The image, which along with his Coke bottles and brightly coloured Marilyn Monroes galvanised art in the 1960s, had been estimated to make not more than pounds 1.5m.
The final price reflected the continuing international fascination with the shock-haired son of Carpatho-Russian immigrants who moved to the bright lights of New York and became a legend. He died in 1987 at the age of 58.
The Big Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot), which dates from 1962, was one of his last group of hand-painted pictures before he switched to silk screen work.
The iconographic picture achieved the highest price for a Warhol soup can and the fourth highest price for the colourful, controversial and self-publicising artist who turned everything around him into art.
The sale was the highlight of the spring sales of contemporary art in New York during the past week.
Christopher Burge, a spokesman for the auctioneers, Christie's, said it was a "healthy, strong, sensible market ... Buyers are getting good advice and there is no sense of speculation."
Despite the strength of the American economy and the careful selection of work on offer, auction house prices have not soared. There has, however, been keen bidding for a new generation of artists.
Sotheby's offered work by 1990s artists including Turner Prize winner Rachel Whiteread, who produced the concrete house in Bow, east London.
Her Untitled (Double Amber Bed) quadrupled its estimate, selling for just over pounds 100,000 ($167,000) to Anthony D'Offay, the London art dealer who has represented Whiteread since persuading her to leave her previous dealer, Karsten Schubert.
Commenting on the newer works, Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's new head of contemporary art in New York, said: "This will be the art that in 10 years people will wished they had bought tonight."
Matthew Barney's installation Transexualis (decline), which shows a walk-in freezer and a weightlifter's declining bench coated with petroleum jelly, more than doubled its high estimate of pounds 211,000.
Among other artists represented in the sales were Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Blang! a typical comic-book Lichtenstein from 1962 showing a tank hit by a cannon blast went for pounds 1.7m, slightly less than the estimate. Particular interest centred on how works by Willem de Kooning, who died in March, would fare.
Both Christie's and Sotheby's offered paintings with estimates of up to pounds 1.5m. But one Untitled painting from 1947 fetched only pounds 1m while another, entitled Amityville, failed to sell. However, Bakery Counter, a still- life of cakes, doughnuts and other confectionery by the San Francisco pop artist Wayne Thiebaud went for pounds 1m against a previous record price for the artist of around pounds 370,000.
More than pounds 300m of art is on offer in New York in the next few weeks. The biggest-draw sale will take place on Monday when a significant collection of Impressionist paintings from the estate of John and Francis Loeb is expected to raise at least pounds 49m.