I agree with you about motoring in France.
I found that even when I stayed off the autoroutes and kept to routes nationale that the motoring was just as much fun. And the quality of the road surfaces (generally) was very high - and smooth on nearly all roads (except the minor ones).
As always in France, the only down side was the typical Gallic driver that just had to be in front of me - even when he wasn't wanting to go any faster!
I suppose wheat it all boils down to is that there are less cars per kilometre and a sensible investment in the principal roads.