We weren’t sure what we’d find when we opened up the Porter Cable PCL418C-2 18V Lithium 4-Tool Combo Kit, but after just a few minutes examining and handling the tools, we came away with the impression that this is possibly one of the best values in the market today. We don’t say that lightly, and we certainly were anxious to get to our performance testing – but in terms of sheer features and build quality, Porter-Cable really impressed us with their attention to detail and craftsmanship. For a combo kit in a box, this is one powerful system that includes some very useful tools that will serve as a nice foundation for any cordless tool collection.
Porter Cable PCL418C-2 18V Lithium 4-Tool Combo Kit
Build Quality and Overview
We’ll go over each product individually in this review, however it’s safe to talk about general build quality in an overall sense. After all, all four tools, especially the more torque and RPM-based tools, share common attributes – like the makeup of their outer bodies and battery mechanisms. All of the tools have the expected Porter-Cable gray with black rubber overmold with red accents on triggers and buttons. The PCL180D 18V Lithium-ion Drill has, by far, the most – with over 50% of the tool, including most of the handle, wrapped in the coating. This makes the tool extremely easy to grip, gloved or bare-handed, and even oily hands are going to get a sure grip on the handle. What I really loved, however was that Porter-Cable covered the face of each of the triggers in a rubberized coating as well. This was like icing on an already delicious cake and a very nice touch that spoke to the company’s attention to detail on these tools.
The PCL180D 18V drill comes with a metal chuck, a nice feature on a relatively inexpensive tool, and the PCL186CS 18V Circular Saw has a stamped aluminum shoe and plastic upper guard. The entire front of the PCL180RS 18V Reciprocating Saw is wrapped with a thick covering of rubber overmold and presents a really nice grip for your left or right hand, depending on how you grip the tool. On all of these tools, save the circular saw which rests naturally on its own, the left and right sides were well-protected so you can really set the tools down without worrying about them scuffing up your workpiece. Porter-Cable seems to have really ruggedized these tools for use in a way that means you really don’t have to baby them.
The PCL418C-2 18V 4-tool Combo Kit comes with the four tools and two batteries, an EX (Extra Capacity) battery (2.6Ah) and an LX Lithium-ion battery (1.3Ah). The charger is the PCLMVC Lithium Ion Fast Charger which can recharge batteries in 30 minutes to minimize downtime. It also controls the charge and battery levels to extend performance of the cell packs. The included charger is nice in that it is compatible with any current-gen Porter-Cable 18V slide back battery, regardless of whether it is Lithium-ion or NiCad.
Speaking of batteries, the Porter-Cable batteries are spring-loaded, making them extremely easy to release. I can’t stress this enough: ALL manufacturers should do this. It is by far the easiest battery ejection system we’ve ever used and one that should be copied without remorse by every other manufacturer. You simply press down on the red release button and the battery literally jumps out of its slot, ready to be exchanged or charged. About the only negative is that there are no battery level meters on either the tools or the batteries, making it difficult to impossible to know when your batteries are about to run out. Hopefully future batteries from the company will incorporate some kind of charge status as it’s an incredibly useful feature to have.
Tool Testing and Use
Porter Cable PCL180D 18V Lithium-ion Drill
- Torque: 325 in-lbs.
- RPM: 0-350/0-1,200
- Overall Length: 8-3/4″
- Weight: 3lbs 13oz (with LX battery)
The Porter-Cable PCL180D 18V Drill feels good in the hand, with a reasonably light weight and a lot of rubber overmold to make it usable in nearly all conditions. The weight seems to be a bit rear-focused, but that’s far preferred to the drill wanting to tip forward during use. The LED light is bright and clear, but does tend to cast a shadow on the point of contact once the drill gets to within a couple inches of the fastener. Forward and reverse buttons were easy to operate as was the Speed control switch which is located in the customary top-mounted position. Some of these switches from other manufacturer have proved to be tough to switch without considerable effort, Porter-Cable seems to be just about right. It won’t flip by accident, but you won’t sprain a finger making it move. We loved the metal chuck, but also noticed that the drill lacks the new “snub-nosed” design that recesses the chuck & clutch further into the drill body, reducing the overall length. Speaking of the clutch, it was easy to control with a simply turn and the contours worked well with gloved or ungloved hands.
