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.
|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.