Back when we first reviewed Porter Cable’s 18V li-ion drill driver, we were a bit surprised as to how much we liked it. It performed reasonably well, was comfortable to use, and it was quite solidly built. So when we received word that Porter Cable had come out with an upgraded 18V drill, we had high hopes.
The new 18V drill, model PCL180CDK, has been updated in a number of ways compared to the PCL180D we reviewed so long ago. First, the battery slides on from the front rather than the rear. Second, the gearbox is now exposed, resulting in a more compact body. Third, the motor and gearing have been updated to provide higher max torque output (424 in-lbs) and higher max speed (1500 RPM).
Porter Cable is marketing their new tools towards tradesmen who are looking for heavy-duty but value-priced products. This has been made clear by Stanley Black & Decker execs. But… we think that someone forgot to pass the memo to Porter Cable designers.
To be honest, we feel that some of Porter Cable’s new tools and accessories are intended for DIYers and homeowners, an idea support by such tools’ low retail prices. This is NOT the case with the PCL180CDK 18V drill.
Our first impressions were very positive. The new drill/driver felt solid and appeared well built. It also wowed us during initial performance tests. A few of Porter Cable’s tools have exceeding our expectations in the past 2-3 years. What this means is that we’re going to have to raise the bar, and consider them on equal terms with other top-tier brands such as Bosch, Dewalt, and Ridgid, Milwaukee, and Makita.
Features, Comfort, and Ergonomics
The handle design was tweaked so that the 18V slide-style battery pack is inserted from the front of the tool instead of the rear, with the goal being more efficient jobsite battery changes. Maybe it’s our imagination, but we feel that the change helps with tool balance as well. Or maybe the better balance was achieved through the conscious resdesign of the motor-gearbox assembly and position, it’s hard to say.
Without a doubt, the drill has great balance. But beyond that, the grip was improved as well. The pistol-grip handle angles are more comfortable, and the contours and rubbery lining are well thought out.
The speed selector seemed to be too small at first, but slides between settings with ease, even when toggled with a gloved hand. The trigger itself has a more curved contour, which we liked, but isn’t a significant upgrade by itself, and the clutch is also easy to adjust with a bare or gloved hand. Finally, the single-sleeve all-metal ratcheting chuck is wobble-free and holds bits securely.
There isn’t much this drill can’t do. We tested it with 3/4″ and 1″ spade and auger bits in wood, several bi-material hole saws in aluminum sheets, 1/8″ to 1/2″ holes in mild steel bars, and drove a number of common fasteners from #6 to 5/16″ lags.
The max-torque is stated to be 424 in-lbs, which is sufficient for a compact drill/driver. If the tool were any beefier, we’d expect it to come with an auxiliary handle and extended-capacity battery out of the box.
To be completely honest, Porter Cable surprised us. Yes, again. The 18V PCL180CDK is a well-designed drill/driver, and it performed as well as expected. Could it endure the rigorous demands of a tradesman at a jobsite? Maybe, but we cannot answer that ourselves, so we passed it along to an electrician. After two weeks we asked for feedback and the only complaint was that the LED worklight was only so-so. Sounds like two thumbs-up to us.
Given our experience with the PCL180CDK, we can easily recommend it. DIYers and tradesmen will be hard pressed to find a better drill at this drill’s $150 price point.
Buy Now(via Lowes)
Buy Now(via Amazon)
|Poter Cable PCL180CDK-2 Kit|
|Speed (RPM)||0-350, 0-1500|
|Incl. Batteries||2 x 1.3Ah|
The kit also includes a small lunch-bag style carrying case and 30-minute charger.
Thank you to Porter Cable for providing the sample for this review unconditionally. Review samples are typically returned, donated, or in some cases retained for further testing or comparison purposes.
John A. Steninger
I am disabled so I “rely” on my handtools to perform and be easy on the hand and shoulder as both of mine are shot.
Where is this is drill’s country of origin?
I have to disagree on it being equal to Bosch. Both of the Bosch 18V drills(DIY and pro models were Swiss made while the newer versions are Malaysian) and the Porter Cable is Chinese made.
Fred @ One Project Closer
We tested this PC version along side Kobalt, Ridgid, Bosch, and DeWALT. It came in 4th place. PC has some work to do if they want this model to go the distance. Biggest problem we see is the 1.3Ah battery, as opposed to the 1.5Ah that all of the other models sport. That said, it came in second in our power-driving test (after Ridgid) and it is one of the less expensive models in the field. I think the big issue is that for tradesmen who are going to use the tool everyday, saving a couple of bucks probably isn’t worth the performance trade.
I also found that the last generation PC batteries didn’t seem to last as long as competitors’ models, but that’s just based on my subjective testing. Maybe it just seemed that way.
Here’s our comparison review: http://www.oneprojectcloser.com/bosch-dewalt-ridgid-porter-cable-kobalt-driver-comparison/
A PC1800d manual with a PC180CD Drill labeled “Lithium” that came with a PCMVC Type 2 “Charger” for NiCd batteries and a 18V PCC489N NiCd Battery. What gives? This Drill Pack was marketed as Lithium. You get it home and its setup for NiCd use. Why label the drill “Lithium” and deceive the buyer into thinking he purchased Lithium when actually he purchased NiCd. Porter Cable has a lot of explaining. Why label it “Lithium” at all if there is a possibility for NiCd use? Deceptive!!!Purchased through a major National seller(name withheld)
I just found one on display at a local Lowe’s and found this post while trying to determine whether or not to ask about a price (I have the older version). Porter Cable’s 18v system was originally designed to work as NiCad or Lithium. My set, bought in 2012 with 2009 date stamps, originally had a lithium-only charger.
Porter Cable decided to stop marketing their 18v lineup as lithium when they started making the 20v Max line. Though I bought into PC 18v somewhat late in the game, this move lost me as a fan. I like my PC tools but will not replace them with Porter Cable 20v Max for one main reason–PC purposely made the two systems incompatible despite both being 18v systems. Long story short, the 18v is now considered a NiCad system, as evidenced by the batteries that Lowes still carries. Some stores have NiCad sets on the top racks but I have only seen the odd bare tool elsewhere in stores. Your drill is likely one of those now nonstock items; it is, or at least was part of a lithium system, but the boxes marked “Lithium” are now few and far between.
If your looking you can still get Lithium 18 batteries at Grangier and ToolBarn