The base of the tool has an integrated (rubberized) bit holder for a single bit and it seemed to work well on the included bit as well as our own. Of all the tools, this one was coated with the most rubberization, making for a really tough and damage-proof product.
The drill proved to be very good in our testing. It actually measured slightly higher in our tachometer testing (360 RPM) than the stated 350 RPM spec. In high speed, the numbers came in at 1194 RPM, right on target with the specification. That’s actually pretty unusual and was a nice testimony to the ability of consumers, at least in this instance, to trust the numbers given by Porter-Cable. We also had the opportunity to physically compare the PCL180D with an older Porter-Cable 19.2V NiCad drill. What was nice was the ability to literally hold the old and the new in our hands and see the progression Porter Cable has made in their new line of tools. Our initial impressions is that the build-quality of the older tool was more rugged overall, but in terms of practical use, the new 18V Lithium tools are just as effective. The new tool is also more ergonomic, lighter, and far easier to use. For drilling duties, it’s a step forward, not back, even though some might prefer the overbuilt quality of past Porter Cable tools.
Porter Cable PCL186CS 18V Circular Saw
- Model: PCL186CS
- Blade Size: 6-1/2 in.
- Cut depth: 2-1/8″
- RPM: 3,700
- Shoe: Stamped aluminum
- Weight: 7lbs 7oz (with EX battery)
Picking up the PCL186CS Circular Saw, we liked that it had a near-full-size 6-1/2 inch blade. Right off the bat this meant that it could cut material up to 2-1/8 inches thick and it wasn’t a reduced size version that could barely cut through a 2×4. In fact, this saw could cut through some of the old-school 2″ x 4″ lumber we often find in the older homes we work on in our neck of the woods. The shoe plate of the saw is made of stamped aluminum, but much of the rest, including the upper and lower blade guards, are made of plastic (as is the adjustable cut guide). While some may want more metal on their saw, this is part of what makes the tool so lightweight – and I have yet to see a shattered piece of polycarbonate shield on a circular saw (that’s not a dare!) The PCL186CS comes in a form factor that closely mimics a traditional sidewinder circular saw. Both the handle and the motor are on the left side of the blade. This gives you an easier cut since the weight is on the supported side of the board, but reduces sightlines considerably (and the sightlines are particularly difficult to see on this saw).
Adjusting the cut height and bevel was far easier than most circular saws we’ve used, from a myriad of manufacturers. Instead of the often-sticky lever, the Porter-Cable uses a plastic sort-of wing-nut that adjusts quite easily – so easily, in fact, that we supposed there was a fancy lock-washer system to ease the mechanism against the height bracket. Instead, it looks like the fact that it’s plastic-on-metal actually serves as an advantage and the rest is accomplished by a machine thread adjustment that resists binding. The preset cutting guide is red plastic and was dead-on from the factory. In the event yours is slightly off, singular screw can be loosened to adjust it to the perfect position.
The handle of the PCL186CS Circular Saw is almost completely wrapped in a rubberized grip and the trigger also has a coating over the front face that means you could grab this tool with oily hands and still not worry a bit about it sliding out on you during use. The saw also comes with a Porter-Cable Fast Cutting blade with a total of 18 carbide teeth. It’s a decent starter blade, but for any serious work on harder woods, or for a finer kerf, you might want to pick up an aftermarket blade. Changing the blade on this tool is super-easy, and Porter-Cable even includes the required hex wrench on the PCL186CS itself, so you’ll never lose it.
While the Porter-Cable 18V portable cordless circular saw will work best (and longest) with the 2.6Ah lithium EX batteries, it will also take the smaller 1.3Ah LX batteries. We were unable to detect any difference in torque or power with the two batteries in our testing, only duration of use. The new 18V saw is much different than an older 19.2V Porter-Cable saw we had on hand. The elder tool had a lot more metal, and a vacuum attachment port for dust collection. It also uses a smaller blade and oriented the handle and motor on the cut-off side of the board, resulting in better sightlines, but more difficult handling.
The included blade cut well, but a really sharp thin-kerf blade will make this tool even better (we really like using thin kerf blades in our portable circular saws). The traditional layout of the saw, with the motor and handle to the left, made for easy control of the saw during cuts.
