The pursuit of greater fuel economy in internal combustion engines requires the optimization of all subsystems including thermal management. The reduction of cooling power required by the electromechanical coolant pump, radiator fan(s), and thermal valve demands real time control strategies. To maintain the engine temperature within prescribed limits for different operating conditions, the continual estimation of the heat removal needs and the synergistic operation of the cooling system components must be accomplished. The reductions in thermal management power consumption can be achieved by avoiding unnecessary overcooling efforts which are often accommodated by extreme thermostat valve positions. In this paper, an optimal nonlinear controller for a military M-ATV engine cooling system will be presented. The prescribed engine coolant temperature will be tracked while minimizing the pump, fan(s), and valve power usage. A case study investigates the proposed control strategy’s performance in comparison to other methods for temperature tracking and energy conservation. The optimal nonlinear controller offered satisfactory coolant temperature tracking with an average error of 0.35°C and at least 13% reduction in total cooling power.