I liked the thinkpad better as IBM than Lenovo, I've owned a ton of thinkpads from my Original PS/2 Note (before they were called thinkpads), andI've recommended them often, but unfortunately recently I've had friends have terrible quality and customer service issues, which I never experienced in the IBM days. They still make an outstanding notebook, but it's definitely not the same Thinkpad.
I'd say they all have something great to offer, just depends on what you plan on doing with them.
Yeah to me the old thinkpads were bullet-proof (wih the magnesium case almost literally), I only had one problem with mine (600 series), and it was when it shipped the post the trackpoint sits on had a nodule of plastic on it, so it was sitting a little higher than usual, and it crushed a perfectly round area of pixels in the center of the screen, a replacement was overnighted to me as the new laptop was heading back (didn't have to wait to get mine first). Now those were the days, I also had an issue with a repair depot, and one call to IBM and then one from them to the depot and in less than 30mins I was again a satisfied customer.
I tell you, when IBM stopped making thinkpads, it's when I stopped considering them, because the 20+% premium was worth it when it was under IBM, but now I'm just hearing confirmation of my, and obviously yours too, concerns about their quality/service.
I don't want to sound like I'm attacking Lenovo, but it's like taking the very best at something and then just making it 'the same as everyone else' which seem ok, unless you were used to the best. Which I'm sure you can appreciate.