With lots of motorways, autobahns, fast cars etc- driving long distances is a bit different.
I agree with you that driving in a dense area is different to driving somewhere with little to no traffic. Up in northern Sweden people could easily drive for a couple of hours to have coffee wheras down south we would go maybe half-one hour. Our friends, the restaurants etc were so much closer than up north.
It used to be that the main roads went through every little village, town and city so driving took much longer time just a few decades ago than it would today.
The dencer populated the slower was driving.
Also the size of a country means something. Driving to Stockholm is 500 kilometers or 1/3 of Sweden. That is psychological kind of "enough is enough"
Going from Copenhagen to Esbjerg is 300 kilometres and takes now 3 hours.
Used to take much longer with ferries etc. When you went half way it was Odense and a nice place at least to make a pause. Today it takes only 1.45 min.