Alright so bit of a good news update, I purchased an ultrabay caddy (replaced my cd bay with a hard drive bay) and put my SSD in the cd bay while leaving the 500gb HDD in it's normal place.
After doing this, the SSD boots as quick as a SSD should every time, regardless of shutting down or rebooting the machine. This works out for me because I dual boot between windows and linux, so having the extra hard drive bay and an individual hdd for linux.
So, if anyone was thinking of using this as a semi-workaround, it works pretty well.
I haven't had any "Lenovo staff" respond to my other post so I'm encouraged to see that "someotherguy" monitors this one...perhaps I can get some help/support since I've been tearing my hair out for weeks!
Quick summary - I have a brand new W520 (2 weeks old) that was purchased with the standard 500GB spindle HDD. I have removed the drive and swapped it with an Intel Series 520 256GB SSD and I removed the DVD drive and relocated the original drive to the optical bay. Long story short, I cannot get this SSD to run at SATA III speeds despite trying absolutely everything. For those that might ask - the drive has the latest firmware, my BIOS has been updated (running version 8BET57WW v1.37), AHCI was set in the BIOS before installation of Windows 7, verified TRIM is active, verified my disk is aligned, and I've tried installing windows using the "default" msahci driver and the latest and greatest iaStor driver. I've also perused TONS of online forums and tried a number of other tweaks and "fixes" (registry edits) but nothing has fixed this issue.
Is Lenovo aware of compatability issues with the W520 and using an intel 520 series SSDs? Since I have tried absolutely everything it sounds like my next "haily mary" troubleshooting step may be to try installing the SSD in the optical bay and performing another clean installation of windows...?
Any and all help would be GREATLY appreciated on this one...as I said, I'm at my wits end with this thing and although I'm a long time IBM/Lenovo fan I'm about to send this machine back and get something else.