, not just softness inherent to the file, whereas sharpening at capture resolution (usually) only increases pixellation because you're pushing the frequency response way past 100% right before it cuts off to 0%, resulting in a very "digital" image without that soft "film-like" response I described...
I think you may be reading way more into my comment than you should be... I basically just said, issues of sharpening aside, bicubic looks better than nearest neighbor... If you want to see a print that proves that I'll go ahead and make one.