The Porter-Cable PCL180CDK-2 18v 1/2-inch Cordless Drill/Driver has gone through quite a few different modifications from the previous Porter-Cable PCL180DK-2 reviewed on this site a couple of years ago. These modifications have produced a lighter, slightly smaller drill that is more powerful, has longer battery life and should be even more durable than its predecessor. And frankly, that's saying quite a lot, because the predecessor was a rather impressive drill in and of itself. While I'd still like to see a belt clip and a hard case, the improvements make this cordless drill a pleasure to use.
To begin taking a look at the improvements that Porter-Cable engineers made to this model, one should start with the Lithium-Ion batteries.
The batteries on the PCL180CDK-2 are nearly identical in physical size and weight compared to the batteries on the predecessor model, but the new 18-volt batteries provide 1.3 Ah of power as opposed to only 1.1 Ah on the earlier unit. This 18% increase in power allowed Porter Cable to install a more powerful, all-new motor that delivers 424 in-lbs of torque (as opposed to 325 in-lbs of torque on the previous model, an increase of more than 30%).
In addition to added torque, the new motor's gearbox provides a boost of 300 RPM in the high speed position (0-350 RPM on low, 0-1500 on high), a full 20 percent increase. The PCL180CDK-2 retains its predecessor's 24-position clutch adjustment for driving screws of various lengths.
The Lithium-Ion battery packs in both the newer and older models are interchangeable, both with the drill body and the chargers, but the position of the drill handle and the battery on the newer model has been moved forward. This provides the PCL180CDK-2 with better balance when holding the drill, and allows it to be more stable when standing vertically on the battery base.
One obvious difference between the newer and previous model is that on the newer model, the battery is removed and installed from the front side of the drill, as opposed to sliding in and out from the back side of the drill on the previous model. This change also is accompanied by a very handy screw bit holder on each side of the base of the drill, allowing the drill to hold two different bits (as opposed to only one on the previous model). The change also makes removing the battery from the base much easier, as the drill can be held in one hand (as it is normally held) while the battery slides out with the other hand. With the previous model, it was much more difficult to change the batteries from the rear of the handle.
The Porter-Cable PCL180CDK-2 includes a pair of Lithium LX 18-volt batteries and a 30-minute charger, all included in a soft-sided case with a shoulder strap.
Using the Drill
Over time, the previous model had developed a reputation for a couple of unfortunate quirks. For one, the battery life was less than expected. With the new Lithium-Ion PC18BLX batteries in the PCL180CDK-2, we expect that this problem has been alleviated. Additionally, the chuck in the previous model had a rather annoying tendency to loosen its grip on a bit as the drill was used. With modifications to the chuck in the PCL180CDK-2, it appears that this problem has also been addressed, as no similar loosening of the chuck's grip on the bit when drilling holes was noticed on the test model that Porter-Cable provided.
As with the previous model, The PCL180CDK-2 includes a bright LED light directly above the trigger (beneath the clutch) for illuminating the work piece. This LED can actually be turned on (without engaging the drill motor) by depressing the trigger slightly. This can be a handy feature when working in somewhat darkened conditions, although the position of the LED directly beneath the clutch causes the point of the drill bit or screw tip to be hidden in the shadow of the chuck. This is a minor problem, one for which nearly all drill manufacturers are trying to find a solution. This is an area where impact drivers excel, as they are not impeded by a large chuck, allowing the LEDs to be placed surrounding the bit holder that will illuminate the tip of the bit much better.
All-in-all, the improvements that Porter-Cable engineers have introduced into the PCL180CDK-2 should make this drill/driver a better woodworking tool than its predecessor, which was already a pretty decent tool.