In a media event held a few weeks ago in Orlando, DeWalt unveiled their newest cordless innovation: an impact driver with a brushless motor. As part of their second generation...

18-volt lithium-ion platform–labeled 20 Volt Max--the DCF895 impact driver works with the new slide pack format batteries released with the initial group of 20 Volt Max tools out in Q3 of last year.

The timing of this tool's release came as a bit of a surprise because the conventional motor impact driver just hit the market a mere five months earlier–making this perhaps the fastest evolutionary change in a brand's cordless tool lineage ever.

According to DeWalt, the specs and capabilities of the two tools are largely the same, but the brushless motor runs with less friction and heat which translates into higher efficiency and provides 57% more runtime on a battery charge. But don't feel too bad if you already bought the first one out. As past tool testing has shown, the frequency of battery charging is not a big issue with fuel efficient impacts as compared to thirstier, high torque demand tools. (Since you can't stall out the motor of an impact like you can with a drill or saw, the tool's output is fairly controlled and the battery sapping heat of high-draw conditions is avoided.)

When asked why they introduced brushless technology in an impact driver first, rather than in a drill/driver, DeWalt answered that impact drivers currently represent a hotter growth item in the cordless tool market. Hot or not however, I strongly suspect that revamped drill/driver and hammerdrill/driver models will be next out of the gate with DeWalt's new motors.

Compact Brushless Impact Driver
Compact Brushless Impact Driver
Premium Brushless Impact Driver
Premium Brushless Impact Driver

Besides the electronically controlled brushless motor that is the heart of this tool, three other notable features are making their debut on the DCF895:

  • A three position speed/torque selector switch that lets you control the maximum force applied by the tool. This is particularly useful to avoid snapping fasteners that seat against a hard surface like a hinge plate or other hardware.
  • A revised version of both 20 Volt Max slide pack batteries complete with a three-LED fuel gauge–a welcome feature on any tool.
  • A low profile bit holder that is recessed flush into the face of the tool which requires the use of a novel release button for bit changes. This snub nose design paired with the holder's ability to fit 1-inch bits makes the head length of this tool in use as short as can be.

Specs include no-load speeds of 950, 1,900, and 2,850 rpm with respective torque values of 500, 900, and 1,500 inch-pounds. The tool is a stubby 5 1/4 inches long and weighs 3.6 pounds with the full size battery and only 3 pounds with the compact battery.

At first use, the DCF895 felt solid and powerful while also relatively compact. It really shines with the lighter weight compact battery installed; that combination is the real sweet spot for an impact driver in the 18-volt class in my opinion. The adjustable output settings were nice to have when needed, akin to the clutch settings on a drill driver.

Another nice feature was the three-LED full surround headlight on the flat nose which provided bright and even illumination. Nary a shadow could be seen when used with the shortest bits.

Using 1-inch bits is a great option to have for occasional tight spots, but provides obstacles for general use. It is it difficult to see the bit engage the screw head hidden behind the tool's wide face, and without long fingernails (or needle nose pliers), it was nearly impossible to grab the tapered tip of a Phillips bit to pull it out.

The new impact driver is scheduled to hit the U.S. market in April of this year and will be priced at about a 30% premium over the conventional model.

Three SKUs will be available: the DCF895L2 kit ($349) with two full size 3.0 Amp-hour (A-h) batteries, the DCF895C2kit ($279) with two compact 1.5 A-h batteries, and the DCF895B bare tool ($169).


Michael Springer has worked as a high-end remodeling contractor and is the former Executive Editor of Tools of the Trade.

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