Porter Cable PCL180RS 18V Reciprocating Saw
- Model: PCL180RS
- SPM: 3,000
- Shoe: Stamped aluminum
- Tool length: 15-1/2″
- Stroke: 3/4-inch
- Weight: 5lbs 13oz (with EX battery)
The PCL180RS Reciprocating Saw just feels right when you pick it up. It’s shorter than most reciprocating saws we’ve used. At only 15-1/2 inches in length, its compact size means that you have the power of a reciprocating saw at your fingertips – and the ability to put it into tighter spots than previously thought possible. I liked the naturally inclined angle of the blade. When holding the tool, it was positioned in what I thought was an ergonomically neutral position. The front of the tool, save for the stamped aluminum tilting shoe, is entirely encapsulated in rubber overmold – making it easy to hold and position. Like the rest of the trigger-activated tools in this Combo Kit, the PCL180RS has a rubber-coated trigger, which we again thought was a great concept. The tool doesn’t have any orbital action – and honestly, most cordless reciprocating saws don’t. The shoe also doesn’t adjust the depth of cut, but merely tilts as needed to allow for direct pressure to be applied to surfaces, regardless of the angle of incidence. The disadvantage here is that it’s harder to use more of the blade – significant when you’ve only got a 3/4-inch stroke to work with.
At just under 6 pounds, it’s not a heavy tool to heft, and it’s easy to use overhead or in other elevated positions. A tool-less blade release level makes for simple blade changes – though the mechanism is similar to ones we’ve seen that have a tendency to bind up with debris. As a result, you may want to consider keeping it well-lubricated and blowing it out with an air tool periodically. The included blade is a 5/8 (alternating) TPI bi-metal blade suitable for basic work – a good starter.
The reciprocating saw worked really well, though you’ll find that the blade is what really makes the tool. We went to work testing the tool on pressure treated 4×4 lumber as well as standard 2×4 dimensional lumber. In all cases, the saw cut smoothly and efficiently – even when we turned the tool upward and did a lengthwise cut across the end of some 2×4 stock. A short stroke tool means that you’ll want to pay attention to the blade you use in your cutting applications – don’t skimp on the accessories here or you’re more likely to incur longer cut times and greater amounts of vibration. Overall, this was an excellent tool that handles well and had plenty of cutting power for all of the applications we put it through.
Porter Cable PCL180FL/PC18FL 18V Flashlight
- Model: PCL180FL/PC18FL
- Output: 5W
- Bulb: Incandescent
- Runtime: 5 hours
- Weight: 1lbs 11oz (with LX battery)
The PCL180FL (also PC18FL) is a handy flashlight with a 90-degree pivoting head and a 5W incandescent bulb that works well as a device to be set down or used as a positionable flood or spot lamp (it supports both modes). It doesn’t have an ED bulb, but rather a standard bulb that will deliver about 5 hours of use on a Lithium LX battery. There’s not too much to say about this flashlight except that it’s fairly useful, and extremely bright (don’t make the mistake of looking directly at it). Flood and spot modes are activated by rotating the lens cover from side to side which raises and lowers the lamp within the reflective housing. Continue rotating it and you can remove the cover for lamp changes (there are no spare lamps included). Note that aftermarket LED lamps are available which will fit this device. It’s a good tool and a nice addition to this Combo Kit, we just wish it was LED-based for brighter output and longer run-time.
We went into this review knowing that Porter-Cable is being positioned in a market price that is taking on mid-tier manufacturers as opposed to the big dogs. In days past, Porter-Cable was the big brother to some of the less expensive brands, now it seems to be taking its expertise and applying it to consumers and professionals with more of a mind on budget and value. What does that mean for the consumer or pro who is used to their original Porter-Cable tools? Well, for starters, some of the technological advances are a huge step up. The tools may use more non-metal parts than before – but they’re also lighter. The batteries are smaller and last longer, and the tools are more ergonomic – not to mention whole lot cheaper. There is a lot of good to outweigh any potential downsides and, as a result, we’re awarding the Porter-Cable PCL418C-2 Lithium Combo Kit a rare 10/10 Value. This isn’t to say that the company can’t do better… but for what you get, it’s hard to see how the company could have given consumers and pros alike more value for the money. For Performance, we gave it an 8/10, giving it some room to improve in areas like providing battery status. This is a great kit, both for those starting their cordless collection for the first time, and for those looking to update their aging Porter-Cable cordless tools.