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Since I posted in this thread and many people suffer the same symptoms, I figured I'd give an update in my quest to resolve these issues.

Good news:
My car seems to be healed...

I fabricated a larger gasket for the MAF sensor going into the intake. I used a large rubber gasket I found in the garage from something else and sliced it in half. It's about 1/8" thick now and seals around the outside of the intake and the whole underside of the MAF sensor (unlike the original which is just a small ring which fits entirely inside of the intake). I also cleaned the sensor good with CRC MAF cleaner... but that alone didn't do it, cause that I've done previously with not nearly as good of results.

The thicker gasket causes the MAF sensor to sit up higher in the intake, which means you might require longer screws to attach it. Essentially, you're sandwiching the thicker gasket between the intake and the MAF sensor now. However, it seems to run much better now and there is no longer any hesitation or strange idle. Throttle response is much improved. Fuel economy seems to be going up a little too judging by my average on the trip computer.
 

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I was considering doing the MAF extension before I made the new gasket... Fortunately, with the Injen CAI, I really did not need it. The MAF sits as close if not closer than the stock location and does not pull the wires at all or shake them enough either. I surveyed it while someone else revved the engine and it really did not move around much. Trying to 'shake' the whole intake by hand wasn't even enough to make the wiring move... In the case with the Injen, the factory wiring to the MAF still has enough slack.

It does seem that the MAF sits differently with different brands of CAI. I guess the AEM (and as a result MazdaSpeed) ones are a little further away... I haven't seen many different brands installed in person though.
 
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