Played a game on the new Feb 5th update. Immense map, about 16 races, normal difficulty.
Its worth noting that in Vanillla and base Crusade I play vs gifted with ease. I havent played in a few months and decided to give it a try.
The new AI is a BIG improvement, especially earlygame. They are definitely much better at producing fleets, pressuring the player, etc. I felt like normal AI now was slightly better than the old gifted AI. Huge improvement.
However, like before, the AI still falls off mid / late game (about turn 120 onwards). It seems to fail to develop its planets - in particular, most if not all of the planets had just 3 pop (no cities).
Had they developed their planets properly I think its likely I would have been challenged well into the midgame and possibly lategame.