I've been using 3dsmax since it was 3dsR4, and have used Autocad a little. I have found that acceleration is a moot point with 3DSMAX. I just bought a STB Velocity 4440. It runs 3dsmax beautifully, but does not accelerate it much. I've been through cards from 50.00 to 1500.00 and nothing was worth the money. THe only decent acceleration you will see is from a Heidi based card. OpenGl doesn't do much for max. Your best bet, if you want something reasonable, would be a Creative Graphics blaster . It comes with opengl and heidi drivers. It will run both 3dsmax and autocad. The 4MB card is at compusa for as little as 50.00 now. Definitely worth it. I would not spend more unless you were looking to spend over a 1000.00 .
I've got a Permedia 2 Fire GL 1000 w/PII 400 and it works great. It isn't the newest and flashiest thing out there but for good stable drivers and support for professional OpenGL applications it's rock solid. I'm not much of a 3D developer but I've heard the Heidi support is good. If you can stand to wait until Jan/Feb, 3DLabs is promising the Permedia 3 will be a real winner from gaming to lightweight professional apps. The did an interesting interview about the Permedia 3 on this site at
http://www.hardwarecentral.com/features/interviews/permedia3/. It's architecture seems to be developed by people who really know what their doing and it looks head and shoulders better than anything else out there so far. I've decided to wait. Good luck and enjoy!